Town Centre development – New River Retail and Sainsbury

by roberteggleston on 8 August, 2011

The proposals announced by New River Retail for redevelopment of our retail centre in Burgess Hill leaves a gaping hole for those of us who are concerned about the towns cultural and artistic development.

The Burgess Hill Masterplan, which was produced in 2006, had specific pledges about the need for a new arts centre and the need for a cinema in Burgess Hill. Yet all New River Retail seem to be offering is a “revamped” Martlets and the cinema is not mentioned at all. So far from being excited by the proposals I feel distinctly underwhelmed by them and the need to fill the cultural gap in New River Retail’s plans has to be urgently addressed. Mid Sussex District must not sideline the arts for the sake of some shops. My concern is that if we are not careful the need for a thriving arts and cultural centre in Burgess Hill will be downgraded.

We need to curb the desire to build a supermarket on every piece of development land in the centre of Burgess Hill. I now know that Sainsbury has already begun to buy up properties in Cyprus Road. This is presumably as prelude to its application for a supermarket on the car park site. Now New River Retail Limited want to build a supermarket in the vicinity of the Martlets Car Park and Waitrose wants to expand by 50%. Given that we also have Tesco, LIDL and Iceland this approach just doesn’t make sense.

 Where then will the arts centre and cinema be if all this building goes ahead? We must have space for a new arts centre and cinema in Burgess Hill must be allowed to continue. Current proposals, despite the pledges in the Burgess Hill Masterplan provide for neither of these and Burgess Hill runs the risk of being sold short by Mid Sussex District Council.

 But MSDC has it in its power to solve this problem. If it allocates the Cyprus Road Car Park land as the site of a new arts centre and library rather than selling the land for a “quick buck” to Sainsbury we could create a cultural quarter in Burgess Hill. This would include the cinema as part of that cultural quarter and intelligent designing could turn the area into a real meeting place for people. This proposal would chime well with the people who have been backing the Save The Orion Cinema facebook campaign and those who have signed the online petition. There are nearly 2700 fans on facebook and 750 have signed the online petition. Let’s hope MSDC gets the message.

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