Call for decision on the future of Horsham’s Drill Hall to be delayed

A Horsham watchdog group is calling for a decision over the future of the town’s Drill Hall to be deferred.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 11:20 am
Updated Monday, 27th January 2020, 11:39 am

Horsham District Council has put forward proposals to convert the historic ex-Army hall in Denne Road into 20 flats and is due to decide the matter at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.

But members of the watchdog group the Horsham Society say more time is needed to consider other options. The council says that groups that currently use the hall could instead use a new community centre to be built at Highwood Village off the A24.

Society chairman Malcolm Willis said: “The Drill Hall is an attractive local building, with a documented history from 1928. Nearly 20 years ago the Ministry of Defence declared the building redundant with the intention of demolishment.

Drill Hall, Denne Road, Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR20012202 SUS-200122-150127001

“Horsham District Council pointed out that the Drill Hall had been built mainly from public donations, raised by soldiers, and should continue to be available for the community. The MOD reconsidered, and as a result the building was retained.”

He went on: “HDC have stated that their primary objectives in this proposal are to maximise community benefit, reduce existing annual running costs and help lower the council’s carbon footprint.

“However, by relocating to the Highwood estate, the town centre will be losing yet another community asset.

“The proposed Highwood Community Centre would also be home to HAODS, 12th Horsham Scouts and a proposed Nursery, which would limit availability to other organisations.

“It is also proposed that some of these organisations will use the building at the same time, which raises the significant question of safeguarding and child protection.

“The position of the new hall is not convenient as, on foot, it is 1.5 miles from the centre of the town, further by car, and will increase traffic through Highwood.

“This will raise visitors’ carbon footprints, particularly as any bus service is unlikely to meet the requirements of the users, nor be operating in the evenings.

“Horsham Society has not seen evidence of any objective assessment of adaptation costs for the Drill Hall.

“It has been pointed out that the current building only has 25 per cent usage, but there is no explanation as to why this is.

“An objective feasibility study is needed into the costs of repurposing, or adapting and marketing the building and site, before decommissioning and demolishing is considered.

“There is a need for such a facility within the town, particularly following the loss of the Old Town Hall.

“If HDC are trying to regenerate Horsham town centre then a community facility is essential.

“What message does the proposal give to those trying to invigorate the town centre? Users should not be directed away from the town to Highwood.

“We recognise the need for affordable housing, but question the need for it on such a prime site.

“Horsham Society believes the cabinet should not approve the proposal for decommissioning the Drill Hall and that further consideration must be given to alternative options.”

He added: “There is no need to rush this proposal through and therefore consideration should be given to the concerns and views of the residents of Horsham.”

Save The Drill Hall: See https://www.change.org/p/horsham-district-council-save-horsham-drill-hall