5 Things The Council Aren't Telling You About The Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan Referendum
18th November 2015
With postal votes now arriving at the homes of Burgess Hill residents, it's time for Burgess Hill Uncovered to reveal some truths that the council desperately don't want you to know before you cast your vote.
Burgess Hill's 'Unique' Neighbourhood Plan Referendum
What's unique about Burgess Hill's referendum is that only one side is campaigning. If you weren't aware, it's all one-way traffic with the council desperately trying to win your 'Yes' votes by being exceedingly economical with the truth. Some local groups are also helping the council spread their misleading information.
Unfortunately it means that the public have not heard anything at all about why a 'No' vote should be considered, or even more blunt, that a NO vote is the better option!
Here's What You Really Need To Know
Myth #1 - If you don't vote yes, the town is doomed.
If the 'No' vote wins, the town council will have to undertake another round of consultations, amend the plan as per local residents wishes then undertake to explain it better so that it will win 50% of the public support at the polls.
This is NOT a one time only opportunity to vote yes. The council don't want you to know this as it's not in their interests to have to re-write their plan to make it more appealing to the wider public.
The main District Plan is still to be approved and was actually thrown out by the inspector in 2014. Since then, all of Mid Sussex has been defenceless to stop developers building on prime green field land.
The Neighbourhood Plan is just a small cog in the machine and if it wins a 'Yes' vote in December, it won't stop perceived unwanted housing development in Burgess Hill at the moment.
Translation - Voting NO in the referendum in December will not have major consequences.
Myth #2 - That there has been extensive consultation and that the plan has been formed by local residents.
Quite simply, the council have done an appalling job in the formation and promotion of the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood plan. The various consultations held over the past three years have shown that less than 1% of the public took part in them, often nearer 0.5%!
The council failed to take any innovative approaches to try to increase participation.
Now that the polling cards have arrived, people are declaring that they don't understand the plan at all and were never aware that a plan was being formed that they could contribute to.
Furthermore, many people think that this vote is about whether to approve the redevelopment of the Martlets Shopping centre!
Translation - We don't actually have a plan truely formed by the community. It's the council's plan first and foremost.
Myth #3 - A Yes vote protects the town centre from unwanted development
If you've read the Neighbourhood Plan document, you'll be aware the the town centre has been divided into 5 'quarters'. It sets out where various types of buildings and facilities would be permitted.
The 'Entertainment Quarter' is for the bottom end of Church Walk. The diagram published in the plan shows a multiplex cinema near the Band Stand. As we've known for quite a while now, the cinema, as part of the Martlets redevelopment. is going near Waitrose Car Park. Yet in the neighbourhood plan, that's the 'retail quarter'.
Local residents have been writing to Mid Sussex District Council regarding the location of the new cinema as part of the Martlets redevelopment representation period. They don't understand why this is allowed to conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan. This is why.......
The plans for the town centre are 'For illustrative purposes only' and what comes to the town centre is 'fully flexible' These were the words of Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles at the public hearing for the Neighbourhood Plan earlier this year.
A member of the public - invited to speak at the meeting - raised the point of how can people be expected to vote on a plan that doesn't have anything concrete.
It must also be mentioned that the Orion Cinema will not be protected as the plan only calls for the façade of the building to be retained.
Translation - The plans for the town centre are not worth the paper they are written on. The only guarantee is that there are no guarantees what we could end up with. Plans for the town centre could be made more concrete if the plan were to be altered. A 'No' vote is the only way for this to happen.
Myth #4 - Voting Yes sees the replacement of the Martlets Hall
This is THE biggest Myth being peddled by the Town Council, aided by a self-interest group happy to cling to any reason to see a 'Yes' vote win for their own means unrelated to the Martlets Hall
They've being telling people that a 'No' vote won't save the Martlets Hall, but have been happy to push the message to vote 'Yes' to see it replaced. Naughty.
The proposed 'Civic and Cultural quarter' in the area of Cyprus Road car park is touted as the possible location as a replacement for the Martlets Hall.
As explained in Myth #3 above, the plans for the town centre are fully flexible. There is no guarantee that something else won't be placed in this 'quarter' first.
As we know, the District Council have no intention of replacing the Martlets Hall themselves.
Where would Burgess Hill Town Council get the money from to replace the Martlets Hall anyway? .....See Myth #5!
Translation - Voting 'Yes' doesn't guarantee the future replacement of the Martlets Hall. Voting 'No' gives the opportunity for things to be looked at again.
Myth #5 - We'll Lose Millions Of Pounds If A No Vote Wins
We've saved the best till last. Some years ago, Cllr Andrew Barrett-Miles signed up Burgess Hill to take 4,000 new homes. 3,500 in the North (known as the Northern Arc) and 500 to the East (land east of Kings Way) He gave a cast-iron guarantee that these developments would generate £80 million pounds to be controlled by the Town Council via a CIC (community interest company)
£40 million of this money would be spent on 'Goodies' as listed in the town-wide strategy document. This shopping list included £4 million for a new arts and entertainment centre.
Sadly, Cllr Barrett-Miles has been withholding the truth from the public as to who will actually be controlling this money. It is infact Mid Sussex District Council that'll control it. It's also why MSDC have not mentioned about the £4 million on the shopping list for a new arts and entertainment centre. It may well be on the shopping list of Burgess Hill Town Council, but it is not on the District Council's.
With Andrew Barrett-Miles and Burgess Hill Town Council sweeping the truth about the £80 million under the carpet, they are now pushing for a 'Yes' vote because the town can get 25% of the developer contributions on any homes built once BOTH the District Plan and Neighbourhood Plans are in place.
There's just one slight problem. Take a look at this map......
The yellow areas are the Northern Arc and the land East of Kings Way. The big thick maroon line sets out the Neighbourhood plan boundary.
Have you worked it all out yet?
You only receive 25% of the developer contributions on new homes constructed within your neighbourhood plan boundary. The 4,000 homes that the Burgess Hill public were conned into accepting without a fuss do not count!
Translation - Burgess Hill are losing control of millions of pounds and will be at the mercy of the district council as to where the serious sums of cash may be spent. A YES vote does not change this! The money that Burgess Hill Town Council will eventually control will be mere pocket change in the big scheme of things.
What To Do Now
Take the information provided by the town council, compare it with what you've read here on Burgess Hill Uncovered. Then go and download The Burgess Hill Neighbourhood plan (4.4mb .pdf)
Consider all the information carefully, reach a conclusion and then send off your postal vote..... or wait to vote in person on Thursday December 10th.
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Having read our debunking of the Neighbourhood Plan Myths, do you trust what you're being told by the town council?