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martlets hall burgess hill NewRiver Retail and District Council Collude To See Burgess Hill NOT Receive A Martlets Hall Replacement

19th June 2015
By Peter Chapman

The chances of Burgess Hill retaining any sort of entertainments facility in the town are all but gone following the public examination of the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood plan.

Held at the District Council chambers in Haywards Heath (why there?) Planning officers from the District Council and NewRiver Retail (lease-holders of the Martlets) were trying to influence the independent examiner, Mr Peter D. Biggers, to recommend a change of wording in the Burgess Hill neighbourhood plan.

They were seeking a policy that states that there doesn't have to be a like-for-like or an improved entertainments venue provided should the existing Martlets Hall be dispensed of if the proposed redevelopment of the Martlets shopping area takes place

We've uploaded 4 pieces of audio to audioboom.com in which you can hear exactly what was discussed at the meeting regarding the town centre and the Martlets Hall. http://bit.ly/1Ftyzj3

Five Quarters Don't Add Up
Moving away from the Martlets Hall just for a moment, the broad plans for the town centre has it divided up into quarters. 5 of them. Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles revealed that the quarters were for illustrative purposes only and essentially facilities could be built anywhere in the town centre.

"Our 5 quarters were a way of illustrating how we saw that these objectives could be achived, but they weren't absolute, we wanted to retain flexibility. If they (NewRiver Retail) want to move the cinema from A-B, we hope that there's nothing in here that would prevent it."

Local resident Mr Miller spoke, pointing out that the public can't be expected to vote yes to a plan that doesn't have anything definate.

MSDC Prepare Report To Dispense Of The Martlets
Back to the main issue. The NewRiver Retail representative really dropped the District Council in it by revealing that the council have been working on a study that shows that Burgess Hill do not need a replacement for the Martlets Hall.

mid sussex district council logo
Between NewRiver Retail and MSDC, they want to avoid having to commit to providing a replacement entertainments facility as it would compromise the plans for the Martlets Shopping Centre and cost them millions of pounds too.

They claim that other venues in town can provide for the community's needs... like the Royal British Legion building perhaps? Conveniently purchased by the town council who swore it was not as a Martlets Hall replacement (Yeah right!)

This also ties in with the accounts from local residents back in October at the 2-day NewRiver Retail 'presentation' (Now revealed as their full consultation) in which Cllr Publicity Pru Moore was telling residents that the Kings Church and Burgess Hill School for Girls could be used as alternative venues for the Martlets Hall - recommendations which have subsequently been widely panned by event promoters and local performing arts groups.

I know nothing, honest governor!
councillor andrew barrett-milesPredictably, Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles claimed to know NOTHING of the discussions between NewRiver Retail and the District Council.

Andrew Barrett-Miles is:

Leader of Burgess Hill Town Council
A West Sussex County Councillor
A Mid Sussex District Councillor
A member of the Burgess Hill development board
A member of the town centre partnership
Took an active roll in the public 'consultation' by NewRiver Retail in October 2014.

Do you really think he doesn't know what's going on?

that is the case, then it means that Publicity Pru Moore knows more than the leader of our own council. We truely are going to hell in a handbasket.

Heather Warne stands up for the public
The star of the show in the eyes of BHU was local resident Heather Warne. She was an invited speaker at the event and spoke about the town centre and the Martlets Hall, slaying many of the proposals. When it became clear that MSDC and NRR wanted shot of the Martlets Hall with no replacement, she responded passionately. Well done Heather!

the martlets shopping centreNew RiverRetail claim full application is coming
We've been waiting over 4 years for NewRiver Retail to put in a planning application for the redevelopment of the Martlets shopping centre. The most recent false-start was in October last year when at their presentation, they claimed the application would be in by the end of December 2014. Six months later and we're still waiting.

At Fridays' meeting, the NewRiver Retail representative claimed that the application was 'dead close'. The company's annual report claims it will be submitted in July.

An amazing quote from the rep was:
"For what it's worth, if it does provide any comfort, The scheme that we are providing has been through alot of public consultation"

Really? 2 days in a little shop unit which was billed as a 'presentation'! We're certainly not aware of any other occasions where NewRiver have held consultations with the public.

Councillors deliberately stiffling debate/action on entertainments venue issue?
Cllr Publicity Pru MooreLast year, Publicity Pru Moore claimed there was 'Nothing to consult on' because the proposals were just a 'snapshot' This came when Cllr Janice Henwood called for a motion whereby the town council would make the public aware about the impending loss of public facilities and ask them what they thought about it. The motion was not supported by the councillors.

Why would they not want us to know that we could be losing our only entertainments venue in the town?

They are our elected representatives and if they (the town council) stand by the neighbourhood plan in which they claim they'd like to see reprovision of an entertainments venue elsewhere in the town centre, then why are they not working with the people to lobby MSDC to say we must have guarantees that our town does not go without such a venue?

On November 19th 2014, Pru Moore - in her role as MSDC cabinet member for leisure and sustainability - signed off a request to commission Max Associates (at a cost of £4,800) to undertake a facilities appraisal of the Martlets Hall. Five days later on November 24th 2014, she shot down the motion proposed to the town council to conduct a public consultation regarding the plans proposed by NewRiver Retail.

zammo just say noIn Closing
It's clear that the people don't have any influence in the content of the neighbourhood plan in terms of what will happen with the town centre. How can it be right that developers can dictate what is and isn't in the plan, going against the wishes of the public? Localism and a 'bottom-up approach' means nothing.

However, we the people do hold an element of power.. When the neighbourhood plan goes to referundum, we can vote NO. We can reject the plans and force the councillors to come up with something more agreeable. If they choose to gamble like they did with the district plan (which failed) then they may end up with a similar outcome in our town.

Spread the word, the District Council and NewRiver Retail are trying to dictate the contents of OUR Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
Do you think it's right that the District Council and NewRiver Retail can call the shots on OUR neighbourhood plan? How do you feel that they've been working behind the scenes to form a report that conveniently proves that we no longer need an entertainments venue in town? Do you think you'd vote YES to a plan that has nothing set in stone?

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