The Petworth Vision steering group, established in 2013, represents the aspirations of the local community and its aims to improve the town centre both in terms of how attractive it is to visitors and also how it serves the local community. We are a voluntary organisation, that is looking to raise funds from the private, corporate and public sectors to achieve the outlined objectives in a 1-3 year time frame.
We are working closely with the Neighbourhood Plan group, a government driven enterprise under the Localism Act, looking at infrastructural elements of the town such as housing, traffic managements and amenities over a ten year period. The final referendum has not yet been submitted to the town, but is due to do so in 2017.
Our aim is to improve the town centre of Petworth both in terms of how attractive it is to visitors and also how it serves the local community. The projects have been broken down into 3 categories:
1. CREATING A SENSE OF PLACE
A great opportunity exists for Petworth to use it’s rich heritage and wonderful buildings to encourage visitors to enjoy the old town with a new experience. The hard part is respecting the old and yet still encouraging an attractive, modern interpretation. Getting this right will go a long way to giving Petworth a successful future.
2. SUPPORTING A VIBRANT RETAIL ECONOMY
The retail offer is dominated by nonessential retail which does not necessarily meet the needs of local residents. The perceived lack of affordable shopping has been raised in the residents’ surveys. To ensure a sustainable and vibrant economy, the town’s businesses need to be careful not to alienate residents and, at the same time, not to compromise on its strengths as having a strong independent sector and a centre with an extremely low vacancy rate.
The administration of any town like Petworth is complex, with a Town, District and County Council each having their own roles and responsibilities. We also have the South Downs National Park Authority with responsibility for planning. There are also partnerships such as Petworth Community Association and Petworth Business Association.
All want Petworth to be a safe, prosperous town and a good place to live and work. One of the most pressing outcomes of this Vision will be to establish clear and effective lines of communication and an agreed action plan. Beyond that, it will then be down to establishing a series of tactical and strategic measures to move the town forward.
THE STORY SO FAR
An initial Petworth Vision Steering group comprising representatives from the Petworth Business Association, Petworth Town Council, Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council, SDNPA, Petworth Community Association and Petworth House was set up in 2013.
The group commissioned an independent consultant to produce a Petworth Town Centre Audit and CACI to produce a Petworth Market Summary.This was followed by a consultation exercise targeting residents, businesses and visitor s to gain a cross-section of opinion.
Survey forms were sent to 2,234 households and the survey was also made available to complete online. There was a response rate of 34% which is considered high for this type of consultation. Additionally, over 140 businesses were consulted with a response rate of 37%. Surveys with 200 visitors were conducted through interviews and via a touchscreen kiosk. These ideas were compiled into one single Petworth Vision document that sets out to shape the future of Petworth’s economic prospects, achieve physical improvements to the town, support local traders and improve the survival and profitability of its high street.