Conference marks 50th anniversary of landmark Chichester report

A conference in Chichester earlier this month marked the 50th anniversary of a landmark study of the city, which paved the way towards better conservation.

Tuesday, 15th October 2019, 1:53 pm
East Street in 1975 during the 'experimental phase of the pedestrianisation' Vehicles have been excluded but the carriageway and pavements remains. Alan Green said the bench was placed to 'reassure the nervous'. This was the major initiative to be adopted from the study, and was made permanent in 1976.

The Chichester Conservation Area Advisory Committee, made up of volunteers from various local organisations as well as architects, ran the Four Towns at 50 conference in the Assembly Room on October 4 and 5.

Prior to the event, CCAAC member and three times former mayor of Chichester, Anne Scicluna, said: "50 years ago, four English towns were studied for special conservation, and a large report brought out for each of them – Bath, Chester, Chichester and York, with Chichester being the smallest of them. From this, new conservation areas were formed.

“We will be looking at what has changed and what hasn’t, relating to the recommendations in the reports."

Alan Green talking with a picture of Richard Crossman MP, the Minister of Housing, whose idea in 1966 the studies were

Speaking on the success of the conference, which saw a turn-out of 65 people, councillor Scicluna added: "It went very well.

"There were talks from each delegate about what has happened in their city since the event 50 years ago. It was very interesting.

"Some have done well and some not quite as good. There were various guided tours on the day which we had a choice from. Alan Green did a tour around the Pallants, Colin Hicks took a tour around some of the shops which are really quite old and interesting, Neville Hopkins did a tour of 20th century Chichester and I did the walk around the city walls, explaining the things that have happened."

Councillor Scicluna said Chichester 'hasn’t done badly' but claimed there are things that she 'would have done differently'.

Speakers during question time. (Left to right) Alan Green, Caroline Kay, Joan Humble, Sir Donald Insall, Martin Meredith, Steve Langtree and Richard Cole

She said: “The study happened in 1968 but there was a strike in Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, and the reports were not brought out until 1969. The report found Chichester to be generally in a good state.

“But it was a question of keeping it good and if we wanted to do that, we had to take into account the history and the historic fabric, and so it encouraged the conservation areas to make sure that we enhanced the areas of historic fabric.

"On the whole a lot of other towns have suffered far worse than we have.

“I think we have managed to keep the integrity of the main part of the town, and we have got buildings of some quality now being built.”

Councillor Anne Scicluna said Chichester 'hasnt done badly'but claimed there are things that she'would have done differently'.

CCAAC chairman and historian Alan Green explained how the road system has changed for pedestrianisation in Chichester.

He said: "We called this conference for the 50th anniversary to see what affects they [the reports] had. We had people from Yorkshire, Chester and Bath and the Isle of Wight. They were all very interested. We had a themed walk around the city. People do care passionately about conservation.

"Our report was produced, pre 1974 and they had commissioned Thomas Sharp to come up with the blue print. It was him who came up with the idea of the ring road, extra car parking. It was accepted but it was a long time happening.

"The proposals were taken up to complete the ring road right around the walls at Orchard Street. That happened but there was a public outcry. The roads were reduced to a single carriageway to encourage pedestrianisation in East and North Street.

Display of extracts from the Chichester report alongside what exists today

"It was an experiment in 1975 before an inquest was held and it went ahead in 1976. The end of South Street was made pedestrian only. That was the only major that came out of it."

Alan said the local government was 'vilified' in the 1960s and 70s after an 'awful lot of demolition' in Chichester.

He added: "Demolishing everything was the general mantra in the 1960s but we should have been conserving what we had.

"The breaks were eventually put on but Chichester could have lost a lot more."

Alan said Chichester then began to 'think about our environment and our heritage' but claimed conservation has been made difficult in recent years.

"Joan Humble, the chairman of Civic Voice [in a keynote speech] explained how conservation staff have been reduced across the country," Alan said.

"They are seen as a not important luxury and Project England has not given us much advice."