New River Retail – Burgess Hill

by roberteggleston on 21 August, 2011

Funny old life isn’t it? In the local elections the Tories make great play of not attacking their opponents. Pity they can’t stick to the pledge when the elections are over. Whiff of hypocrisy springs to mind. Anyway having been the subject of a personal attack in the Mid Sussex Times I am detailing my response below:

Dear Sirs,

Making personal attacks on someone is not the best way of conducting a debate on Burgess Hill’s future.

 I am sure New River knows its market, but let’s be clear about what that market is. Its focus is discount stores, value clothing, food retailers, and health and beauty (hairdressers and nail bars to you and me) (source: New River Annual Report). So for starters New River is not going to build a cinema because it does not fit its business model.

 Furthermore, New River’s strategy includes selling property assets “opportunistically”. When it has achieved its business objectives, it will sell the Martlets Shopping estate (source: New River Annual Report). In the process it will pay no tax on its rental income and no capital gains tax on its property disposals. Yes, one day it will pack its bags and leave anyway.

 Hard commercial reality could mean that our aspirations for arts and culture in Burgess Hill may fall short of our expectations because New River’s directors will look to its shareholder interests first. I do not blame them for that but let’s be clear that their best deal may not be the town’s best deal. My focus is on the best deal for the town.

As someone who devotes considerable time and energy in promoting cultural events in the town I am absolutely committed to the cause of having an arts centre that is fit for the twenty first century and is a step on from The Martlets (good friend that it has been to me over the years). At present this is not on offer from New River and we must not let this aspiration slip. I am sure Burgess Hill Town Council will share that concern with me.

 So when I see that there may be another superstore built on the Cyprus Road Car Park site it  puzzles me as it makes no economic or strategic sense whatsoever to have a major food retailer on the Martlets shopping centre and also on the Cyprus Road Car Park. So my argument is that if the Cyprus Road Car Park was designated as the town’s arts and culture quarter you would have a home for a new modern arts centre, a library and, you would also keep The Orion Cinema open.

 I passionately believe that Burgess Hill can be a real regional centre for the arts but we must provide the space and the facilities to make that happen. If New River wants to leave a legacy before it moves on then it should come up with the funding for it.

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