01444 711170 save@clairhall.org

Clair Hall

Run by the Community for the Community

About Clair Hall and the Save Clair Hall campaign

Clair Hall

Clair Hall was built in 1971 including full theatre facilities with a seating capacity of 360. It is the largest events and performance venue in Mid Sussex. Its construction was funded by public money raised through collections and revenue from the local community.

Until 2020, the building was always in use as a performance venue along with many other varied activities. Clair Hall has attracted performers from local and national theatre groups, and hosted events by household names such as Katherine Ryan, Rob Beckett, Jack Dee, and Jon Richardson, to name but a few.

The building has been closed since March 2020, when measures in response to the COVID pandemic forced the building to close. Places Leisure was also released from their contract to manage the hall in March 2020. The building has since been used by Alliance for Better Care on behalf of the NHS to administer COVID vaccinations.

In the Agenda report for the meeting held by MSDC on 14 September 2020, the Council cited declining footfall, the rising costs of bringing about immediate repairs to the building, and high estimated costs of long-term maintenance and improvements, labelling Clair Hall as ‘not fit for purpose’. The report also stated that following the closure, it would develop a business case for the Clair Hall site and assess the case for the ‘potential’ inclusion of a modern community facility to meet the needs of residents either by demolition and redevelopment or, at other yet to be found sites in the town. MSDC also mentioned exploring the ‘possibilities’ of developing a modern purpose build venue.

Also in the Agenda records, were notes about a potential untapped revenue stream. The adjacent car park belonging to Clair Hall is currently free and open for public use, and MSDC wished for this to become a Pay and Display car park. MSDC provided accurate estimates of the income that could be generated because of making this change in terms of use. The projected income based on 70% occupation of the car park, if retained by Clair Hall, would potentially provide enough revenue to the venue allowing it to operate with a heavily reduced subsidy by the council.

Save Clair Hall Campaign

The Save Clair Hall campaign group was formed in response to this meeting by residents Colin Kenward and Lance Milton in September 2020, when it became apparent that the closure was about to be made permanent by MSDC. Shortly after the group’s establishment, Marion Wilcock and Tim French MBE, Directors of the Haywards Heath Community CIC (Community Interest Company), joined the campaign.

As campaigning continued, an application to have Clair Hall made an ‘Asset of Community Value’ was successfully made and confirmed on the 26 November 2020.

Legal advice was sought, which resulted in High Court proceedings commencing requesting a judicial review to overturn the decision made on 14 September 2020 on the grounds that MSDC had acted unlawfully by failing to consult with the community in accordance with statutory requirements, failing to comply with the procedures set out in their own constitution and that the decision was irrational.

On the 13 January 2021, MSDC conceded defeat and agreed to a High Court order withdrawing their decision on the permanent closure of the Hall and to complete a reconsideration (by way of public consultation) within a year.

Following this, independent consultants BOP Consulting were appointed, and the public was asked for their views on the future of the Clair Hall site between June and September 2021. The final report was then published in December 2021. The percentage breakdown of the public consultation was that 5% of respondents wanted Clair Hall to open and remain as it was, 65% wanted Clair Hall to stay but undergo a program of refurbishment, and 30% supported the idea that the building should be razed to the ground, the area redeveloped with no promise of replacing the venue.

Theatres Trust announced that Clair Hall was placed on the ‘Theatres at Risk’ register on 2 February 2022, a fact which the Council has failed to recognise in any Council report or public comment.

Why a Community Organisation should run Clair Hall

Three important reasons why a community organisation rather than Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) should run Clair Hall as a theatre and community centre. 

1) Whilst MSDC have many local responsibilities, Community and Culture facilities are all but bottom of the list in the 2021-2039 District plan.

2) MSDC do not have the skills and organisation necessary to re-open and run Clair Hall as a successful theatre and community centre. The Council has already spent £350,000 of tax-payers money on external consultants and agents without anything concrete to show for it.

3) MSDC don’t have the financial resources to invest in and develop Clair Hall.  MSDC have to rely on a developer who will need to make a profit from the site by building commercial and/or residential property at the expense of community facilities.

Save Clair Hall Campaign Core Group

From left to right: Penny Blake, Colin Kenward, Marion Wilcock and Tim French.