By Kelly Wickham
Businesses in an industrial estate in the city have been told they have until the end of the year to leave.
Owners from businesses in St James’s industrial estate received a letter from Chichester District Council asking them to find alternative accommodation.
The letter said the council was aiming to update businesses on future plans for the estate and talked about support the council would be offering.
It strongly denied it had signed a contract for another business to move on to the site.
But the letter stated: “As things stand, the site only offers basic communal facilities. Many of the units need rewiring. More than half of the units do not meet the current energy performance standards and the majority of units need significant refurbishment.”
The council said fewer than half of the units did not meet the current energy performance standards and the majority of units needed significant refurbishment.
The letter said fewer than half of the units were currently occupied “because of the improvements required, yet we know that the area desperately needs more business accommodation. Not only do we need to take action, but we also need a long-term solution.”
Consultants and experts have visited the site in Westhampnett Road to conduct tests and investigations to advise the council on how the site could be refurbished and redeveloped. The information has been considered by leading councillors who have agreed to invest in the site so it is fit for purpose in the future.
The council’s letter went on to say: “In order to move ahead with the redevelopment of the estate, we will need to vacate the site by the end of the year.”
“We investigated whether part of the site could continue to function while the works started, but unfortunately this was not an option.
“This means that all businesses on the site will need to find alternative accommodation by November/December, 2020, or when your lease expires if it is before this date.
“Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that you will be able to return to St James’ following completion of the development, as we have yet to finalise the design and scale of the site.”
The district council went on to say that while they understood it was not ideal they wanted businesses to know that their priority was to help and support them to find alternative accommodation.
They also said they wanted to inform the businesses as soon as they could so they had as much notice as possible.
In a frequently asked question page in the letter, the council sated that businesses were unable to stay on the site while it was redeveloped.
It said: “We have explored this but have been advised that due to the nature and extent of work that is required, in addition to significant health and safety concerns, this is not an option.”
There was also a question which stated the council had already signed an agreement for another business to move onto the site.
The reply stated: “No. At this moment in time, we are looking for design options for the new site. We do know, through ongoing discussions with businesses about their accommodation needs, that a redeveloped site will be very attractive to many organisations and once the design is finalised, we will then be in a position to talk to businesses who are interested.
“We envisage that the site will continue to offer a number of small units. We hope that work will start on at the site in 2021 and we hope that it will be open for business in 2022.”
The council will be sitting down with businesses to review their needs moving forward and said they will run through the available accommodation that they have as well as partner sites, such as the Enterprise Centre, which is run by Basepoint.
The timescale for the project starts with meetings with tenants, work on site next year and is set to end with the new units being ready in March 2022.
Cllr Martyn Bell, the council’s cabinet member for growth, place and regeneration, said: “We have reached a point where we not only have to take action, but where we need a long term solution.
“As tenants on the site know, this is a project we have been working on for the past few years. I’m pleased to say we are now at a point where we are ready to invest in the site so that it is fit for purpose moving forward.
“We investigated whether part of the site could continue to function while the works started but, unfortunately, this was not an option.”
The council is looking at design options for St James. It is envisaged the site will continue to offer small units within the estate.