Reader letter: What does Chichester have to offer its twinned cities Speyer, Ravenna and Chartres?

"With these three magnificent cities rich in culture, architecture and civic pride – what in return does Chichester have to offer?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Chichester Cross; Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (28)"With these three magnificent cities rich in culture, architecture and civic pride – what in return does Chichester have to offer?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Chichester Cross; Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (28)
"With these three magnificent cities rich in culture, architecture and civic pride – what in return does Chichester have to offer?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Chichester Cross; Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (28)
Writes Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance

The city of Chichester is about to welcome fellow citizens of the beautiful city of Speyer in Germany that have graciously accepted to be linked to Chichester joining with the two other significant cities of Ravenna and Chartres. How incredibly blessed we are. However, with these three magnificent cities rich in culture, architecture and civic pride – what in return does Chichester have to offer?

In days gone by there was much to offer visitors if not in wealth but in civic pride as its reputation was heralded as the gem of West Sussex. It became a place of destination nestling between the clean sea and the beauty of the South Downs. It nurtured nationally successful theatres and art galleries. Its rich Roman origins with an incredible palace and Roman walls and Roman layout, its charming medieval architecture followed by the structured Georgians with touches of Palladian, and our magnificent cathedral, our shops graced with a beautiful Cross, successful centres of learning, all contributing to its well earned reputation.

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And of today? What is Chichester and how does it reflect and shape the political values of its citizens? How will it appear to these new visitors?

Chichester railway station. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (8)Chichester railway station. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (8)
Chichester railway station. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (8)

Our architecturally rich centre is now full of empty shops, broken and filthy paving, peeling paint, treeless and plantless pedestrian areas, with less and less quality of goods to buy...

The traffic journeys to the city are thwarted by the strangulation caused by the east west route of the A27. The state of the roads are dirty and horrendously pot-holed most especially within the city itself. The surrounds of the city are engulfed with swathes of building of yet more mediocre uninspiring badly planned un-needed developments. This all adds to the traffic congestion that often finds shoppers stranded in the Portfield shopping area. The levels of air pollution growing across the southern bypass roundabouts affecting nearby housing. Schools full. Medical facilities full. The rivers seas and beaches are polluted. The new developments contribute towards flooding. The rich agricultural fields are concreted over. The future – looks bleak.

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The city is lifeless after the shops close. There are no facilities such as brilliant playgrounds, day crèches or business hubs. The young cannot afford to live in Chichester so leave and take their enthusiasm, their entrepreneurial spirit and go elsewhere.

"What is Chichester and how does it reflect and shape the political values of its citizens? How will it appear to these new visitors?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (18)"What is Chichester and how does it reflect and shape the political values of its citizens? How will it appear to these new visitors?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (18)
"What is Chichester and how does it reflect and shape the political values of its citizens? How will it appear to these new visitors?" asks Libby Alexander, of Save Our South Coast Alliance. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (18)

Why should this be so when there is so much that could be done. There have been years and years of uninspiring, unimaginative, badly thought through decisions that have done little to enhance the core beauty and integrity of this special place. Take Chichester Gate as the example of how not to enhance a public space. It is utterly graceless, unwelcoming, badly designed and took nearly 10 years to even produce a pavement.

There is now a wonderful opportunity to enhance the centre of the city. A series of vacant land sites have emerged that could be transformed into a linked plan that would be inspirational and forward looking. An exciting project that would enhance all that we already have. That could entice the young to return and invest their futures where they live. If done well and thoughtfully by embracing all aspects together it would raise the positive profile of the city and make us proud again.

But – will our MP reverse the time spent burnishing her own career far away and actually commit to the capital of her constituency? Will the new council grab this opportunity and reverse the decline with their new promises? Or will the citizens’ hopes be dashed yet again. Perhaps the good auspices of The Observer could campaign for a refreshed look at how our city could be revitalised and restore our civic pride.

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Novium Museum, Chichester. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (24)Novium Museum, Chichester. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (24)
Novium Museum, Chichester. Photograph: Steve Robards/ SR2304064 (24)

To share your views, send letters of no more than 250 words with your name, address and daytime telephone number to [email protected], or post to The Observer, Metro House, Northgate, Chichester, West Sussex, P019 1BE