Multi-million pound Burgess Hill centre for outdoor sport plan ‘fantastically exciting’

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Plans to build a Centre for Outdoor Sport in Burgess Hill have been described as ‘fantastically exciting’ by Mid Sussex councillors.

The project is being delivered as part of the Northern Arc development and is in its very early stages.

The results of a feasibility study commissioned last June to explore areas such as need, cost and initial design, were presented to a meeting of the cabinet on Monday (March 21).

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If all goes as planned, the Centre will be built on nine hectares of land just south of the A2300 and west of Jane Murray Way, near The Triangle roundabout.

Proposed site for Centre for Outdoor SportProposed site for Centre for Outdoor Sport
Proposed site for Centre for Outdoor Sport

An indicative master-plan for the project includes football, rugby and hockey pitches, complete with floodlighting and pavilions.

The option of a cricket pitch and pavilion is also on the table.

While no firm figures have yet been shared about the cost of the project, a report to the cabinet said around £4.9m of Section 106 contributions would be used, with a further £250k potentially in the pipeline.

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Once the full cost is known, the proposals will be subject to a bid for capital funding.

Deputy leader John Belsey said: “It’s a very exciting project to have modern, fit-for-purpose sports facilities being built as part of a council project.”

Mr Belsey said secondary schools, such as St Paul’s College and Burgess Hill Girls School, had been consulted about the plans, as well as Places Leisure and national governing bodies including Sports England.

He stressed that the council was keen to speak with sports clubs about what they would like the Centre to include.

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Some ‘encourgaing’ responses have already been received from groups wanting to be part of the consultation.

Mr Belsey said the consultation process would start in the next few weeks.

He added: “It’s a very substantial cost to the council so we want to get it right.

“It’s great that we know that we’ve got a lot of the finances in place and we’ve got to work to make sure that what we do meets the needs of our communities.”

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The meeting was told that the land was to be transferred to the council along with a capital set-up sum and a commuted sum to be used for ongoing maintenance.

Construction of the Centre is expected to start in the next couple of years.

Cabinet members were bouncing with enthusiasm over the project.

Stephen Hillier (Con, Haywards Heath – Bentswood) described it as ‘fantastically exciting’, supporting the need for clubs as well as governing bodies to be involved in the consultation.

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As for the future use of the Centre, he said: “We know there’s going to be demand because participation rates – in Burgess Hill in particular but across Mid Sussex – are way above the national average.”

Robert Salisbury (Con, Cuckfield) said: “Could there be anything more exciting than a project like this?”

When he asked about the lack of athletics provision, officers explained that a number of other plans were in the pipeline elsewhere – such as at the new schools planned with the Northern Arc – and they needed to ensure there was no duplication.

Leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards said: “We quite often have conversations with residents and communities where people make the comment that new developments have got to come with infrastructure.

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“I think this is a really good example of where that is happening.

“This is, I think, the biggest investment in sports in our district since The Triangle opened in the 1990s.

“I look at other districts and I don’t see these kind of projects happening amongst many of our neighbours.”

There is still an awful lot of work to do – from consultation to applying for planning permission to the final design and construction – and the scheme laid out in the master-plan could still change.

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Mr Ash-Edwards told the meeting that it would be ‘a very positive thing indeed’ if everything could be completed in just over three years.

Speaking outside the meeting, he said: “Residents want to see new infrastructure alongside major housing developments and the district council has acted to ensure the Burgess Hill Northern Arc delivers.

“The new Centre for Outdoor Sports will represent the biggest investment in sports provision in Mid Sussex for a generation.

“The council has secured nine hectares of land from the development and millions of pounds of funding to deliver this exciting project.

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“We are committed to delivering modern facilities for our local community and this project will make a massive difference to local sports provision and the availability of pitches.

“Sport makes such a difference to people’s wellbeing and we want to maximise the sporting opportunities available in Mid Sussex.

“The project is still at an early stage but it’s going to be really exciting to see a top class Centre for Outdoor Sports take shape in Mid Sussex over the next few years.”#

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