01444 711170 save@clairhall.org

Clair Hall

Run by the Community for the Community

Save Clair Hall Group Press Releases

The most recent press releases are shown first.

Legal Challenge Made to Mid Sussex District Council Over The Future of Clair Hall – A Much-Needed And Loved Multi-Use Community Centre & Theatre. (Issued 5 July 2024)

The Haywards Heath Community CIC as part of the ‘Save Clair Hall’ campaign has taken a crucial step to protect the future of Clair Hall by instructing their solicitors to issue a formal ‘Letter Before Action’ to Mid Sussex District Council.  The letter challenges the ongoing failure of the Council to make a substantive decision on the future of Clair Hall.


The ongoing battle by campaigners to save the much-needed multi-use community centre & theatre in Haywards Heath began in September 2020 when Mid Sussex District Council voted to permanently close the building. Taking matters to the High Court in 2021 the ‘Save Clair Hall’ campaign successfully had the Council’s decision reversed and the Council agreed to reconsider its decision. After a public consultation, a feasibility study and meetings with an independent technical panel, campaigners were assured that a final decision on the future of the venue was to have been made in early March 2024.

 Tim French MBE, Director of Haywards Heath Community CIC said, “In January of this year we, along with other community groups met with the council’s independent technical panel to outline our proposal for a sustainable future for Clair Hall. Such was the panel’s interest we were invited back for further discussions at the end of which we given assurances that the next steps would be set out within seven days.”

We have written to officers on several occasions and still no substantive response has been received. Therefore, we feel justified to challenge this situation as irrational due to unreasonable and excessive delays.”

 Colin Kenward, Co-founder of the ‘Save Clair Hall’ campaign group added, “Clair Hall has been a vital part of our community since 1971, serving as a theatre and multi-use venue. We, and the community have waited long enough. We seek a decision that sees Clair Hall remain as a vibrant hub for arts, entertainment, and community activities.”

The community made their feelings very clear, with 70% of respondents to the public consultation wanting Clair Hall to remain and reopen. That was two years ago and despite the Save Clair Hall Group presenting a comprehensive proposal covering refurbishing, re-opening and future proofing the venue, the council continue to drag their feet. Taking legal action is not something that we take lightly but we feel we have little choice.”

The Legal Challenge

In a legal letter delivered to Mid Sussex District Council on 5 July 2024, solicitors acting for the Haywards Heath CIC highlighted the Council’s “unreasonable and excessive delay”. The letter calls for a decision on the future of Clair Hall to be communicated by 12 July 2024. If the Council fails to respond, the community group is fully prepared to proceed with judicial review proceedings.

 The legal challenge letter addressed to Mid Sussex District Council can be viewed by clicking here.

The Save Clair Hall Group Marks a 200 Day Milestone in the Campaign to Reopen Clair Hall (Released 4 April 2024)

It is over 200 days since the Save Clair Hall (SCH) group submitted an outline proposal to Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) for the refurbishment and reopening of Clair Hall.

The group’s vision for Clair Hall is a premier multifunctional community centre and theatre, contributing to the cultural and social fabric of Haywards Heath and the wider community -‘Run by the Community for the Community’.

In response to MSDC’s November 2023 call for formal community proposals, the SCH group has not only submitted a comprehensive 20 page proposal detailing plans for refurbishing and revitalising Clair Hall, it has also actively participated in the process established by MSDC.

Colin Kenward, a founding member of the SCH group said:

“Our engagement with MSDC has included:

Two constructive and detailed meetings with the Technical Panel, specially convened by MSDC to evaluate community proposals.

Submission of refined 5-year financial forecasts, alongside additional clarifying information, responding to the insightful feedback and advice from the Technical Panel.

Proposing to the Technical Panel, an organisational structure for refurbishing and running Clair Hall, and highlighting the critical timeline for accessing certain grants.”

“The Save Clair Hall group is still waiting to hear MSDC’s decision for the future of Clair Hall. We are fully committed to working with the Council, community groups, and other stakeholders to ensure Clair Hall regains its status as a cherished and essential asset for our community.”

“Together, we stand on the brink of transforming Clair Hall into a vibrant hub, benefiting all residents and future generations.”

Last call to save community theatre

With the fate of Clair Hall hanging in the balance, the Save Clair Hall group is putting out an urgent plea to ensure the future of this beloved community venue and theatre doesn’t suffer the same fate as Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill.

Martlets Hall was demolished in 2019 and continues to be the source of local frustrations, as the flattened site has been left desolate.

While Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) is proposing the redevelopment of Clair Hall through an outsourced commercial agent, there are no plans to include a theatre facility.

In addition to hosting events from national celebrities, Clair Hall was home to the Weald Theatre Group and multiple groups that enriched the community with musicals, pantomimes, dance and drama workshops for children along with an abundance of activities for all age groups.

The Save Clair Hall group – which is suggesting that a community organisation takes on the venue to refurbish it and reopen its doors as soon as possible – has been liaising closely with local residents to collect and amplify heartfelt pleas to save this essential community space:

  • Keith Goodsell, Hassocks: “Clair Hall provides an essential amenity for the residents of Mid Sussex. Without it, many societies and groups would be unable to meet and function such as the Haywards Heath Operatic Society, U3A and National Trust. The facilities offered by Clair Hall are just as necessary as those offered by leisure centres and far more important to the welfare of Mid Sussex residents than providing a larger car park.”
  • Andrew Fox, Little Gaddesdon: “Clair Hall must remain. So many societies need the hall.”
  • Pauline Swiggs, Haywards Heath: “We cannot lose this facility, which is used by all our community.
  • Harry Greatorex, West Sussex: “We cannot lose Clair Hall; many local theatre groups use and need it to stage their shows. It is such an asset.
  • Suzanne Bridger, Haywards Heath: “Venues like Clair Hall are getting fewer and fewer. We need these spaces for so many different types of events. Touring theatre and arts, local community events, private parties, social club events, the list goes on. We cannot lose it. This is madness.
  • Angharad Watkin, Balcombe: “My children enjoyed touring productions here and performed in dance shows. The Haywards Heath area would lose so much if this were closed.
  • Gill Sutton, resident of Burgess Hill: “They ripped down the Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill, and now they want to take the only remaining community entertainment venue in the area. They should be developing arts and entertainment, not destroying it!

Mid Sussex District Council has assured residents that it will not be “selling” the site, but a report by independent consultants, BOP Consulting, refers to the grant of a “long lease” (120years+) to developers, confirming a ‘Disposal’ of the site. All this indicates that the Hall’s outlook still looks bleak if the Council’s plans go forward.

Marion Wilcock, Save Clair Hall campaigner and Haywards Heath CIC director, commented:

With no promise of the Council providing anything like the facilities currently on the site, there’s a genuine concern that Clair Hall will be demolished like the hall in Burgess Hill has been. The Save Clair Hall group want to show the public a refurbishment proposal that reflects the results of the consultation process and would guarantee the safe renovation of the Hall. This would enable the Hall to swiftly put back into use rather than risking the site being redeveloped for unknown commercial purposes.”

To keep up to date with the decisions being made and get behind the Save Clair Hall campaign, please join the Save Clair Hall group on Facebook.

Could a community organisation be the saviour of Clair Hall?

For the last few years, there has been significant discussion about the fate of Clair Hall among the residents of Haywards Heath. Now, dedicated locals are gathering support in a heartfelt endeavour to rescue their sole community theatre. The Save Clair Hall group want to put forward a plan for the community organisation to take lease of the site, refurbish it, and then operate the multiuse venue. If adopted by Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC), this scheme would enable them to evaluate and carry out essential renovations for a swift re-opening of this vital community resource.

This suggestion follows the venue being placed on the Theatre Trust’s ‘Theatres at Risk Register’ in 2022 and, more recently, a report and public consultation being carried out by BOP Consulting, a company appointed by MSDC. The report highlighted that 65% of residents said they would like Clair Hall to remain but be “refurbished”, with an additional 5% stating they would like it to return to immediate use.

The Save Clair Hall community group wants to be involved in the consulting process with the Council’s appointed commercial agents, Montague Evans, in the hope of retaining the beating heart of their community. Whilst MSDC has suggested alternative venues that the community groups can use, these sites are either already at capacity or not able to offer the same facilities, and one suggested site is not even open for public use.

The community group’s plans will only be possible if the Council ceases its current rhetoric of leasing out the site for redevelopment, which disregards the advice from independent consultants, BOP Consulting, to explore a refurbishment option. The rationale behind the Council not following the refurbishment route is that the level of investment required to convert the site is outweighed by the financial and logistical benefits of entrusting the venue to a private company.

According to MSDC, the estimated cost of a refurbished provision would be around £2.9 million, whereas the community proposal is calculated at £1 million below this. The suggested community project involves initially refurbishing the venue to open at the earliest opportunity, and then funding a modernised community facility to accommodate the theatre and all local community groups.

Marion Wilcock, a Save Clair Hall campaigner and Haywards Heath Community CIC director, talks about the impact of the Council’s actions and what it means for the community:

With the site now assigned to a developer, and no promise of providing anything like the facilities currently on the site, there’s a genuine concern that Clair Hall will be demolished just like Martlets Hall in Burgess Hill. Although the Council has said that it will not be ‘selling’ the site, we feel that the Council is misleading the public. It intends to grant a long lease (120-year +) to a commercial developer just like The Martlets, which is most certainly a ‘Disposal’. It is inexplicable that the Council has steadfastly refused to engage with any Community Groups about what is a community asset, despite being recommended to do so in the BOP Report”.

Tim French MBE, Save Clair Hall group member and director of It’s Magic Events, added:

The need for a space where the community can come together is more important post-pandemic than ever, so it’s crucial the real public opinion is honoured, and the community theatre is saved.”

Prior to its closure in 2020, Clair Hall served as the only facility available for what was a thriving theatre community. Without this asset, the theatre group and multiple community groups, which relied on the venue and have already been displaced by its closure, may have to cease entirely.

Before MSDC voted to close Clair Hall, many letters of opposition, a petition signed by 4,000 people and Save Clair Hall’s own public option survey all went unanswered. The only hope the town has to save this much-needed space is to galvanise support from the Haywards Heath community. However, the group can’t proceed without the Council considering this option.

To learn more about this project and receive updates on the decisions being made, please join the Save Clair Hall group on Facebook.