LETTER: Backwards step to turn back on Martlets Hall replacement

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The decision of the Mid Sussex District Council to turn its back on a like-for-like (or better) replacement of The Martlets Hall is a huge step backwards in terms of taking Burgess Hill forward.

What is surely a dreadful error of judgement, is to refuse to acknowledge that a live arts and cultural forum (public and in the centre of the town) has a fundamental role to play in the development of the town.

In the debate that has so far taken place MSDC has so far not taken advice. I refer to a letter from the Theatres Trust dated September 8, 2015. Citing from the letter: “The Theatres Trust is the National Advisory Public Body for Theatres, established to ‘ promote the better protection of theatres’ through the Theatres Trust Act 1976”.

It also delivers statutory planning advice on theatre buildings and theatre use in England through the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (DMPO), that requires the Trust to be consulted by local authorities on planning applications “involving any land on which there is a theatre.”

The main objective of the Trust is to safeguard theatre use, or the potential for such use. It also seeks to provide impartial expert advice to establish the most viable and effective solutions at the earliest possible stages of development.

The letter goes on to remind MSDC that the role of the Martlets Hall was recognised in the elaboration of the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan. While the Plan accepted that the Martlets Hall might well face demolition, it supported the creation of a new arts/theatre facility, if necessary on a different site. It advocated that a replacement facility should be built before the Martlets Hall is demolished, thus ensuring continuity.

The letter concludes ‘without such a replacement, it is Trust policy to oppose any planning application to demolish a theatre where there is not a proper replacement. This is because we are keen to ensure that any proposed new building will be fit for purpose’.

On behalf of all of those associated with the Save The Martlets Campaign we urge MSDC to take proper account of the argument laid out by The Theatre Trust and respect the wishes of the over 6000 citizens who signed the petition demanding a like-for-like or better replacement of the Martlets Hall.

Janice Henwood

Burgess Hill Town Councillor for Meeds Ward Janice Henwood

Oakwood Road, Burgess Hill

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