Plans for new arts venue back on the agenda

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Plans for a new arts venue in Burgess Hill are back on the cards after a swift about-turn.

Last week dismayed members of Burgess Hill Town Council revealed that the project had failed to gain public support because it would mean an increase in council tax.

But now the council has said it is to think again on how it can still proceed with the proposals for a community and performance venue which was origianlly planned to replace the town’s Martlets Hall.

The Martlets is due to be demolished as part of the £65 million town centre regeneration project by developer NewRiver.

Council leader Pru Moore said this week: “When one door closes another opens.”

She went on: “Despite reluctance to pay for the facility, over two thirds of Burgess Hill residents voted in favour of the development. They were clearly supportive of the concept at our November consultation.

“Obviously the work that has been done has not been in vain. The council now needs to reflect on how else it might deliver the project albeit over a longer period.

“The mood of the meeting and indeed the feedback from residents confirms that there is a need and support for a facility such as this. We need to assure residents that the project will be sustainable once a building has been completed and not a drain on the public purse.

“We knew that NewRiver and Mid Sussex District Council were unwilling to contribute because the Martlets Hall was uneconomical, only 43 per cent used and subsidised substantially by over £100k per annum. The concept which we failed to sell successfully was a completely new and different venue built by the community for the community and run by the community.

“It would have to be affordable and would need the buy-in from the whole town. The council and its steering group will now reflect carefully on the result and work out how a facility of this nature might be delivered.

“There are options available but these will take time to develop. The urgency to deliver on the request from residents for a facility to replace the Martlets Hall as soon as possible will be replaced by a slower and more considered approach that will deliver something new and original; not a ‘replacement’ but something better.

“We will continue to listen and work with both those who believe there is a future for this project and those who do not.”