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.