LETTER: Plan confusion

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I sense that there is still confusion between the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan and the recent New River planning application for part of Burgess Hill town centre.

Anger at the proposed demolition of Martlets Hall (as demonstrated by the 7,000 signatures to the Save the Martlets petition) is possibly clouding people’s views on the Neighbourhood Plan.

The simple fact is that the Neighbourhood Plan is our only potential protection against unwanted and intrusive planning applications. If we vote it through, it will form part of the planning framework for the next 16 years. If we don’t, there will be a planning policy vacuum for the whole town, which developers will not be slow to exploit.

It is interesting that New River submitted their planning application before we have the opportunity to put the Neighbourhood Plan into operation. While I am sure they will claim that they took the draft Plan into account, the fact is that their plans will put 70 per cent of the planned town centre housing into a part of the town which is designated primarily for shopping, entail the demolition of our one cultural community venue, and cause a net loss of parking provision in the town centre. This is a small foretaste of what we might expect in other parts of the town, without a Neighbourhood Plan in place.

What about the Martlets Hall? If we vote the Neighbourhood Plan through, the Town Council will be able to use it to put pressure on the District Council and developers to help fund a replacement facility. My understanding, from conversations with town councillors, is that they really want to find a way to build a performance venue which is fit for a town that will soon have 45,000 inhabitants. To achieve this, they will need support over the coming years from the whole community.

I would urge everyone who signed the Save the Martlets petition to begin this process, by turning out on 10 December and voting for the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan.

Richard Light

Midfields Walk, Burgess Hill

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