Councillors' Words Over Burgess Hill's Arts and Entertainment Provision Come Back To Haunt Them
30th July 2015
Cllrs Garry Wall, Gary Marsh and Publicity Pru Moore need to look away now for their words going back a few years have come back to haunt them in a big way.
With the future of the Martlets Hall in serious doubt and with no replacement facility in the offing, we looked through our collection of newspaper cuttings to see what the Disitrct Council had been saying over the years with regards to the future of art and cultural provision in Burgess Hill. It makes for VERY interesting reading.....
Back in November 2009, when Cllr Garry Wall became the new leader of Mid Sussex District Council, he was quick to herald in a new era of openess.
Speaking to the Mid Sussex Times, he said:
"This new council will be more inclusive, more open and more interactive with the community."
"I myself am a fairly approachable person and I will get out in the community and will talk to representative bodies and will make sure that my cabinet team are involved, as well as the press."
"The challenge now is for us to seek to work closely with the community on the difficult issues and the difficult challenges."
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Garry Wall has clearly changed his tune in the last 5 years.
With regards to the Martlets Hall and the Burgess Hill town centre there's been NO openess and NO interaction with the community about public facilities. In fact, Mr Wall's administration have made it as difficult as possible to get any information and they are refusing to consult with the public.
Community Needs Focus For Town Regeneration
Back in 2010, Mid Sussex Disitrict Council had a 'Mid Sussex Advisory Group' who would meet to discuss the future plans for each of the three main towns. The group said that plans should focus on the needs of the community and not developer blueprints.
Speaking to the press,Cllr Gary Marsh (Then cabinet member for planning and regeneration) said;
"Community requirements need to be the focus to regenerate the town"
"We are also welcoming contributions from the whole community and I know the depth of local knowledge held by our partners will help ensure that any revitalisation schemes meet the aspirations of local residents"
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Once again a councillor talking about the needs of the community are very important, why the u-turn Mr Marsh?
Robert Eggleston vs Cllr Marsh
In August 2011, local resident Robert Eggleston wrote a letter to the Middy mailbag, stating his fear that cultural and arts provision in Burgess Hill could be in danger (how prophetic)
He pointed out that the 2006 town masterplan pledged to have a new arts centre. Robert said that arts provision should not be sidelined for shops and that Burgess Hill was at risk of being 'sold short' (again, how prophetic!)
Cllr Gary Marsh responded:
"The proposals include the provision of a new arts centre and this is something that the council is keen to see delivered for the people of Burgess Hill."
"As a council, our two priorities will be to make sure that any projects that come forward meet the needs of the local community and are capable of being delivered in this tough economic climate."
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Gary Marsh said that the council was keen to see a new arts centre delivered. He said a priority of any plan is that it meet the needs of the community. NewRiver's current plans (in 2015) do not have an arts centre (as agreed with the council to scrap it) and thus this plan does not meet the needs of the community. Again, why the u-turn Cllr Marsh?
Cllr Publicity Pru Moore Slams Local Resident
7 days after Robert Eggleston's letter was printed in the press, Publicity Pru Moore sent in her own nasty contribution to slam down the concerned member of the public.
In writing, she said:
"We do want investment in Art and Culture but we will be reliant on the private sector to achieve it. As Gary Marsh said, there are art and community proposals within NewRiver's initial scheme, so let's work to achive those."
"Please do not send out a negative message to potential investors. Rather, welcome them and work with them to achieve the best for our town which is what we want and I believe most people in Burgess Hill want."
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So, how exactly were Pru Moore and co going to facilitate a way for ordinary members of the public to work with NewRiver Retail on their proposals? This was a bogus claim. How silly she looks now
Where Are We Now?
As of July 2015, NewRiver Retail and Mid Sussex District Council have no provision for an arts and cultural facility in the plans.
They are going to get rid of the Martlets Hall and have made an attempt to get it written in the Burgess Hill neighbourhood plan that the facility should not have to be replaced.
Garry Wall and the rest of MSDC are staying tight-lipped about everything. They are refusing to reveal any information and are also blocking freedom of information requests saying 'The public need to know is not greater than the need NOT to know'
Pru Moore has gone on record as saying that other facilities in town can make up for the loss of the Martlets Hall, however local groups have said that other buildings in town are totally inadequate.
Mid Sussex District Council are refusing to consult with the public on the potential loss of the Martlets Hall.
Pru Moore herself was instrumental in ensuring that Burgess Hill town council voted not to consult with the public over the plans for the Martets Hall, just days after she comissioned a report that MSDC were going to use to show it's no longer needed.
The ONLY chance the public will get to have their say is through the statutory planning consultation when NewRiver Retail finally submit their plans(expected after the summer) in which members of the public will have to find details that contravene planning laws to stop them.
We know that any application that comes in will have already been approved by MSDC as they are the main land-owner.
This is a desperate state of affairs and shows that you cannot trust a word of what our elected councillors say. Cllrs Garry Wall, Gary Marsh and Pru Moore owe us all a very big explanation and an apology.
Burgess Hill's population is going to grow by 50% in the coming years yet will be the only town in Mid Sussex without a venue for live entertainment, exhibitions and other cultural offerings.
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Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What do you make of the words from Cllr's Wall, Marsh and Moore? Would you like an explanation from them? Why the U-Turn? Are they being led by the developer or just choosing to stick two fingers up at Burgess Hill because it's not Haywards Heath?