An ice rink is ‘what Chichester needs this Christmas’ according to the attraction’s promoters as it was given the green light by councillors.
The rink would be housed in a marquee with a cafe, changing facilities and skate hire facility on land south west of the Guildhall.
Proposals also include seven festive food and drink concession stalls.
It is due to run from late November to early January.
A planning application for a change of use for the land was delegated to officers for approval by Chichester District Council’s planning committee today (Wednesday October 17) on the chairman’s casting vote.
This means that at the end of the consultation period if no new significant material considerations are raised and no objection is received from Historic England the plans would get the final go ahead.
Members were split about the positives of an ice rink such as the economic benefits for the city centre balanced against the impact on nearby residents and on the park itself.
Edward White of S3K, the company behind the proposals, said they would continue to work with officers to resolve noise issues and mitigate any impact on residents.
He said: “This is what Chichester needs for Christmas and it’s not our intention to cause upset or concern to anybody.”
He added: “We are really delighted with the committee’s decision today and look forward to working with the planning department to overcome the issues raised and to bring a wonderful family experience to Chichester this Christmas”
During the meeting Guy Knight, who lives in St Martin’s Square, raised concerns about the 24/7 impact of noise from the power generator, while other objectors talked about general disturbance to residents from activities at the ice rink, parking and the long-term effect of the structures on the park’s grass and soil.
Meanwhile disturbance from recent events in Priory Park had left residents with a ‘total lack of faith and confidence’ in the council to minimise disruption.
Richard Plowman, chairman of Friends of Priory Park, asked if the park was a suitable place for a commercial operation.
He said if the plans went ahead whether they would have decide whether the park remained ‘a place of peace and tranquillity that we all know and love’.
Adrian Moss (LDem, Fishbourne) added: “We need to support things like the ice rink, we need to get people to visit Chichester, but we have chosen the wrong location.”
The ice rink was backed by Colin Hicks from Chichester BID, while Mr White described how it was a family attraction, music would be controlled, they would have security on site at all times and a number of noise mitigation measures.
Jane Kilby (Con, Chichester East) said: “I personally see this as a one-year trial subject to a lot of work being done by officers to mitigate the problems that have been mentioned.”
Tricia Tull (Con, Sidlesham) added: “We are only talking about a segment of the park. It was given to the public for recreation and enjoyment.”
Officers explained how the applicant had agreed to move the generator and plant equipment to the eastern side of the marquee, further away from residential dwellings.
They described how ground conditions was a consideration which carried little planning weight and suggested a city centre location was desirable to attract shoppers to Chichester.
But Graeme Barrett (Ind, West Wittering) said: “I think it’s a good idea to have an ice rink in the area. However the location is inappropriate. I think the location is too close to residential properties.”
Julie Tassell (Con, Funtington) added: “I simply can’t support this application. I think the idea of an ice rink is a great idea but it’s totally in the wrong place for it.”
As the committee was tied five votes to five, the casting vote was left to committee chairman Bob Hayes (Con, Southbourne) who signalled his support for the scheme.
Afterwards he said: “I shall be ensuring they adhere to the conditions that are set out very clearly.”