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Town Council Pauses The Beehive Project But Announces Park Centre & St Johnís Pavilion 'Plan B'

13th June 2022 | By Peter Chapman

Burgess Hill Town Council leader Robert Eggleston has announced that he'll be recommending to the council that the proposed Beehive Arts & Performance venue for the town be paused in favour of exploring enhanced community use of Park Centre and the St John's Park Pavilion - which could see both buildings significantly upgraded.

An up-to-date costing for the Beehive has come in at over £9.4 million, far more than the £5.5 million figure quoted back in 2019. The increased cost of building materials, inflation and the rising interest rates mean that the financial burden for the project is likely to prove too large for the town councillors to continue to pursue.

The Beehive project emerged after the Conservative-controlled Mid Sussex Disitrct Council had the Martlets Hall demolished in favour of a 10-sceen cinema - which was never set in stone and is now unlikely to ever be supplied by NewRiver Retail.

The town council picked up the baton after MSDC refused to provide a like-for-like replacement or commit any funding to a new building. Unfortunately the burden is now too great for the town council at this time to do it alone.

Plan B
Recently, West Sussex County Council pulled out of the Park Centre building and are looking for organisations to take it over as trustees. The only bidder remaining is Sussex Clubs for Young People, supported by Burgess Hill Town Council. The building would primarily be used for Youth purposes, serving as the permanent home for the Escape Youth Club - who themselves are heavily involved in the project. The transfer from WSCC to the consortium has to be agreed by the Charities Commission and will hopefully be approved by the end of the Summer.

The Town Council have stated that they would be willing to help sustain the building in the early years if the bid to run it is successful. With the Beehive likely to end up on the shelf, the opportunity is there for proper capital investment in Park Centre. Extending the building, adding extra rooms, fitting a lift, a changing places toilet and the potential refit of the main hall for live performances, could all be up for consideration.

St John's Cricket Pavillion
Earlier this year, Burgess Hill Cricket Club announced their aspiration to extend the cricket pavillion and to add a second floor.

Due to a lack of money being available from Section 106 developer contributions, the club have not made any progress with Mid Sussex Distict Council to fund the building. This is where Burgess Hill Town Council can step in to enhance the building, creating extra space for the community and bring it into use for 12 months of the year. The project will hinge on MSDC agreeing to a community asset transfer for the town council to become the trustees of the building.

What happens next?
Burgess Hill Town Council's Strategic Development Key Area Group are meeting on Friday evening to discuss the new costs for the Beehive and are likely to agree that the project is put on ice.

Proposals for Park Centre and the Cricket Pavillion will be put to the group for consideration. If the plan has support, the proposals will go on to a Finance Key Area Group meeting where a funding plan will be looked at. Finally it will then go to the full council where members will vote on the new community buildlings strategy.

If full council approves, then plans will need to be firmed up for both buildings, conversations with Mid Sussex over an asset transfer, public consultations to show support for the projects and their funding, then ultimately back to the Publics Works Loan Board to see if they'll lend BHTC around £1.5-£2 million, compared to the £4.8 million the council had secured for the Beehive.

More on this story over the next week....

Spread the word! Alternatives to the Beehive Arts Venue to be put in front of the town council....

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