Plan to turn Clair Hall in Haywards Heath into a multi-functional culture centre

Mid Sussex District Council aims to turn the former Clair Hall theatre into a multi-functional culture centre with space for the performing arts.
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Sketchy information was shared by Anne-Marie Cooke, cabinet member for finance, revenues & benefits, during a meeting of the full council.

The theatre, in Haywards Heath, closed in March 2020 and went on to be used as a Covid-19 vaccination centre, with the NHS having a licence to use the venue until February 2024.

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Ms Cooke said the council was looking at various options for the building, with nothing yet set in stone.

Clair Hall. (Pic S Robards/Sussex World)Clair Hall. (Pic S Robards/Sussex World)
Clair Hall. (Pic S Robards/Sussex World)

She added: “This administration is committed to providing Haywards Heath with a multi-functional, cultural and community space with facilities for live performance at Clair Hall.

“Over recent weeks, we have been considering the best way forward to provide a sustainable, long-term solution.

“Members will be aware that officers are investigating options – work which will conclude shortly.”

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Promising ‘openness and community involvement’, she told the meeting that the outcome of the work would be shared with councillors and the public in the late summer before formal recommendations were submitted to the council.

The cost of deciding the future of Clair Hall has been a source of concern.

In December 2021, a £100,000 reserve was created to pay for the specialist work and advice needed.

One year later, another £185,000 was added to that reserve.

Following a question from Gary Marsh (Con, Ardingly, Balcombe & Turners Hill), Ms Cooke said the council had no intention of breaking its contract with the NHS.

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She added: “A long-term financially viable solution for this site which will benefit future generations may, of course, take time to achieve.

“The Clair Hall building could, in the meantime, continue to be used by the NHS or, if an economically viable scheme can be found, be re-opened as an interim theatre and community venue.

“This report is an outline for an exciting major project that could provide an asset for Haywards Heath for decades to come.”

Chairman Rodney Jackson (Lib Dem, Hurstpierpoint) said of the situation: “It’s not been easy. It’s a difficult problem this Clair Hall and it’s something that’s going to rumble on.”