‘Enough is enough – the city is saturated with coffee shops and chain restaurants’, a long-standing Chichester restaurateur has warned in a rallying call for big change.
Nick Sutherland is director of The Sussex Pub Company, which owns Purchases in North Street, The Real Burger Kitchen in South Street and Pallant Restaurant & Café.
He said he knows of a number of independent and chain eateries that want to leave the city due to oversupply and the hike in business rates this year.
He said: “I’ve been a restaurateur in Chichester for over 25 years and within the city centre there’s been a huge shift from it being a retail destination to service and leisure.
“People used to come to Chichester for washing machines and to do their shopping but that’s all gone to outskirts and the units filled with coffee shops and mid-range chain restaurants.
“There’s a massive imbalance, there’s not many pubs now and the independents are being pushed out.”
He said who knows of two chains who are looking to vacate their units, while he said one of the largest and most popular chain eateries had seen an eight per cent drop in takings over the past two years.
“How many more places do people need to buy a Margarita from when there are at least ten pizzeria already?” Mr Sutherland said.
“I’m listening to my customers and they don’t want this type of offering.
“How can Emsworth have a Michelin-starred restaurant and Chichester not?
“The independents that are left will be pushed out because the cake is being cut too thin.”
He said Café Nero’s change of use application for a second coffee shop in an empty retail unit in North Street ‘should not even be considered’ by Chichester District Council, given the city is so close to its 25 per cent limit for the number of non-shopping A3 businesses in the centre.
“When a great independent health café like Luckes does open, you get the likes of bland Café Nero wanting to open up next door within their first year of opening,” Mr Sutherland added.
He said his three businesses had this year seen a 17 per cent increase in business rates – set by central government.
He wants CDC planners to consult with existing restaurant and café owners before approving any further A3 use, adding: “Enough is enough, time has come to have a wider vision of what is needed regarding the offer of retail shops and services within our beautiful city.”
In response, a spokesman from Chichester District Council said: “Figures from the Chichester BID show that 57 per cent of city centre businesses are retail and 18 per cent are food and beverage.
“Vacancy rates for premises in Chichester city centre continue to be extremely low and well below the national average, however, we do understand the concerns raised.
“As a planning authority, we are only allowed to consider the use, and not whether the individual occupier is an independent business or not.
“We also do not control business rates. These are collected by us on behalf of central government, which sets the rates.
“Anyone can comment on a planning application as part of the normal planning process and we would encourage people to do this.
“We are also currently working on a review of our Local Plan.
“When we reach the stage where we will be consulting on individual policies, we would welcome people’s comments on what appropriate policy approach they would like to see regarding this issue.
“The Chichester Vision, formally adopted this year, also recognises that there are many lifestyle issues which have contributed to the changing retail and business environment.
“The Retail Trends Study carried out as part of this work found that people view town centres as more than shops and businesses, with events, leisure facilities and food and drink outlets forming part of the mix.
“The Vision is looking at what improvements people want to be made to the city centre over the next 20 years and we will be working with all our partners, including the BID to help deliver this.”
Café Nero declined to comment.
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