Chichester council developing regeneration strategy for city after empty shops issues

Chichester, West Sussex.Chichester, West Sussex.
Chichester, West Sussex.
A spokesperson for Chichester District Council spoke out after recent statistics about empty shops in the city caused ‘concern’ for residents.

A new study by online supermarket Britsuperstore claimed that Chichester has the third highest number of empty shops in the UK, with 39.2 empty shops per 100,000 people. That’s three times the national average of 13 empty shops per 100,000 people.

Many locals across the city frequently herald the ‘decline’ of the high street. In a Sussex World news story about empty shops last year, reader Pip Otton said: “Chichester is dying.”

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Residents are ‘concerned’ with these new statistics for the West Sussex city. Other commenters spoke about the ‘need’ for a park-and-ride into the city as well as ‘lower parking fees’.

Reader Kerry Poat said for her to come into the high street, there needs to be “more independent shops, less big chains like every other high street, fewer traffic queues to get there in the first place and much less empty shops.”

Chichester District Council said: “It has been a challenging environment for businesses over the last few years and for the retail sector in particular. The impact of the pandemic has been seen in high streets across the country and the growth of online retailing continues to shape significant changes in the use of the high street."

" According to our figures from Experian data (October 2023) the city’s vacancy rate is 12.06%, according to Local Data Company figures the average vacancy rate for the UK is 14% . We do not understand the figure from Britsuperstore that has been quoted. Chichester is managing to stay ahead of the average vacancy rate for the UK.

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“It is a common misconception that we are able to choose which businesses and shops go in which premises. This is not the case, it is up to individual businesses to choose whether to come to the city or not, and certainly in the case of larger retail chains, this will be based on the requirements and goals of that business.

“We also have no control over the levels of business rates payable. We collect them on behalf of central government which then considers how this money is redistributed across the country.

"The National Valuation Agency sets the rateable value, and a formula is then applied by the central government to work out the rates that a business pays.

“Over the last few years, some of the larger chains have changed and adapted their business models. If a retail business does choose to come to Chichester, then they liaise with a private landlord who owns the business premises.

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“We are, however, working extremely closely with our local partners on the issues that we can influence to ensure the city remains economically buoyant. We have been working with partners such as West Sussex County Council; Chichester City Council; Chichester BID (Business Improvement District); Chichester College; Chichester University; and key tourism destinations as part of the Chichester Vision.

Work is underway to improve the look and feel of the city so that it continues to be attractive to both visitors and businesses, along with projects to improve connectivity and encourage events in the city centre.”

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