A masterplan for Chichester’s Southern Gateway has been likened to serving up fish fingers to residents instead of Dover sole by a Lib Dem councillor.
Chichester District Council’s Tory Cabinet agreed to adopt the document and an implementation plan for the area, which stretches from the law courts to Canal Wharf and includes the Stagecoach depot, Royal Mail sorting office, Basin Road Car Park, and land south of Kingsham Road, when it met today (Tuesday November 7).
Redevelopment of the Southern Gateway is set to include new housing alongside employment space, leisure facilities, retail units, and public realm enhancements.
Debate centred around the Freeflow proposals, put forward by architects Richard Hutchinson and Martin Winch, to replace the two level crossings with a single bridge, but these have been ruled out by the council due to cost, loss of developable area, and impact on the character of the city.
Richard Plowman, a Lib Dem councillor for Chichester West, said: “If it [the masterplan] was a fish dish Chichester residents would be expecting Dover sole, and what you have given them is fish fingers.”
He described how cabinet members were about to make a ‘once in a lifetime decision’ and called for a new independent study into the alternative Freeflow proposals.
Cllr Plowman suggested the council’s masterplan would divert traffic to the Fishbourne roundabout, which he described as the city’s ‘most dangerous’.
Tony Dignum, leader of the council, described a ‘difference of approach’ when looking at traffic and cost, adding: “We want a city where traffic is not dominant in the centre of Chichester, not building an expensive device to pour traffic into the city centre.”
He suggested the proposed bridge would be ‘extremely ugly’ while four storey buildings over much of the site would be ‘higher than we would desire’.
He continued: “We do not want to go down that route, we want to go down the route laid out in the masterplan.”
Cllr Dignum told colleagues: “We have to coordinate developments on a number of different sites. We have to clear these sites and ask certain people to move elsewhere.
“We also want to give clear guidance to developers in preparation and assessment of planning applications.”
Philippa Hardwick, cabinet member for finance and governance services, described how the idea of a bridge had been raised and ruled out during internal discussions very early by the council, adding: “We have got to where we are with realism.”
Earlier in the meeting the two architects behind the Freeflow proposals addressed cabinet members.
Richard Hutchinson called the masterplan ‘flawed’ as it was predicated on the basis that the crossings remain.
He said: “Whether you think Freeflow is the right solution or not, we should reject the masterplan, and carry out a fresh study with a new brief directed to looking at how the crossings can be removed and create a truly accessible Southern Gateway.
“This is far too important to not get it right, and this is the last chance to do something about it.”
Meanwhile Martin Winch criticised the quality of consultation on the masterplan, as without public meetings or community workshops ‘key issues could not be identified or addressed’.
In response Susan Taylor, cabinet member for planning services, felt the consultation had been ‘effective, wide ranging and meaningful’, and described how the Freeflow scheme did not meet the masterplan objectives, was too focused on moterised transport, and would have an adverse impact on the townscape character.
The masterplan is proposing to close the Stockbridge Road level crossing to general traffic, limiting access to buses, emergency vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, with a new bus and taxi interchange north and south of the railway station.
Meanwhile Basin Road would be realigned with a new junction on Stockbridge Road, alongside modifications of Southgate gyratory to reduce the width and number of lanes to improve the pedestrian environment at a total estimated cost of £5.3m.
Afterwards in a joint statement Mr Hutchinson and Mr Winch said: “Whatever the merits of Freeflow or other options may be, the council masterplan will therefore be recommended for approval.
“We are not surprised in the least, but we’d have thought that Chichester deserves an ideal solution, or as close to ideal as possible rather than the flawed masterplan which will almost certainly now go ahead.”
The masterplan will now be discussed by Full Council later this month.
What do you think? Email the newsdesk.