West Wittering Preservation
In late 1951 it became known that the Church Commissioners were in discussion with either Billy Butlin or the National Union of Mineworkers with a view to establishing a holiday complex at West Wittering. The Commissioners then owned all the foreshore and coastal farming land from and including East Head and Snowhill Green to the newly built estate at Jolliffe Road south of the main Cakeham Road.
A small group of local residents, headed by Phillip Whitehead (founder of Whiteheads, Chartered Surveyors in Chichester – now GA) and John Widdows (senior partner of Thomas Eggar, Solicitors) formed the 'West Wittering Preservation Trust' in an attempt to protect the land associated with the car park. The car park had been running as a successful commercial venture since the early 1920's and it was assessed that the Commissioners would want at least £22,000 for the area including and bounded by East Head, Coastguard Lane, the playing field (now leased to the village school) and the Car Park Road up to the junction with Pound Road. The Chichester District Council was approached by the West Wittering Parish Council to see if they would help but to no avail, so it was left to the local residents to raise the money themselves. In the event 126 residents subscribed to a new company and the West Wittering Estate Limited was born. In July 1952, the company bought the land above for £20,546.14.9d – including stamp duty and legal fees.
The company's main objectives were then and remain to this day:
"The preservation of the beach and waters adjoining the company's land for the safe and peaceful enjoyment of the public and the preservation of the rural and undeveloped nature of the company's property and its surroundings."
As well as anticipating some return on their investment, the members also looked to the car park to provide sufficient funds to carry out these objectives. The membership has now grown to over 450 and as shares become available they are snapped up by local householders.
Also in July 1952, 48 residents formed a separate company – Cakeham Manor Estate Limited. For the princely sum of £16,062 this company bought 199 acres of coastal farmland, 13 acres of greensward, Cakeham Manor and other properties including the undeveloped plots on East and West Strand, Berry Barn Lane and the two derelict cottages at the entrance. These subscribers did not apparently expect any return on their investment other than rental from the farmland.
In May 1964, East Head was gifted by West Wittering Estate Limited to the County Council who passed it on to the National Trust.
In November 1984 the company entered into a management agreement with English Nature covering all the grazing land between the Car Park Road and Snowhill Creek, all of this area and East Head are now within the Chichester Harbour Conservancy SSSI (site of special scientific interest). For this reason the land is protected from any form of development that could disturb its present rural nature.
In October 1988 the householder shareholders of Cakeham Manor Estate were again approached and sufficient funds were raised by 34 subscribers to buy a further 91 acres of land for £236,000. This is the farmland which separates the urban sprawl of Bracklesham and East Wittering from the main bulk of West Wittering. Here too the subscribers could anticipate no return on their investment so they invested their money solely to safeguard their local area.
In recent years the car park company has invested several hundred thousand pounds in improvements in the facilities and safety there; this programme is a never ending one. The Board of Directors is ever conscious of its responsibility towards what can be as many as 15,000 Sunday visitors and conscious too of the inconvenience caused to local villagers by the sheer volume of cars visiting the car park.