Engagement with community groups in Haywards Heath and the surrounding area will be undertaken over the autumn and winter to help inform the next steps for community facilities and the town’s regeneration.
The news has been confirmed by Mid Sussex District Council Cabinet Member Cllr John Belsey. The structured engagement work will be carried out by an organisation independent of the Council and will work with past users of Clair Hall and non-users alike.
The engagement will help the Council achieve a richer understanding of current and future community needs, to add to data the Council already holds. The outcomes will help inform a number of projects, including the provision of modern community facilities, the future of the Clair Hall site and the Haywards Heath Masterplan.
Clair Hall closed in March due to the Coronavirus legislation passed by the Government to stop the spread of the virus. Before lockdown, there were already challenges in maintaining the building which was in danger of becoming not fit for purpose as demonstrated by its falling usage year-on-year and the building standing empty about half of the time it was available for hire. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought this issue to a head and Clair Hall is unable to reopen because it cannot be operated viably with Covid-secure measures given the constraints of the old building.
Cllr John Belsey, Cabinet Member for Environment and Service Delivery, said:
“Sadly Covid-19 has created considerable difficulties for community facilities with many activities not allowed to go ahead due to social distancing and Government restrictions. Unfortunately this causes particular problems for a building such as Clair Hall, which is over 50 years old with substantial maintenance costs and which has already been experiencing falling usage.
“We want to work on the business case and options for the provision of modern community facilities that could better meet the needs of residents and visitors to Haywards Heath. This independently facilitated engagement is an important next step to build the evidence base of the current and future needs of the community”.
Regrettably, opposition parties on the Council have been attempting to block work to develop a business case for modern community facilities in Haywards Heath, voting against it at a committee meeting on 13th October.