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COMMUNITY CENTRE & PERFORMING ARTS VENUE

A revised funding plan for a Community Centre and Performing Arts Venue goes to Burgess Hill Town Council Finance Committee for approval this month.

The consultation earlier this year showed that residents are fully supportive of a new community centre and performing arts venue located in the middle of town. However, residents did not want to fund it through an increase in the council precept.

This result could have meant the cancelling of the project entirely but the council felt strongly that there must be such a facility to serve the current and future generations in the expanding Burgess Hill. Therefore, it literally went back to the drawing board with a renewed determination to provide a range of facilities for community groups, as well as a performance venue.

The outcome is a new proposal which offers community groups facilities for a range of uses, such as rehearsal space, foyer cafe, meeting rooms, kitchen, storage, dressing room, backstage showers, WCs, retractable seating to create open floor space for different style events including keep fit, dinner dances, presentations, talks and discussions. This community space is in addition to a performance arts venue with a stage, 300 capacity seating and full front of house and backstage facilities.

 

Whilst ’The Council’ originated this project and has financial and planning responsibilities for its creation, construction and future administration, it has, from the start, involved residents of Burgess Hill in making the vision a reality - and sooner rather than later.

To do this, the council created a Steering Group with eight members of the community who are representatives of community groups needing facilities, as well as current users of existing community premises. These residents are able to bring a range of relevant experience and skills to support the work of elected councillors. This combined effort means community associations, groups and clubs will have a specially designed and permanent centre for community use.

Of course, all this is not without cost but the financial strategy to be considered by the council includes a lower cost than previously by incrementally staging the project; an initial £3 million being raised via a loan from the Public Works Loan Board and a requirement to raise an additional £2 million through public fund-raising and sponsorship. This removes the need for an increase in council precept - so no need for residents of the Town to pay any extra tax to fund the community centre.

In addition, the council has made cost savings as a normal part of its operating budget; the effect of these cuts has been amplified by new and increasing revenue generated from hiring town hall facilities to outside and partner organisations.

The proposal goes to the full Burgess Hill Town Council in July.