Ice rink decision: yes to attraction in Chichester’s Priory Park

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Plans for a festive ice rink in Chichester’s Priory Park have been given the go-ahead after intense debate today.

Events company S3K is looking to run the attraction from late November to early January on land south west of the Guildhall inside a marquee with cafe and food and drink stalls.

The benefits of having a temporary ice rink in the city have been generally welcomed, but nearby residents have raised concerns about the potential noise and disruption they would have to put up with over a six week period.

A change of use application was approved by Chichester District Council’s planning committee today (Wednesday November 14) by seven votes to five.

Edward White, from S3K, said they had worked hard to modify proposals to respond to residents’ concerns. He added: “We want to show the best bit of Chichester to our visitors.”

Christopher Spink, a city councillor, added: “We want people to come into the city. Well how can you get people to come in if there’s nothing for anybody to do?”

One Priory Road resident said they felt like ‘prisoners of the council’ who were ‘condemned again to an unendurable trial’ and asked if the park was being changed to an events venue.

Alan Green, from the Chichester Conservation Area Advisory Committee, added: “There is no doubt an ice rink would be good for Chichester but Priory Park is not a suitable location for it.”

Philip Robinson, chairman of the Friends of Priory Park, said: “None of the objections we have listened to so far have objected to an ice rink as a focal point for Christmas festivities. It’s a good idea but our position is to be vociferous in the defence of the vulnerabilities of the park.”

He described the park as the jewel in the city’s crown and questioned if proposals would ‘tarnish’ it, ‘maybe forever’.

Several public speakers also spoke in support.

Simon McGee said: “This will be an enchanting Christmas event perfectly nestled in the city walls.”

Lauren Wilson added: “I do sympathise with the concerns of the immediate neighbours but the organisers have answered every concern.”

Richard Plowman (LDem, Chichester West) raised concerns about the impact of the noise from the generator and the overall size of the operation. He said: “It worries me there will be problems and long-term consequences and what a shame because I think if we had made this smaller I think the Friends of Priory Park would have welcomed an ice rink of a smaller scale. We are stuck with something that is too much for the park and for the residents and too much uncertainty about the noise levels and controls and how equipment is going to be operated.”

But Les Hixson (Con, Chichester East) thought an ice rink would be ‘wonderful’ for the city, adding: “I believe this is entirely the right site.”

Tricia Tull (Con, Sidlesham) felt the loss of amenity space in the park would not be significant given the time of the year. She said: “I will support this and think it should go ahead this year and if there are dreadful problems it should not happen again.”

The permission is for one year only.

An alcohol licence for the site still has to be discussed by the district council.

At the last planning committee meeting the change of use application was supported on the chairman’s casting vote.

But officers explained plans had come back as there had been material changes to the proposed layout.

At an extraordinary meeting last month a number of city councillors opposed Priory Park as a location for an ice rink.

But in a Facebook poll Observer readers overwhelmingly backed the park as the right location for the festive attraction.