In a packed hall, residents of Burgess Hill left Cllr. Andrew Barrett-Miles in no doubt that there is much opposition to the councils’ plans to build over 6200 new homes in their town.
Incredibly, this was the first town-wide public meeting where local residents had the opportunity to respond to, and share their concerns over, the Burgess Hill Town-Wide Strategy. Neither the Town nor the District Council had ever held such a meeting, and sadly it was left for the residents themselves to organise and fund, under the banner of the Burgess Hill Action Group.
Chairman for the evening was Harry Lloyd Owen, resident of Ansty village. Mr Lloyd Owen had the unenviable task of ensuring that each speaker kept to their allotted 10 minutes and then to marshal the lively audience Question & Answer session which followed.
First to address the meeting was Andrew Barrett-Miles, leader of Burgess Hill Town Council, MSDC councillor and chairman of the District Council Scrutiny Committee for Planning and Economic Development. Councillor Barrett-Miles gave the meeting some background on the various development plans and strategies which have been drafted over recent years, and details of the current Burgess Hill Town Wide Strategy. He advised that planning applications will be received this year and next for the strategic housing developments, and we would need evidence to challenge these, as stating they were unfair would have no effect.
Justin French-Brooks, chairman of the Sussex branch of CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) then addressed the meeting, providing an interesting insight into the role that CPRE plays in preserving and protecting rural communities’ green assets, and indeed continued to add well-considered and informed opinions on challenges such as those facing Burgess Hill throughout the rest of the meeting.
Kevin Hudson, spoke for the Burgess Hill Action Group, explaining what the campaign group stood for, and how it came to be formed, following the failure of the Town and District councils to fairly represent the local residents and their aspirations for the future of Burgess Hill.
Mr Hudson then introduced a local student, 15 year old Holly McGratten, who gave an emotional and heart-warming speech in defence of the town and its rural setting. Holly had obtained the signatures of over 200 of her peers on a petition against the over-development of the town and surrounding environment.
There followed a passionate but well-organised question and answer session, where the audience were able to put their questions to the panel of speakers on this hugely significant issue. The vast majority of points were directed at Cllr Barrett-Miles, and a recurring theme was that residents felt that all three tiers of local authority - Town, District and County Councils - were not listening to their residents, and that the housing allocation for the town was disproportionate and ill-conceived.
A number of additional councillors present in the audience took advantage of the radio microphones to labour the councils’ tired rhetoric, a tactic which was not well received by the residents, and served only to galvanise those whose opinions have not yet been heard.
An analysis of the points raised during the meeting is available here:
There were several additional question forms completed at the end of the meeting which were subsequently forwarded to Andrew Barrett-Miles, Leader of the Town Council by the Burgess Hill Action Group via email.
Full details of that submission are available here:
BHAG have committed to publish all responses received on their website www.burgesshillactiongroup.co.uk
A full audio recording of the meeting has kindly been made available by local community website Burgess Hill Uncovered, and may be accessed directly below.
Many thanks to BHU for access to this very effective resource.
The Burgess Hill Action Group is simply a group of residents - like you - and as individuals we were absolutely delighted with the turnout at our Open Public Meeting on Monday evening. Thank you so much for giving us your support.
We hoped that we had judged the mood of the residents correctly, based on the response to our e-petition and the many messages of support we have received in person, via email and through our website. To have so many people turn out last night, that some people had to stand in the corridor was a huge boost for us. On that note, we would like to apologise for the cramped conditions, and the slightly uncomfortable, warm atmosphere in the room, but we really did not have any idea how many people would attend the meeting!
Our main motivation is to provide you, the other concerned residents of our town, with a focal point through which you can express your opinions and voice your fears over the housing blight which hangs over us. We want to help coordinate whatever actions we as a community deem necessary to constrain these wildly disproportionate development plans to a more acceptable level, and allow Burgess Hill to retain its character and identity. It was fantastic to hear so many of you challenge our Town and District councils to do more to represent the residents and their aspirations for the town.
Before we formed the action group. nobody else was doing this in an organised fashion, and the various councils were enjoying a free run at bulldozing these developments through the planning process. Now at least they have some passionate opposition!
Since the meeting, numerous residents have expressed a desire to help with the campaign. Many of you have asked us what happens next. Well, we have many ideas, and thanks to your support, we now have the additional resources to make some of these happen. This is great news, but we are sure you will appreciate that this is going to be a long hard fight, and we have to pace ourselves.
The first task for the group is to collate all the questions that you left us, and to present them to the appropriate speakers present at the meeting. The vast majority of these are unsurprisingly directed at the council. We will seek to have these answered as soon as possible, and commit to pass on all responses received to you via our website and our newsletters.
The next task is for us is to expand our Campaign Supporters Network, allowing those that have offered hands-on support to do so in the most effective way. This will take some coordination, but we are very excited by the offers we have had, and will be arranging an informal get-together very shortly to make the most of this opportunity.
The Burgess Hill Action Group have recently been considering various new ways of engaging interested visitors to the website. We do of course have our Facebook page, which is really very lively and definitely worth a read, but we fully appreciate that some people don't have a Facebook login, and would rather not sign-up for one.
To provide those people with a more traditional environment in which to express themselves and fully participate in our community group, we have now installed a dedicated community forum. This will become the hub for our newly expanded Campaign Supporters Network, and will provide both public and private discussion boards.
We did have a registration and login facility here on the homepage, but with the arrival of the new forum, we have now disabled that functionality. Those users that had registered, please re-register on the forum, which can be found here:
A huge thank you to the 157 attendees at our public meeting last night. What a great turnout!
We were delighted that so many of you felt that it was a meeting worth attending, and that residents were prepared to stand up and express their opinions. We feel it was a great success, and is something we can build upon going forward. And we will be going forward!
We will shortly be providing a summary of what happened for those unable to attend, and a statement on what comes next for the group. We will also be communicating directly with the many people who offered to get involved with the campaign, and ensuring that we make the best use of your precious time.
Once again, thanks to everyone that attended. You have given the profile of the campaign a massive lift!