Residents urged to have their say on the future of Clair Hall in Haywards Heath

Mid Sussex District Council and Haywards Heath Town Council are urging residents to have their say on the future of Clair Hall, Haywards Heath, in a new consultation programme.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 8:14 pm
Updated Monday, 5th July 2021, 8:31 pm

The public engagement initiative is running until September 19 and people can visit the consultation hub at engage.midsussex.gov.uk to register, get updates and take part.

Clair Hall’s permanent closure was agreed by Mid Sussex District Council’s cabinet last summer but the decision was withdrawn after a legal challenge.

Now, both the district and town council would like Mid Sussex residents to decide how to breathe new life into this gateway site.

Councillor Howard Mundin (Mayor of Haywards Heath), councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards (Mid Sussex Council Leader) and councillor Norman Webster (MSDC Cabinet member for Community). Picture: Steve Robards, SR2107053.

Norman Webster, Mid Sussex District Council cabinet member for community, would like as many views as possible from schools, college students, charities and the rest of the community.

“This is a community facility,” he said.

“It’s been used by people in Haywards Heath and the surrounding villages for many years and it needs reviving.”

Cllr Webster said no decisions had been made about the building and ‘nothing has been ruled out’.

Councillor Norman Webster (MSDC Cabinet member for Community). Picture: Steve Robards, SR2107053.

“We are approaching this with a completely open mind,” he said, adding that the outcome depends entirely on the engagement and consultation process.

He also hopes people will submit data to back up their views so that good decisions can be made about the site following the independent consultants’ report in winter.

“Clair Hall has been a big part of Haywards Heath for many decades now,” said councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards, leader of Mid Sussex District Council.

“It’s a 50-year-old building and clearly its future is important to people in the town,” he said.

Councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards (Mid Sussex Council Leader). Picture: Steve Robards, SR2107053.

Cllr Ash-Edwards said the District Council is committed to undertaking the community consultation to influence what happens next on the site.

He also said it was important for both residents and stakeholders to get involved and voice their opinions.

“There are lots of different views in the community about what should happen to the Clair Hall site in the long term and it’s really important that we get people’s views so they can all be considered,” he said.

Upcoming events include community workshops, drop-in sessions, stakeholder meetings, one-to-one meetings and online webinars with key dates listed on the online consultation hub.

Councillor Howard Mundin (Mayor of Haywards Heath). Picture: Steve Robards, SR2107053.

Mayor of Haywards Heath Howard Mundin said the consultation offers ‘an incredible opportunity’ to turn Clair Hall into something that meets the needs of modern Haywards Heath residents and future generations.

“But if you don’t get the engagement, no consultation is going to be worthwhile because there’s simply not enough information for people to make decisions,” he said.

“Our role will be encouraging and pushing all the residents, with whom we have quite a tight bond, to make sure they make this consultation truly worthwhile.”

Cllr Mundin said he had fond memories of seeing live music shows and that tickets had sold quickly in the past.

But he said: “Perhaps there’s something else we need as well.”

“There are a lot of people who have very fond memories of Clair Hall but what we expect today of a venue is not what was built in the 1970s,” he said.

He added that the town has more than doubled in size since then and people have become interested in a variety of different activities.

Cllr Mundin said the site was not just about the hall, but about Clair Park behind it as well, which he described as a ‘hidden gem’ that is already popular with families.

He said he had his own personal thoughts about what the area could be used for but wants to see what residents want.

“It’s such an opportunity for the site but it won’t happen without our residents getting behind it and letting the council know what they’re looking for,” he said.

Last year Clair Hall was used as a Covid testing centre. In 2021 it has been at the heart of Mid Sussex’s vaccination programme and has just administered its 100,000th jab.