A stinging rebuke has gone out to Horsham District Council from the Queen’s Regiment Association over the council’s proposals to convert Horsham’s Drill Hall into housing.
In a letter addressed to council chief executive Glen Chipp, Steve Bell, chairman of the Horsham branch of the Queen’s Regiment Association, said he was ‘surprised’ to learn of the council’s plans on social media.
He accused the council of being disrespectful and said: “No courtesy has been displayed to us for all our years of service to Horsham town by the council and not to even consider informing us of this possible decision is disingenuous to say the least to our memory.
“It is our belief that the Drill Hall had covenants in place implying it was to remain for the use of the townsfolk which it has done since our departure in 1999.
“We fully understand that time does not stand still and pressures influence decision making at local government. However, to completely exclude us when we were invited, and indeed signed, the town’s “Military Covenant” to be disrespectful to the memory of those of us who have gone before.
“The façade on its own has great historic and social value to the residents of Horsham without even looking at what history has gone before us inside the Drill Hall itself.
“We can appreciate that the outbuildings etc behind the Drill Hall hold little historic value - only memories for us who served there.”
He asked the council to rethink its plans to convert the landmark building into 20 flats and “not to redevelop a part of local history and to keep Our Drill Hall so those in years to come, may look at this building and think of the men and women who served their Sovereign and country.”
The Drill Hall was built for the local Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment in the 1920s and later handed over to Horsham District Council after the Territorial Army moved out.
It has since been used by a number of local organisations for a variety of events.
A public outcry has erupted since the council first announced its plans and two petitions have been launched to save the bulding.
The council is to discuss the building’s future at a meeting next Thursday.
Meanwhile, retired Major Mike Cattell, treasurer of the Horsham branch of the Queen’s Regiment Association, described the Drill Hall as “a symbol of the military heritage of Horsham.”
He has also called for the hall to be retained and refurbished “as a community asset for the good and benefit of the people of Horsham and the wider community.”