Drill Hall latest - independent review of historic Horsham building’s future welcomed
A leading campaigner to save Horsham’s historic Drill Hall from the bulldozers today welcomed a proposal by the district council’s cabinet to instruct consultants to review the future of the building.
Councillor Christian Mitchell also revealed that a third party might be interested in taking on the building and protecting it for community use if Horsham District Council (HDC) decides it cannot continue to run it.
Mr Mitchell (Con, Holbrook West), a former chairman of council and county councillor said: “Over the last 14 days since proposals were published on January 15 to demolish the Drill Hall the community has resolutely said that they want it to stay open as a district and town community asset.
“Thousands of people have signed petitions and the two Regimental Associations who are inseparably connected to the Drill Hall and will always have an enduring connection to it have rightly reminded us of its importance in our community and the values it stands for.
“The Drill Hall is a building of great social and military significance to the town of Horsham and our district.
“In 1927 the Drill Hall was built using public donations and efforts. It had two uses, first it was the headquarters of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment and secondly it was a public social space. And all built by the community through public subscription.
“On the morning of 27 January I wrote to the Director of Community Services questioning why consultants have been engaged by the council to assist and advise the district council in the past on other community assets and yet this had not been considered at all for the Drill Hall.
“And so the instruction of consultants to look at how the district council can ensure that the Drill Hall can remain open for public use and that its deep and rich military and community history is shared for future generations is a welcome step. Of course this should have been done before but far better to get it right now than never.”
He praised council leader Ray Dawe and cabinet colleagues for listening constructively to public concern about the building’s future.
Mr Mitchell added: “If the Drill Hall does not remain in the custodianship of the district council then there is already another stakeholder that could potentially take on the Drill Hall for the community.
“I am meeting with the cabinet member and the Director of Community Services today with a community stakeholder that is incredibly interested in taking on the Drill Hall. But for any community stakeholder to undertake such a process they will need a reasonable period of time to work through issues with the district council to elicit answers to a number of questions.
“They would wish for time from the district council to be granted for that over a period of months without the clock ticking on the Drill Hall and they will be asking for any timetable to demolish the Drill Hall to be immediately withdrawn to give both them and the district council time to work through the work that needs to be done. I hope that the district council will agree to this.”
Earlier this week, Jonathan Chowen, HDC’s cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “I want to reassure people that we are at a stage where we are open to any viable and realistic suggestions for the Drill Hall that take into account its shortcomings, and that it will continue in operation for two years to give adequate time for this to happen.
“I am particularly pleased that we will also be developing an independent report to guide and inform us about what community facilities will be needed in the town centre going forward.”