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St Johns Church Burgess Hill

St Johns Church - Why was it really awarded £22k by the council?

18th November 2012
By Peter Chapman

Loyal readers of Burgess Hill Uncovered. I must personally apologise to you all. On October 10th 2012, I reported how St Johns Church had been awarded £22k by the district council to install floodlights on the church building. I wrote that this was a good thing.

Read the original story here: 2012/10/st-johns-church-awarded-grant-for-floodlights/

When the news was published, many people posted on Facebook to complain about the church receiving the £22,000.

Some of the comments included....

  • The church already has lights illuminating the building at night, seems like a waste of Burgess hill's public money that's not going to benefit the town or many people living in it.
  • Church ground, church property, church should pay.
  • Let's buy the water play area like Haywards Heath instead, I see many more people benefiting from that
  • It's good news if you attend that particular church. However, I'm sure most non-religious types (like myself) can think of better ways of spending the money.
  • Did any other church receive a MSDC grant in B.Hill I wonder? ;-)
  • Total waste and way too expensive. Any good electrician could do a good job for 2k with motion sensores. Churches are not poor organisations and should fund thier own works.
  • The Church of England is one of the biggest property owners in the UK. This money could be better spent on the vulnerable in Mid Sussex.

Source: Burgess Hill Uncovered Facebook Comments

Readdressing the balance
Acutely worried about my one-sided view in favour of the council, I have done some digging in an attempt to readdress the balance. Here are the findings......

At the District Council grants panel meeting it was said verbally that the Church was being awarded £22k as it formed part of the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood plans.

In the supporting document for the Church's grant application, it is written...
Burgess Hill Town Council is fully supportive of this proposal which is included in the
Neighbourhood Plan and MSDC’s Draft Infrastructure Development Plan.

http://midsussex.gov.uk/media/121010_Covering_Report.pdf page 5

The neighbourhood plan? Is this the neighbourhood plan that is supposedly still being formed? How could money be awarded for something that is not final? The public will be voting on the neighbourhood plan some time in 2013. Isn't that a little odd?

The Mayor speaks
Wanting to get to the bottom of things, a BHU source went and spoke to Burgess Hill Town Mayor Christopher Thomas-Atkin...

Chris French reports....
Today I went to Burgess Hill Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan drop in Surgery, held in a small crowded room on the 1st floor of The Martlets Hall. Whilst there I met amongst others our unelected Mayor Chris Thomas-Atkins.

I decided this would be an opportunity to ask him a question:

“Does it seem right that St John’s church in Burgess Hill, at which your wife the Chairman of MSDC, Mandy Thomas-Atkins is a member and church warden, will receive a £22,000 grant from MSDC, as part of the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan, a Plan which has not yet been approved?”

Chris clearly looked troubled by my question. He said he was worried as to what I might be implying. He said that Mandy did not sit on the Committee that awarded this grant, therefore she had nothing to do with this decision. Furthermore this grant to St John’s church was not part of the Neighbourhood Plan.

It appears that our Mayor is either ignorant or being disingenuous. Which is it?

What you need to know

  • Burgess Hill Mayor Christopher Thomas-Atkin attends St Johns Church
  • Mid Sussex District Council Chairman Mandy Thomas Atkin attends St Johns Church.
  • The Church warden at St Johns is ..... Mandy Thomas-Atkin. (source)
  • Burgess Hill Town Council included the Church's proposal in the neighbourhood plan.
  • We don't vote on the neighbourhood plan until 2013.
  • Mid Sussex District Council awards St Johns Church £22k - a reason given is that it forms part of the neighbourhood plan.

I hope the above information balances out the original report.

Questions that need to be answered

  1. Why is it costing £22k for some floodlights?
  2. Why does the MSDC report say the church floodlighting forms part of the neighbourhood plan?
  3. Why has the Mayor said that the church lighting is not part of the neighbourhood plan?
  4. Who put the church forward for the grant?
  5. Have other churches - that may not have councillors as members - been made aware by the district council that they are allowed to apply for a facilities grant?
  6. Should a church in fact be paying for their own enhancements?

Councillors: If anyone wishes to give a reason for the confusion of why the money was really awarded, then please do get in contact.
I'm sure there is a simple explanation.

It's always good to share, so let your pals know about this story....

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