Midhurst Vision Partnership announces first project
A greener and more pedestrian and cycling friendly town centre
The first project to be developed by the Midhurst Vision Partnership is to create a design template for the town centre making it greener and more pedestrian and cycling friendly. The aim is for planting, hard landscaping, signs and street furniture to be attractive and cohesive throughout the town.
The first phase will focus on creating a clear pedestrian friendly route between The Grange Car Park and the old town, and North Street and the old town by improving planting and signs. The shopping areas of Bepton Road near Sainsbury’s and Grange Road will also be included. This will not only improve the Midhurst experience for visitors, but increase footfall in the quieter areas of the town supporting the businesses located there.
Designing to be innovative, vibrant and green
Landscape architect company Deacon Design have been chosen to do the initial phase of the design work after a robust tender process. “Midhurst has a strong sense of community, heritage and its inherent relationship with the South Downs gives it a strong sense of place that has stood the test of time,” said Phil Deacon. “We believe there are opportunities for improvements to the streetscape experience for pedestrians and cyclists. This will include modern urban greening which, in a post Covid world has never been more important,” he added.
Where possible a variety of native plant species will be used which will help increase biodiversity. Some of the effects of climate change will be mitigated by making the town more pedestrian and cycling friendly, reducing the heat island effects hard surfaces create, by more planting and reducing run-off from heavy rainfall events with planted beds.
The process and timing
This is not a quick or easy process. Design work will be done in stages and will take time and further fundraising to continue and complete. The initial review and design concept work is being funded by Chichester District Council (CDC), Midhurst Town Council (MTC) and Cowdray Estate.
The aim is to have these proposed concepts to share and consult upon in spring 2022. The intention is that the concept drawings will be inspiring enough to get more funding for the next stages of design development. It is hoped that an initial stage of the work will start late 2022/early 2023.
Midhurst Vision – working in partnership
Midhurst Vision Partnership includes residents, business owners, representatives of MTC, CDC, West Sussex County Council, Cowdray Estate, South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) and key local organisations like Midhurst Town Team CIC and Midhurst Society. It is now a Community Interest Company which enables it to apply and for and receive funds. There are three founding directors – Geoff Allnutt (local business owner), Philippa McCullough (part of Visit Midhurst tourism group) and Jonathan Russell, CEO Cowdray Estate.
Impact of Covid
This has highlighted the incredible strength of community in Midhurst and has also presented opportunities to embrace changes in lifestyle aspirations. For example, not having to travel to the office every day, really appreciating the great outdoors and the green environment, enjoying less traffic, staying local and being part of the local community.
As a result of the urgency that Covid has created for the local business community, the Vision Partnership has decided to initially focus on projects to improve the town centre for residents, businesses and visitors. This will be complimentary to, and build on, the work MTC is already doing to improve the garden at the Northern Gateway to the town (the area opposite The South Downs Centre).
Enhancing public spaces is proven to increase visitor levels and improve the experience, so that people return. In Midhurst although the traffic on North Street is a burden, in many respects it also presents the opportunity of thousands of potential customers. North Street is our ‘shop window’ and the better that first impression, the more likely people are to stop and enjoy the town.
Some comments from Midhurst Vision Partnership key partners:
As the West Sussex County Council member for Midhurst I have been delighted to work with the Vision Partnership team from the start. We are now at a really exciting phase – I am hoping the landscape architect team are able to produce some truly innovative ideas to help us all make the town more green and vibrant. I am delighted that there is now a sense of collaboration and momentum behind this project.
Kate O’Kelly, West Sussex County Councillor
We look forward to working with the Vision Partnership to become more collaborative in helping our town become more sustainable, ecologically aware, innovative and a great place to live in, work in and visit. The output from Deacon Design will create a template for the Town Council and our other local authorities to refer to when making decisions about our town for the future.
Carol Lintott, Chairman MTC
Moving forward, the Vision Partnership can set the benchmark for other communities to follow. The bringing together of partners united in pursuit of a common cause has been fantastic to witness. I’m confident their continued coordinated collaborative approach will ensure they will deliver environmental, economic and social benefits for Midhurst and the wider landscape which are aligned with our National Park Purposes and Duty.
Mark Alden, SDNPA
As the representative of Cowdray I am keen to reinforce our commitment to a collaborative and a strategic plan for the town. Covid only goes to support the Vision Partnership aims to focus on our local environment and community and make Midhurst the best it can possibly be. Cowdray will continue to be committed to being part of the group and to delivering the plan.
Jonathan Russell, CEO Cowdray Estate
It is very encouraging to see the various stakeholders working towards a combined vision. This was one of the key aspirations arising from the workshops. A lot of work has gone on to be inclusive of all views whilst being sensitive to the practicalities of delivering the Vision Partnership projects.
Theresa Truscott, Midhurst Business Network
For 60 years we have followed a vision for Midhurst – that the historic buildings should be preserved, the infrastructure enhanced, and that it should be a vibrant and welcoming town. We are delighted that the Vision Partnership is inviting all stakeholders to come together to make this happen.
Harvey Tordoff, Midhurst Society