Burgess Hill regeneration: comments infer inaccurate picture of relationship between district council and New River developers

What the Martlets redevelopment will look like (photo from New River Retail's website).
What the Martlets redevelopment will look like (photo from New River Retail's website).

It was pleasing to see from your report last week that so many residents saw New River Retail’s public exhibition of their revised plans for the regeneration of The Martlets Shopping Centre in Burgess Hill.

Modern town centres need to cater for a mix of retail and leisure uses to ensure their vibrancy and it is good to see New River are seeking to provide this.

However, I do need to correct a comment made by the new Leader of Burgess Hill Town Council, Robert Eggleston, in last week’s paper.

Councillor Eggleston referred to New River being the district council’s “chosen developer” and that the district council would need to “step in and complete the project” if New River’s proposals don’t proceed.

These comments do not give the public an accurate picture of the relationship between the district council and New River and the reality of the options available.

New River Retail is the owner of the shopping centre. It has a long lease which it bought a few years ago from another investor. New River has not been appointed by the council. As a result, New River is under no contractual obligation to develop the centre. If New River decides not to proceed with its investment, the council could not compel it to proceed, nor could it undertake the development itself or appoint any other developer to do so.

The town centre without regeneration is an outcome that few would want but the challenges facing the retail sector are well known and the decision about whether to invest is one for New River’s board. The district council will continue to work hard, within its powers as freeholder and planning authority, to encourage and shape New River’s proposals.

New River has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to Burgess Hill, which is to be welcomed and the new proposals do include more leisure and social uses which should help ensure a sustainable, modern town centre.

Everyone’s priority should now be to work to ensure that Burgess Hill continues to be a location of choice for New River, and other businesses, to invest in.

Councillor Judy Llewellyn-Burke

Deputy Leader of Mid Sussex District Council

Oaklands Road

Haywards Heath