Roman remains under store need to be prioritised

House of Fraser in Chichester
House of Fraser in Chichester

One hopes the same dilatory disease that for years once held back the urgent A27 improvements will not be spreading to decisions on the soon-to-be-vacated House of Fraser site.

This comprises, for Chichester, an enormous central city area where, together with its adjoining but long empty neo-Georgian post office, visitors gather and view the cathedral and Cross.

Thus, a fresh scheme requires an enlightened design approach, particularly sensitive not only to possible commercial opportunities but also to the extraordinary characteristics of what is already there.

This is a building complex of multiple spaces and levels, evolved over decades, concealing behind the modern shop fittings a likely multitude of structural and fabric adaptions.

However, what any interested developer would need to know is that the present store is also likely to be found sitting over a possibly rich area of Roman archaeological remains and their location and exposure would require forethought and forbearance.

New column bases, foundation trenches and service ducting might actually prove very challenging to achieve and resolving the problems of an initial scheme based merely on conventional area sub-divisions could impede desirable development by years.

This is quite definitely not what the people of Chichester want nor what this landmark historic city deserves.

I would therefore advocate that, in its role as planning authority, the council establishes a development advisory committee especially for this site which, drawing on the political precedent of the on-going A27 by-pass procedure, would be suitably keen to be informed by existing community knowledge and even expertise.

David Anstis, Somerstown, Chichester