Who would have believed that, hot on the heels of the heels of the Velo South fiasco, which was a masterpiece of non-consultation and misinformation, another fiasco could emerge, this time in the form of a proposal for a Christmas ice rink in Priory Park.
Last month a planning application was made to provide this facility by a firm called S3K, but they put the application in too late to allow it to be determined in time for their required site start date.
Strangely, instead of insisting the application take its course, as would (and indeed should) be the normal practice, Chichester District Council (CDC) bent over backwards to fast track its progress. The application was red-carded by a concerned councillor in the light of much public concern that Priory Park was unsuitable location for such an event and, as part of the fast tracking, it went to planning committee seventeen days before the public consultation period had expired, and before the critical input of Historic England had been received.
Not only that, the agenda papers were put together in advance before any public comments had been received, and also omitted the objection already submitted by the Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
There were speakers at the planning committee meeting who raised significant doubts in the minds of the members to the effect that the resultant motion, namely to delegate the decision to officers with a recommendation to permit subject to ‘no significant material considerations being raised through a third party’, split the vote, so it was only carried on the casting vote of the chairman who, as it happens, represents Southbourne not Chichester.
Concerns about damage to the park’s grass and the underlying archaeology, the long hours of alcohol sale, noise from generators and chillers running 24 hours a day, nuisance from loud music being played seven days a week for six weeks and doubts about adequate event management were all played down by CDC in their zeal to permit the scheme.
Since the committee resolution, both Historic England and Sussex Police have submitted serious concerns which the promoter needs to address, and there is a raft of objections from those living adjacent to Priory Park whose lives will be blighted for the six weeks of the event.
It beggars belief that CDC failed to spot the shortcomings of Priory Park as a suitable site. Little wonder that in the short time available such a half-baked scheme should emerge.
Questions should be asked.
A.H.J. Green, Stockbridge Road, Chichester