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District Dispatch - 12 July 2023

Hello. I'm Harsha Desai and I am the Cabinet Member for Growth and Place at Chichester District Council. I want to talk to you this week about the district's economy and how businesses are investing in our beautiful area.

Councillor Harsha Desai, Cabinet Member for Growth and Place

You may be surprised to know that Chichester District has a diverse economy worth an estimated £3.1 billion and supports over 74,000 jobs, within 7,600 businesses.

There is a long history of successful business start-ups; an impressive horticulture sector; as well as the world-renowned brands of Rolls Royce Motor Cars and Goodwood. Tourism also plays an important role. Figures show that tourism injects approximately £317.1m (2021) into the city and wider district and sustains 10.7% of the total workforce.

The wine tourism sector in Sussex is the latest to reveal its ambitious plans. Wine makers from Sussex, including Ashling Park from our own district, attended the Houses of Parliament to showcase wine from the area and launch the plan in June. The plan, which was created by the partners in the Sussex Visitor Economy Initiative, looks to increase the wine tourism sector in Sussex from its current value of £25 million to £283 million by 2040, generating 3,633 new jobs and securing Sussex's position as the UK's premier wine tourism destination.

The winelands of Sussex currently boast 138 vineyards, representing a quarter of Great Britain under vine. Many are award-winning and open to the public, offering cellar door sales, tours, tastings, food and drink, shopping, accommodation, as well as a variety of events and activities.

The horticulture sector within the district is of national significance. The West Sussex Growers' Association has 70 members, ranging from multinational businesses to specialist family businesses. The sector achieves approximately £1 billion of annual sales and employs 6,500 permanent and 3,500 seasonal staff in West Sussex.  Approximately 45% of horticultural business in West Sussex are based in Chichester District and so it is an important industry for this area.

As a council, we work closely with all of these sectors and continue to encourage other businesses to join us in this beautiful part of the country. We do this through our business support schemes. We recently promoted our Enabling Grants Scheme for small and independent businesses and at the end of last year we ran the Independent Retailers Grant scheme.

We also run the Invest Chichester project, which works hard to attract businesses to the district or businesses looking to grow, in order to boost the local economy. In addition, we built the Enterprise Centre in Terminus Road to help start-up and small businesses and we also built Ravenna Point, comprising six mid-sized modern business units. This year, we also completed the £6 million redevelopment of our St James Estate in Chichester, which now provides 30 new industrial units for businesses of all sizes to rent.

We can assist businesses in many ways, but it's also important to understand that we have no control over business rates, rents, or which businesses move into the area. These are common misconceptions. We collect business rates on behalf of central government, which then considers how the money is redistributed across the country. The Valuation Agency sets the rateable value and a formula is then applied by central government to work out the rates that a business pays. In terms of rents, these are set by the individual landlord of each property, and we have no influence over this. We also are unable to choose which businesses and shops go in which premises. Individual businesses choose where they want to be based, and in the case of larger retail chains this is based on the needs and aims of that business.

To find out more about the support we offer businesses or to get in touch, please visit our Business Support and Advice page.

Best Wishes

Cllr Harsha Desai

Cabinet Member for Growth and Place