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burgess hill town football club logoHillians' Future Uncertain As Council Stall On Ground Improvement Talks

17th January 2016
By Peter Chapman

Burgess Hill Town FC's Ryman Premier League Status and their long-term future as tennants of Mid Sussex District Council is up in the air after the local authority have reportedly failed to meet with the club since first requested back in September 2015.

It's becoming a desperate situation that's been the talk of the terraces at both of the club's home games this week as well as being played out publicly in the printed press.

What's The Issue?
The Hillians' promotion from the Ryman South last Summer brought with it the requirement to meet the next tier of ground grading. In this case, they need to add an additional covered stand for supporters. Their plan is to put this behind the goal opposite the clubhouse. The work needs to be finished by March 31st 2016.

What The Council Need To Do
First of all, the club need the council's consent as landlords to erect a new stand. If they give them the green light, then it could be that they'll also need to apply for planning permission. If local residents and councillors raise an objection, the application could get 'called in' and have to go through the long-winded committee process.

There is a real danger that the March 31st deadline could be missed, the result being that the club would be relegated back down to the Ryman South regardless of their final league position.

Secondly, Burgess Hill only have a 3 year lease left at Leylands Park (The Green Elephants stadium) They seek a new 10-year lease from MSDC. If it's awarded, it means they can apply for a grant through the F.A to pay for the new stand, this would avoid an unnecessary drain on their own finances which could be better spent in other areas of improvement. A new lease would also allow for the club to plan for their long-term future, safe in the knowledge that they have a home with the council.

Council Not Backing Up Their Words
When the club won the league last season, MSDC were full of praise for the team, the chairman of the council wrote a glowing letter to the club which they proudly displayed for all the read. Sadly, the council have not backed up their enthusiasm for the continued success of the team by failing to meet them over a five month period. When did Garry Wall or other members of the MSDC cabinet ever attend at game at the Green Elephants?

Who Is At Fault?
It would appear that the fault lies at the feet of MSDC for not meeting with club officials. General Manager John Rattle has published three updates on the BHTFC website since September, pointing out the lack of progress with the council. Chairman Kevin Newell has also weighed in on the issue when Cllr Publicity Pru Moore suggested in the local press this week that it was the club's fault that no face-to-face meeting had yet to take place.

Long-Term Fear
Leylands Park is listed in the neighbourhood plan as a future housing site. The grand plan was to relocate the football club to the north-west outskirts of town, potentially as part of the proposed community centre for sport - a project which is due to come to fruition if the Northern Arc housing development is approved. Talk of the relocation has however, gone rather quiet. There was no mention of the relocation of BHTFC when we questioned a representative of the Northern Arc development back in October.

With only three years left on the club's current lease, could it be that MSDC are happy for it to run out, leaving the club homeless? We sincerely hope this is not the case, but with an apparent lack of support for the club since September and no urgency to approve a new stand, then it's a logical possibility that can't be ruled out.

What Happens Now?
On Thursday it was announced that a date had finally been arranged between MSDC and BHTFC to discuss the issues at hand. It would be extremely disappointing if the council only allow them to add a new stand without an extended lease. It's time for MSDC to prove a long-term commitment to supporting Mid Sussex's most successful football team.

How You Can Help
It's BHU's suggestion that you email Mid Sussex District Council leader Garry Wall and tell him that Burgess Hill Town Football Club should be awarded permission to erect at new stand at the ground AND to be given a new 10 year lease. His email address is garry.wall@midsussex.gov.uk

Spread the word, Burgess Hill face an uncertain future and will be relegated if the council don't help them out.

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
Why do you think MSDC have not yet met with BHTFC despite it being requested for over 5 months? Do you have confidence that the district council want to support the club long-term?

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