Membership of Clair Hall steering group ‘will do little to restore trust of residents’

Mid Sussex District Council has agreed to set up a steering group to oversee work to bring new life to the Clair Hall.
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Last year, a public consultation about the future of the Haywards Heath venue showed there was a strong preference for the 50-year-old site to be refurbished.

During a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (February 14), councillors were presented with a timeline detailing how things would progress between now and September.

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Specialist information gathering and the brain-storming of ideas will be the focus before a final recommendation is presented to the cabinet in the autumn.

Clair Hall in Haywards HeathClair Hall in Haywards Heath
Clair Hall in Haywards Heath

Jonathan Ash-Edwards, leader of the council, said of the consultation: “[There were] lots of ideas about what it should look like in the future but a very clear preference from those who responded that there should be changes and there should be improvements.

“That’s what we’re committed to acting on.”

Robert Salisbury (Con, Cuckfield) said the timeline looked ‘very sharp’, adding: “I‘m pleased to see it that way because it shows the importance that we place on getting this whole thing moving.”

As for the steering group, it’s first meeting is expected to take place in March.

But not everyone was happy with its make-up.

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It will be chaired by Mr Ash-Edwards and include three cabinet members, along with Michael Pulfer, the leader of Haywards Heath Town Council.

Alison Bennett (Lib Dem, Hurstpierpoint & Downs) said the cabinet had ‘fallen short of doing the right thing’.

She added: “In December [the Liberal Democrats] called for them to set up a cross-party working group to oversee work on Clair Hall.

“Instead of having a working group that is a balance of councillors from all political parties, this group will be made up of two thirds of the [council’s] Conservative cabinet, plus the Conservative leader of Haywards Heath Town Council.

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“Can the Conservative administration not see that this will do little to restore the trust of residents?

“A cross-party group would have shown that there is nothing to hide.

“Openness and accountability are sorely lacking.”

An interim report on the progress of the work will be presented to the cabinet in the summer, with the final report expected in September.