The lowdown on Haywards Heath
PUBLISHED: 00:16 30 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:21 20 February 2013
Haywards Heath is a town defined by the railway. It didn't exist before it arrived and is now a busy commuter hub with plans to improve
Haywards Heath is a busy home to 23,000 people, many of them commuters who use the towns long-established rail connections taking about 45 minutes to reach Victoria or London Bridge stations. Others, of course, travel to other employment hotspots in the county such as Crawley, Gatwick or Brighton.
It was the railway that made the town. Before its arrival in 1841, Haywards Heath was just that, heathland between Lindfield and Cuckfield. When both refused to accept the railway it was built across the heath, the common land later enclosed and built upon and the modern town arrived.
Not too long afterwards, around 1870, it was described somewhat unkindly as a collection of stucco villas and building lots, numerous gardens and brickyards fenced with corrugated iron and barbed wireround about a dreary wooden pile of buildings perched high on a red clay embankment.
Although the town is still defined by its fantastic location, it has a lot going for it, being surrounded by glorious countryside, wonderful visitor attractions and the proud possessor of some of the best parks and green spaces of any town anywhere.
Haywards Heaths future
Haywards Heath is covered by both Mid Sussex District Council and its own town council.
Mid Sussex council has been working on its masterplan for the town which was knocked off track in March when its partner company, Thornfield Properties PLC, went into administration.
Now it is renewing its proposals and an advisory group has been set up to take the improvement plans forward.
Cllr Gary Marsh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Investment and Regeneration said:
Community requirements need to be the focus to improve the town.
We want to see Haywards Heath thrive and attract investment to make it vibrant with a buoyant economy.
The town has an excellent location and we want to enhance what is already there and improve it. Significant interest from the private sector allows us to explore proposals in detail. We are also welcoming contributions from the whole community and I know the depth of local knowledge held by our partners will help ensure that any potential revitalisation schemes meet the aspirations of local residents.
For its part, the Town Councils mission statement in its own draft Forward Plan is to ensure the town is a thriving community, which will be an attractive, vibrant and prosperous town, where people will choose to live, work and visit.
The Forward Plan is for things that the council would like to achieve in the next three years. It is consulting with residents and organisations about what are important to them.
Some of the key things identified by the consultation so far include:
- Resolving issues relating to the delivery of the relief road
- Redevelopment of the area around the railway station to make it an appealing gateway to the town
- Helping third sector organisations (charities and voluntary organisations) to deliver services and offer opportunities in the town
- Ensuring the correct infrastructure is in place to complement new housing
- Securing community facilities in Bolnore and creating links between the village and the town
- Resolving parking issues in the town and the pricing structure for town centre parking
- Maximising partnership opportunities with businesses in the town as well as looking to attract new businesses
- Protecting and enhancing the natural environment of the town including Victoria Park, Beech Hurst Gardens and the towns nature reserves
- Improving the towns reputation as a good place to live, work and visit
- Providing a new cemetery for
Where to fill up
Haywards Heath is blessed with the usual choice of takeaways if you are in need of refuelling after a night out. There are some good places to try in the villages around the town, such as the Red Lion in Handcross which has a menu that changes daily and does Sunday roast for just 12.95.
Another village pub to try is The Crown at Horsted Keynes. It is famous for being used by the American Secret Service in 1963 when John F Kennedy slept in the parish on a visit to former Prime Minister Harold Macmilllan and for being seriously damaged 40 years later in a huge fire when a lightning bolt struck an electricity pole next to the pub.
If you fancy a restaurant, why not try the exquisite Jeremys, just five minutes out of the town, or if you fancy traditional English afternoon cream tea, try Caf Elvira, both at beautiful Borde Hill Garden.
The railway station
It would not be going too far to say that without the railway station, there would be no Haywards Heath.
Now Southern Railway is working with the town council to make the railway station into more of a portal to the town.
Plans include extending Haywards Heath in Bloom to the floral banks outside the station and improving the signage from the town centre to the station and vice versa.
Station group manager Matt Smith said the railway is keen to improve its links with the local community for the benefit of everyone. He said that the taxi drivers at Haywards Heath station provided an excellent service.
The Haywards Heath taxi drivers are the most friendly in the area. When we have had disruption they have helped us out.
Around 3.9 million passenger journeys are made to and from the station each year. Of those, just over 2 million are made by season ticket holders.
It is estimated that around 11,000 journeys are made to and from the station every day during the normal working week.
The Mayor, Cllr Margaret Baker, represents Heath Ward on the Haywards Heath Town Council. Her ward includes the railway station.
She has lived with her family in the town since 1968 and has visited it all her life as her grandparents lived in Lindfield.
For her, the overwhelming plus point about Haywards Heath is the friendliness of its people, although she admits the town is also in a fantastic location.
Its a very friendly place to be, I find the whole town to be very friendly.
The location is very important. You can get to London, Gatwick or Brighton easily from here.
We have moved three times since we have been here but have always stayed in the same area. If somebody said I had to move from here it would devastate me. I feel totally at home here.
Cllr Baker said that she felt that there was real hope that improvements could be made to the area around the railway station and that Southern Railway were playing a positive part in the discussions about them.