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'Partial Implementation Scheme' Touted For Martlets Shopping Centre In Burgess Hill

8th March 2022 | By Peter Chapman

The Burgess Hill public will go mad, and they have every right to, for 'the scheme' that NewRiver Retail are now looking to deliver for Burgess Hill is not as orignally planned and appears to hinge on a successful grant application by Mid Sussex District Council to secure £10 million from the Government's 'Levelling Up' Fund.

NewRiver Retail's Investor Update for November 2021 says of the Martlets Shopping Centre 'We are now considering a partial implementation approach which could bring forward 172 homes, a new car park and refurbished retail units as phase one of the consented scheme.' Click For Source Material

What's the betting that phase one of this 'new approach' ends up being the final scheme with no multiplex cinema, bowling alley, hotel, new retail units and restaurants at all?

Why would NewRiver spend money refurbishing the existing retail units when they have plans to build bigger ones?

NewRiver Sell Off Similar Undeveloped Centre
Elsewhere in NewRiver's Portfolio was Templars Square shopping centre in Cowley, Oxfordshire. The original planning decision for the proposed scheme was approved a year after the initial approval for the Martlets. Just like in Burgess Hill, NewRiver sat on their asset and didn't redevelop it at all, in fact, they sold off the centre in December for £38.8 million.

The proposed scheme in Cowley was touted as being worth £60 million and involved knocking down a multistory car park to make way for a high-rise apartment block, a hotel, new retail and restaurants. Sound familiar?

Interestingly, local councillors in Oxfordshire hit out at NewRiver after less then two years of inactivity on the site - a stark contrast to the Conservative controlled Mid Sussex District Council who haven't said a word against NewRiver publicly for the scheme in Burgess Hill - which first gained approval way back in 2016!!!!

The scheme for Burgess Hill had stalled long before the Covid-19 pandemic.

If ever a picture perfectly summed up the state of the centre, this is it!

Levelling Up Fund A Curse
The difference between Cowley and Burgess Hill is that the centre in Oxfordshire didn't have a £10 million government carrot dangling over it. You have to believe its the reason that NewRiver are yet to sell on the Martlets. Why would they when there's a huge chunk of public money possibly coming their way?

Mid Sussex District Council missed out when the first round of Levelling Up grants were awarded, but there are two more rounds to come, however, the criteria for rounds 2 and 3 may be different and a shopping centre may not even qualify. If MSDC are able to secure £10 million on behalf of NewRiver from the government, it means it could be perhaps 3 or 4 years until anything happens on site. If that carrot wasn't there, NewRiver would either be selling up right now with planning permission in place, or cracking on with a scheme themselves.

NewRiver can't even spash out on a much needed jet wash for the centre.

MSDC Refuse To Allocate Funds To An Economic Support Fund For Burgess Hill Town Centre

At the full meeting of Mid Sussex District Council on Wednesday 2nd March, the Liberal Democrats called for an amendment in the budget. It was worded as follows:

Noting this Council's aim to “maintain, and where possible, improve the social, economic and environmental well-being of our District and the quality of life for all, now and in the future” (see Mid Sussex Sustainable Communities Strategy); and

Noting the considerable delay in the regeneration of the Martlets Shopping Centre, Burgess Hill and the blight that has resulted in this part of Burgess Hill’s town centre;

Establish a Specific Reserve to support environmental, economic and social improvements to mitigate the blight and improve the quality of life of residents, and transfer £100,000 from the General Reserve to this Specific Reserve.

The Specific Reserve will be for projects identified through a group comprising of officers from Burgess Hill Town Council and Mid Sussex District Council and subject to agreement under Financial Regulation B4.4 in consultation with the Cabinet Member.

The Conservatives shot down the amendment, just like they did with the invitation to help with the town centre 'Bridge The Gap' project in 2019. They continue to show a total lack of commitment to boosting the town centre for a predicament which they have played a part in creating.

A District Councillor from outside of Burgess Hill suggested that Burgess Hill Town Council should cough up the £100k, but dear reader, MSDC are the land owner and did the deal with NewRiver Retail! The town council have already put in tens of thousands on supporting the town centre, and also have the small matter of funding the Beehive Arts Centre after the Martlets Hall was knocked down and not replaced by.....you guessed it, Mid Sussex District Council!

Wednesday's meeting further strengthened the narrative that Mid Sussex District Council's leadership are not nearly as interested in Burgess Hill as they are with Haywards Heath. It makes this author want to scream!

Burgess Hill Town Council have been asking Mid Sussex District Council for talks over the town situation since before Christmas, but MSDC keep delaying, most recently due to the pre-election 'Purdah' period for the forthcoming Dunstall Ward by-election after a Tory Councillor gave up coming to meetings and was disqualified. (Incidentally, this disqualified town councillor still sits on MSDC, representing Dunstall Ward and voted down the £100k proposal)

If MSDC had been more welcoming of a meeting ahead of the budget, maybe a whole raft of proposals could have been agreed on and funded for the 2022/23 financial year.

As we edge closer and closer to the 2023 local elections, you start to think that MSDC's leadership want the town centre to rot so that they can put out election leaflets stating 'what did the change in town council ever do for you?' banking on voters not realising that MSDC are the council responsible!

Spread the word, NOTHING significant is going to happen to Martlets Shopping Centre for years, if ever!

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