LETTER: Martlets proposal ‘not fit for purpose’

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The public meeting held in Cyprus Hall last Thursday (October 29) was packed out.

Apart for one voice of support early on, the rest of the meeting allowed the audience to vent their angry opposition to the demolition of the Martlets Hall - with no timings or detail of what a replacement might be.

Much of the rest of the meeting concentrated on the serious weaknesses of the NewRiver development plan and how unsuitable and damaging it would prove for the town. Concerns were also expressed by the lack of openness of communication and failure to publish the details of the plans until the 11th hour and lack of opportunity for public feedback and discussion.

It is now clear that the main shortcomings of the plan are the reduction in car parking and no plans to upgrade the road infrastructure. Together these would damage the town and prevent the development succeeding in its aims. While the town council was currently looking at future infrastructure - any proposals will be published too late to be considered - the cut off for objections to the plan is 20 November. Here are the key points:

The proposed ten screen Burgess Hill cinema would have 1,661 seats. To be viable it will rely on drawing on a catchment area with a 15 mile radius. So the majority of the audience will arrive by car. At maximum capacity, that will be one-car-per-three people (based on the Hawth Theatre car ratio) a total of 550 cars. But the town will have just 620 spaces in the central area to cater for all its parking needs.

The cinema will tend to do most business in the evenings, but it will also be doing significant business in the afternoons. It will conflict with shoppers’ parking needs and that of other town centre businesses, and especially so at weekends and in the school and public holidays.

Gridlock - a likely regular occurrence.

This multiplex cinema, even on a quiet day, will need 150 car drivers to attend its main screenings to justify the investment and staffing. And unlike shoppers who park, cinemagoers’ cars will be ‘space blockers’ for over two hours.

With the new cinema monopolising the town’s car parking this will mean that existing businesses in town will suffer from loss of trade. The larger department stores planned for the new development will not be able to get established due to lack of business turnover and will have to close. The result will be boarded up premises.

The car parking situation will have been exacerbated because the proposed 65 bedroom hotel has no parking provision (a hotel would be more appropriate nearer the industrial estate, where it would capture most business), and the 140 new residential units only have 100 car parking spaces.

NewRiver Retail is not providing 283 additional spaces - as they claim - they are simply meeting the needs of some of the new residential housing and replacing the capacity of the now demolished multi-storey car park. In fact there will be a net reduction in parking capacity because of the hotel and additional housing.

Parking is the lifeblood of retail. Larger businesses especially cannot survive on Burgess Hill business alone. An improved bus service would not plug the gap and, although trains may bring shoppers from Hassocks and Haywards Heath, this would not be in any significant numbers.

The meeting’s conclusions suggest that the proposal is, in NewRiver’s own words (about its view of the present town), ‘Not fit for purpose’. Many will hope that they will reconsider and submit a better plan which would prove more acceptable to the town community and businesses.

Plans can be viewed at Mid Sussex Council’s website enter the planning code DM/15/3858 at http://tinyurl.com/ook8qnc. Anyone wishing to comment on this application can write to Planning Department, Oaklands, Haywards Heath, or do so via the website or by emailing planninginfo@midsussex.gov.uk (quoting DM/15/3858) by 20 November 2015.

Malcolm Davison

Orchard Way, Burgess Hill

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