Decision looms over proposals for future of Horsham's historic Drill Hall

Proposals for the future of Horsham’s historic Drill Hall are to be considered by the district council later this month.
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Lifespring Church approached the council last year with plans to acquire the building and develop it as a community hub and conference centre, as well as using it as its administrative base and a place of worship.

Now senior councillors, at a cabinet meeting on March 21, will look to approve the church’s acquisition.

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The Drill Hall was once home to the 4th Royal Sussex Regiment as both a military headquarters and a social space and was later used by the Territorial Army before being taken over by Horsham District Council.

The Drill Hall in Denne Road, Horsham.  Pic S Robards SR2110181The Drill Hall in Denne Road, Horsham.  Pic S Robards SR2110181
The Drill Hall in Denne Road, Horsham. Pic S Robards SR2110181

There was a public uproar four years ago when proposals were put forward to turn the 94-year-old building in Denne Road into flats. Later proposals for the Royal British Legion to take over the building fell through.

Lifespring Church – a non-denominational church, an active member of Horsham Churches Together and part of the Evangelical Alliance – and the council have since been working together to agree terms for the sale.

Lifespring says it aims to actively support a range of community functions so that the Drill Hall is transformed into a central community hub for everyone. Services they are hoping to provide include use for a family hub and registered contact centre, toddler groups, after school and holiday clubs, youth services and a community café to help ease social isolation.

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As well as running courses and providing advice on a number of topics, the church says it is also keen to see the space used for musical practice and performance, as an art gallery and for conferences, meetings and events.

It says it intends to upgrade the building in a ‘sustainable manner sensitive to its character and history.’ Alterations are likely to include improved ventilation, sustainable heat pumps, solar PV panels and energy efficient lighting as well as modernised IT capability, fire and safety upgrades and improved accessibility.

Horsham District Council leader Martin Boffey said: “At the core of our considerations for any business proposals to secure the future of the Drill Hall are first and foremost the protection of the venue as an ongoing community facility, improved environmental sustainability in line with our district's Climate Action Strategy and the preservation of the military history and provenance of the important site.

“As a council we believe that the proposal presented by Lifespring will fully achieve all of these objectives.”

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Lifespring Church spokesperson Dan Young said: “We are now really excited to be moving a step closer to fully acquiring the Drill Hall and welcome the opportunity to develop and restore it into a more sustainable community hub for all to enjoy whilst honouring the building’s heritage.”

He said survey findings revealed that the Drill Hall was “a much-loved venue in the centre of the town and have been key to informing us about what kinds of activities and events are important to local communities going forward.

"Firm favourites such as the ever-popular beer festival and regular art exhibitions are still very much on the agenda as they are so important to local people. We are especially keen to retain the events and activities of existing hirers.”

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