Decision on £6.9m venue ‘up to people of Burgess Hill’

Martlets Hall Campaigners pictured in 2015 (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221552008
Martlets Hall Campaigners pictured in 2015 (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221552008
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Any decision to spend £6.9million on a replacement for the Martlets Hall is ‘all up to the people of Burgess Hill’, according to the town council.

New River Retail was granted permission for a ten-screen cinema, hotel, 142 flats, a new library, as well as extra retail and restaurant units back in March 2016 by Mid Sussex District Council.

Redevelopment proposals of the Martlets Shopping Centre Burgess Hill (photo submitted). SUS-160315-092258001

Redevelopment proposals of the Martlets Shopping Centre Burgess Hill (photo submitted). SUS-160315-092258001

While the £65m investment in the town centre was welcomed, thousands of residents supported a petition to save the Martlets Hall, which is due to be demolished without a replacement provided for.

As a result Burgess Hill Town Council is looking to provide a community facility on the site of the Royal British Legion building which would incorporate the existing Cyprus Hall.

In order to help pay for it the council is proposing to take out a £5million loan payable over 50 years and council tax rises to fund it.

It is seeking an extra £7.03 a year for a Band D property for 2018/19 and a further £5.97 a year rise in 2019/20.

Artist's impression of new community hall/venue for Burgess Hill. Picture supplied by Colliers International SUS-171124-185624001

Artist's impression of new community hall/venue for Burgess Hill. Picture supplied by Colliers International SUS-171124-185624001

The town council has sent a flyer, including a voting form, to every household, and is also running an online voting survey.

However the Middy has been contacted by a number of concerned residents about the proposed funding model and the consultation process.

Burgess Hill Town Council explained the quickest way to fund the project was a Public Works Loan Board loan.

Annual repayments would be around £190,000 per annum over a span of 50 years.

A further £1.9m would be sought from developer contributions, council reserves, grants, and fundraising.

But to wait for section 106 funding ‘could delay the project upwards of 15 years’, according to the council.

A BHTC spokesman said: “Since the request has gone out, there has been much heated debate and discussion about the proposed increase in council tax which the town council welcomes, as it welcomes all engagement with the community it serves.

“However, some of the public comments that have been made are inflammatory, defamatory, misleading and downright wrong.

“The council is clear on its approach.

“Should the majority of residents responding indicate that they are no longer in favour of a new centre or paying for it, the council will not proceed.

“Similarly if the public are in favour the project will proceed.

“This is the opportunity for the public to be involved and decide for themselves whether or not they want a central community space.”

Responding to why the developer was not being asked to foot the bill for a replacement venue, the town council said it had taken the ‘difficult decision’ to support New River Retail’s proposals ‘rather than see the developer walk away as had previously happened’.

Meanwhile the district council, which supports the redevelopment, has ‘different and broader priorities’.

The town council spokesman added: “There is no hope of full funding from Government, county or district councils. It’s all up to the people of Burgess Hill.”

To respond to the consultation visit the town council’s website.

‘CALL PUBLIC MEETING’

An extraordinary public meeting should be held by Burgess Hill Town Council to address concerns about plans for a new community hall, says Janice Henwood, the Lib Dems’ only town councillor.

She described how she strongly supports the need for a replacement for the Martlets Hall.

But while she believes Burgess Hill on the whole supports having a cultural centre she also argued that the long term financial demand on residents is ‘too great’ to bear on their own without the help of Mid Sussex District Council and the developers.

She said: “Because of the concern shown as a result of the flyer recently sent out by the town council, I have asked that the town council have an extraordinary meeting, inviting the public to attend, and the council to respond to their questions.”

A number of readers have contacted the Middy to request greater detail from the town council.

Len North, who lives in Park Road, described how the letter was ‘too is short of information to make an informed decision’, adding: “Whilst I would like to see a new community centre I’m not inclined to vote positive without further clarification.”

Richard Tudway, from Sycamore Drive, has also asked for clarification about a number of points after receiving the leaflet such as how funds would be ringfenced, why a replacement for the Martlets Hall is being treated as a stand-alone investment, and why developer contributions are not available to support a like-for-like replacement.

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