£65m town centre plan set to get green light

Martlets Hall Campaigners (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221614008
Martlets Hall Campaigners (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221614008

A £65 million improvement plan for Burgess Hill town centre,is set to be given the green light this week.

Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) cabinet will meet on Tuesday September 8 to discuss whether to enter a development agreement with retail management expert NewRiver Retail (NRR), to improve the town centre.

The council’s officer has recommended that the cabinet accept the £65 million investment proposal which will bring major retailers, a multiplex cinema, a new library and a hotel to the centre of the town, more than 130 new homes, 160 additional car parking spaces, a modern shopping offer and family restaurants.

MSDC worked with property development specialists BNP Paribas to carry out a thorough financial assessment of the proposed scheme.

More than 3,500 residents have signed a petition asking Mid Sussex District Council and Burgess Hill Town Council to promise the provision of events at the Martlets Hall will not be removed without a like-for-like alternative public venue being created in the town centre.

But the cabinet’s agenda documents state: “BNP Paribas’ advice has confirmed that the challenging nature of this scheme means re-provision of the Martlets Hall is not possible. This maybe disappointing for some residents so this needs to be balanced against the considerable benefits of securing a comprehensive redevelopment of the town centre.”

The council’s advisors have also confirmed the current provision, excluding the Martlets Hall, exceeds Arts Council recommendations.

NRR will make a contribution towards the relocation of community groups to other existing venues in the local area that will be able to accommodate some of the current users.

Agenda documents said: “In summary officers and their advisors have concluded that the overall benefits of this scale of investment in the town centre are significant and fit well with the other growth plans for the town.

“The investment will significantly improve Burgess Hill’s offer to its residents and visitors’, ensuring it is fit to meet the anticipated growth of the town.”

The development will be phased assuming a start in 2016/17 will be completed by 2020/21.

The agenda documents said: “To mitigate the loss of this facility NRR will make a series of contributions to help relocate existing users.”

Phase one - which will potentially completed by mid-2017 - is the removal of ‘bridge’ between New Look and Argos, relocation of Argos from existing unit to an extended and improved Unit, re-cladding and improvement of elevations between New Look around to Holland & Barrett plus improvements to common parts.

Phase two will involve relocating the library and Iceland to create new retail and leisure units and a new 63-bedroom hotel. It will also include 136 flats with car parking, an extension to Waitrose car park plus new landscaping.

Phase three will involve the creation of four new large shop units and a new cinema.

Any development plans produced by NRR will require planning permission through the usual planning process.