Haywards Heath is set to receive a major boost thanks to the launch of its own Town Team last week.
After Mary Portas launched her Portas Pilot people were encouraged to start ‘town teams’ to make their town better and more desirable to attract new companies to the area.
At a special meeting at the Orchards Shopping Centre on Thursday crowds of local business people flocked to find out more and support the huge initiative.
One of the key goals is to devise a plan to promote Haywards Heath’s businesses to attract more to invest here as well as developing an effective public transport network.
The team driving the scheme in Haywards Heath has representatives from Haywards Heath Business Association, 1st Central Insurance Management, Solum Regeneration, The Orchards Shopping Centre, The Broadway Traders Group, Borde Hill Gardens, Haywards Heath Town Council and Mid Sussex District Council.
With future plans to redevelop the railway station the team want to show that Haywards Heath is more than just a railway station but a bustling town with a lot to offer.
Ruth de Mierre, chairman of the town team, said: “Haywards Heath used to be a small market town now we are a growing small town. We don’t want to be the place where people commute from or just pop into.
“We are a little down the line from London we want the people in the city to look at us and say ‘Why aren’t we there?’
“It isn’t just about the businesses and shops but making Haywards Heath better for residents as well.”
Their statement is to ‘capitalise on our central location to promote a growing economy, a thriving town centre and a strong business sector’.
Having formed at the end of last year the team has already launched its website which includes events listings and a list of retailers and businesses in the area.
Nicola Bird, manager of The Orchards shopping centre, said: “We want to put Haywards Heath firmly on the map so that our retailers and businesses will
“We don’t want The Orchards to be a place where people just march straight into M&S and then leave, we want people to come here and stay here.
“The national average for empty shops in centres is one in four, we have 38 retail units and three voids, which is less than one in ten.”
The centre announced that it is one of the first shopping centres to have free wi-fi so that shoppers can enjoy the internet whilst shopping.
Mrs de Mierre said: “This isn’t about us and them. It’s about us all working together. This isn’t a talking shop, but I do feel with all the energy and enthusiasm, this is the right time and place to make things happen.”
Quoting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe she added: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”
A certificate was signed by Andrewjohn Stephenson Clarke, High Sheriff of West Sussex.
He said: “Don’t ask what Haywards Heath can do for you but what you can do for Haywards Heath.”
Mid Sussex Times editor-in-chief Gary Shipton also spoke at the meeting about the importance of the local paper in putting the town on the map.
For more information on the town team visit www.hhlive.org.uk