There has been a growing opposition to the establishment of an ice rink in Priory Park.
I wholeheartedly agree that it’s completely the wrong place for such a venture.
What is now becoming clear however, following the application just submitted for an alcohol licence (which was never previously mentioned) is that the provision of an ice rink, which conjures up visions of happy families and their children, enjoying a little harmless fun, is nothing more than a ‘smoke screen’.
This is the outrageous idea of effectively taking over a quarter of our park (and in the process destroying the quiet and peaceful ambience of the rest of it) to set up nothing more or less than a gigantic ‘pub in the park’ to subsist for nearly two months over the busy lead up to Christmas and into the New Year period!
Live and recorded music will be played in the open as a draw and we know from past experience it will be at massively high decibel levels.
This aspect alone has already plagued residents living nearby, during the recent short ‘events’ but at least it has not been for weeks on end, as is now proposed!
Food and alcohol will be served all day from early morning, by more than seven outlets surrounding the rink and on into every evening, plus two massive parties until late on Christmas and New Year’s eves.
All this will again make the lives of residents around the park an intolerable misery, as has already been well proven by the recent one or two day, alcohol driven events. Many houses are located less than a ‘stone’s throw’ away.
Last time round, on the so-called Oktober Fest, police had to be called out and many other drunken infringements on normal public behaviour in a wholly residential area were noted during the evening.
Priory Park was gifted to all the citizens of Chichester by the Duke of Richmond, in 1918, with covenants as to its use as a public park, gardens and public urban space for the recreational use of all the people of the city and even more importantly, on the condition it be kept as a permanent memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War.
The council therefore, effectively holds the park in trust for all the citizens of this city. Is leasing the park out for a long, drawn-out ‘alcoholic binge’ really an appropriate way for Chichester council to mark the hundredth anniversary of that tragic war and to honour those who lost their young lives fighting for our freedom?
This proposal only scraped through the district councillors’ meeting on the casting vote of the chairman Bob Hayes and no prior public consultation around the park area by our elected councillors, ever took place.
Importantly as well, this vote was taken before any of the councillors knew about the intention, which is to effectively run a gigantic pub in the park for nearly two months! This would, of course, require an alcohol licence but it was not mentioned at that point!
In other words, councillors were not in possession of all the facts necessary to make an informed decision on more than one count.
I understand the mayor of Chichester, councillor Martyn Bell, alarmed at the prospect of an alcohol licence being attached to the ice rink project (which he does not support in this location) called an emergency meeting last week and the city council voted against a licence being granted at all, on the sensible basis that ice skating and alcohol do not mix.
Now we can only hope, following the equally sensible decision this week, not to grant a licence for the proposed one day ‘Rum and Reggae’ event in the park (thankfully resulting in its cancellation) will signal that a ‘ray of light’ has now entered council thinking and the effective ‘desecration’ of Priory Park – this special place for the city of Chichester with its wonderful 13th-century monument standing proudly at its centre – will now be halted and indeed, reversed.
John Stanley, St Martin’s Square, Chichester