Progress is being made ‘behind the scenes’ on major Burgess Hill redevelopment plans, according to the company behind the project.
NewRiver was granted planning permission in 2016 for the £65m project – set to bring a ten-screen Cineworld, 63-bed Travelodge, newretailers, restaurant and leisure provisions, homes and a new library to the town.
But last month residents expressed frustration at a lack of information given the project is running behind its original schedule.
Robert Eggleston, the Lib Dems’ prospective parliamentary candidate for Mid Sussex, has written to the company sharing concerns about the ‘slow pace of the town centre transformation’ and has now shared their response.
He said: “New River Retail keep confirming that they are committed to redeveloping the Martlets shopping centre and that is great. The town looks forward to it happening.
“However after eight years of waiting platitudes from the developers and the Tories is no longer good enough. Burgess Hill residents deserve to be told the full story. New River Retail have promised me that they will hold an open day in the town. The sooner they do that the better.”
In a letter to Mr Eggleston, Allan Lockhart, chief executive officer of NewRiver, said they ‘fully appreciate the concern and frustration from the community regarding our redevelopment and are keen to address those concerns’.
He added: “To the local community it may well appear that nothing is happening on-site. However a project of this scale and ambition is complex, made more so against the backdrop of a challenging market, but there is much work being undertaken behind the scenes to progress the project together with the town, district and county councils.
“Some aspects of the works being undertaken behind the scenes are of a sensitive commercial nature and this has prevented us from being in a position to share details with the wider community. However we have for some time been planning an update on our progress by means of an open day and we expect to be able to announce a date for this soon.”
He described how Lidl was making good progress on building its new store in Leylands Road, which once open would mean its current store would be vacated triggering a ‘key milestone in the enabling works for the main site’.
On specific points answering Mr Eggleston’s questions he said:
• On works on the temporary library ‘there has been a lot of progress behind the scenes which would be invisible to the public’. The company will provide an update on the timetable as part of a wider project update in the coming weeks.
• The date for the relocation of the library has not been confirmed yet.
• Construction of the residential development cannot begin in advance of the retail as the apartments will sit above them.
• A demolition contractor has been appointed for the site following a full tender process.
Mr Lockhart concluded: “We have installed a project update window in one of the empty retail units in the centre and we will provide information on progress using this noticeboard.”
Last month Garry Wall and Pru Moore, Conservative leaders of the district and town council respectively, described how regeneration projects of this scale are ‘exceedingly complex to deliver’ and were reassured by the work NewRiver is doing behind the scenes to attract new shops, restaurants and leisure providers to Burgess Hill.
They added: “We appreciate that this is a difficult time for retailers in the town centre right now, which is why we are so keen that the regeneration can progress as soon as possible. Everyone in the town centre will benefit from the additional footfall that the brand names coming to Burgess Hill will bring.
“Instead of party politics, what the town needs is for everyone to get behind the regeneration and work together to ensure that residents and local businesses benefit.”