This week’s District Dispatch comes from Cllr Martyn Bell, Cabinet Member for Growth, Place and Regeneration at Chichester District Council. You can find his article below.
Supporting our local businesses and helping the economy to recover is a key priority within the council’s COVID-19 recovery plan.
Since the start of this crisis, supporting businesses across the district has been a top priority. We have issued over £37 million of government business grants; offered business advice; helped with grant applications; helped businesses prepare for the government’s requirements; provided social distancing signage; and launched a ‘support local’ campaign.
Now that businesses are reopening, we are offering parking incentives, including free car parking in our Avenue de Chartres car park in Chichester at the weekends and a free hour when you buy two hours on the MiPermit car parking app in any of our car parks until 7 September. This is one of the many actions we have introduced to encourage people to return to our High Streets.
From the very beginning, we have been working with business groups and associations, our parish, town and city councils, West Sussex County Council and Chichester BID to identify the support needed in each of our locations. Our officers immediately set up a High Street Task Group at the start of the crisis. This group has looked at areas such as the relaxation of planning and licensing restrictions; social distancing measures; health and safety advice; and business support and grants – to make sure that our towns and city were ready and open for business when the restrictions were eased. Right from the beginning, we have tailored our approach to each town and the city to match their specific requirements. Last week, we agreed to offer free temporary pavement licences to eligible hospitality businesses to help them recover from being closed for months under lockdown. This a crucial time for the hospitality industry and we want to do everything we can to help.
Alongside this, we are continuing to work with our partners in our towns and city on their Vision projects. We have one for each area which focuses on the specific needs for each area. We are working with our partners to revise the action plans, but it is definitely full steam ahead with this important work.
We recognise that funding is still an issue for many businesses during this recovery phase, so we are setting up a £250,000 grant fund to help eligible businesses with their recovery plans. Alongside this, we are relaunching our enabling grants scheme later this year.
Tourism accounts for £470 million within the local economy and 14% of all jobs. As a council we have agreed to treble our funding to Visit Chichester to £150,000 and we hope that this will give the tourism sector the boost it needs. This will help to protect local jobs, and will have a positive impact on other sectors that support the tourism industry.
We have also agreed a plan on how we can boost the arts sector. As well as continuing to support Chichester Festival Theatre and the Pallant House Gallery with grants up until 2022, we have agreed to jointly commission an economic and social value impact study, with the costs shared between the three organisations. We will be approaching the Weald and Downland Living Museum and Fishbourne Roman Palace to see if they would also like to take part in this work.
Our local leisure services have a big role to play to help us look after our physical and mental wellbeing. Many people have found things very challenging during lockdown and so it’s great to see these services back up and running. We have been working very closely with our partners Everyone Active over the past few months to help them reopen our leisure centres and we will continue to support them through this recovery phase.
Our area has so many great events and we want to build on this. Goodwood has already adapted their offer by introducing events such as the Secret Cinema, where people watch the films from their cars. It’s these new ideas that we need to focus on. We are also working with Chichester Festival Theatre and New Park to have a drive in cinema at Northgate; and, we’re looking at performances and events in Oaklands Park. You can be assured that keeping our residents and visitors safe, is at the heart of everything we consider and do.
We’re continuing to move forward with exciting developments and projects that will support our local economy and create business accommodation and jobs. These include the Southern Gateway Project, the redevelop of our St James’ Industrial Estate; our Ravenna Point business accommodation; and, our business accommodation at the Enterprise Centre. All of these projects pay a vital role in supporting businesses by providing accommodation to suit their needs and help them to grow.
We all can play our part in helping our local economy recover by supporting our local businesses as much as we possibly can. The Government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has started this week, with many of our local businesses taking part. So this summer, please keep safe and support localwww.chichester.gov.uk/supportlocal
Cllr Martyn Bell
Cabinet Member for Growth, Place and Regeneration at Chichester District Council