Burgess Hill Town Council to start ‘serious planning’ before Martlets Hall is demolished

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Burgess Hill Town Council has explained its decision not to back campaigners in their battle to save a community hall.

Residents packed the public gallery at a town council meeting on Monday (September 14) and appealed for councillors to retain Martlets Hall after a £65m renovation plan for the town centre - which will see the hall demolished - was given the green light last week.

Around 6,000 residents signed a petition asking the council to promise a like-for-like, or better, hall would be put in place before the demolition of the Martlets but Mid Sussex district councillors voted in favour of the investment from NewRiver Retail.

Andrew Barrett-Miles, leader of the town council, explained why the town council did not back the petition at the town council meeting.

He said: “As far back as 2006, consultants did a survey on the Martlets and said it is not fit for purpose for the 21st century. It does not have two tier seating and it is extremely expensive to run.

“That is why we believe that the activities it provides need to be replaced on a sustainable basis in the town centre.

“Although it is going to be three years until the Martlets is pulled down, we will need to do some serious work and serious planning.”

On being asked why the hall cannot be revamped rather than replaced, Mr Barrett-Miles said the estimated cost to make the hall fit for purpose was £2m.

He said: “We are committed as a town council that if the Martlets went we would like to see a suitable, sustainable replacement.”

Anne Jones, mayor of Burgess Hill, told residents: “We are totally on your side, this is why we are consulting because we didn’t want to lose our arts centre. It is not just us, it is the community.

“We have children here and this is all about the children, this is their future more than this is our future. It is so good you are here because you are very important.”

A working group, of four councillors, has been created to look at Martlets and determine community and cultural needs.