New theatre for Burgess Hill given thumbs up
There was delight for Burgess Hill town councillors after long-standing plans for a £5.5m theatre were given the nod by Mid Sussex District Council writes Karen Dunn, local democracy reporter.
After years of work and planning by councillors and members of the community, the application for the Beehive – a 237-seat theatre and community venue, in Cyprus Road – was approved by the planning committee on Thursday.
Town council leader Robert Eggleston said he had goosebumps when he left the meeting, adding: “When the first stone is laid it will be fantastic. When the building is opened we will have a party.”
Mr Eggleston is also a district councillor and sits on the planning committee but was not allowed to stay while the application was being discussed and decided.
Two other members who serve on both councils – Roger Cartwright and Graham Allen – were also not allowed to speak or vote on the application.
Mr Eggleston told the meeting the theatre would be owned by the town council and run as a charitable trust, with an application already submitted to the Charities Commission.
He said most of the trustees would be local residents, adding: “We see this very much as a town council and community project.”
Despite getting the go-ahead from the planning committee, the town council still faces a major challenge – money.
Mr Eggleston said £3m was already lined up – the council has budgeted for a loan of that amount. That leaves £2.5m still to find.
There has been talk of a public call for money, such as a crowdfunding appeal, but Mr Eggleston hopes the planning permission also will help smooth the way with potential investors.
He said: “We have some work to do to get that in place. Now we’ve got planning permission, we can point people at it and say it’s going to happen.
“I’m confident we will get the money.”
As for the name of the new theatre, it gives a respectful nod to the town’s once-thriving brick-making industry.
The kilns used to harden the bricks were called beehives.
So when was building work expected to start?
Mr Eggleston said he had aspirations for next year.
He added: “It’s fantastic news for Burgess Hill Town Council and for the town as a whole. We’ve been working on this for several years both as a council and a community project.
“To have something tangible means we can begin to see the reality of it happening.
“Now is the time for the town to get behind it.”