Anger over Register Office move from Southover Grange in Lewes

Southover Grange, Lewes
Southover Grange, Lewes
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Local people have reacted with shock and anger to news that Lewes Register Office is to quit historic Southover Grange.

From March 1 next year residents will instead have to register births and deaths behind Tesco at Sackville House, Brooks Close.

Wedding ceremonies will be offered in the Council Chamber at Lewes Town Hall.

‘Save The Grange’ – Karen Miles, Catherine Grace and Sarah Pearson – described Sackville House as a “desolate” address, and condemned the loss of an iconic and public venue for marriages.

They said: “We feel that Southover Grange in its role as a place for registration of marriages brings in a substantial amount of business to the town.

“Many couples from Lewes – but also from elsewhere in the county, country and abroad – choose to have their ceremony at the Grange because it is historic and beautiful and therefore ideal for photographs.

“While the Town Hall is functional, we believe that it will not attract the business that Southover Grange does.”

‘Save The Grange’ said there seemed to be a “worrying” lack of public awareness and consultation concerning the activities of Lewes District Council and its assets, particularly over the future of Southover Grange.

A district council spokesperson stressed there are no plans to sell the Grade II Listed building. They said: “It is part of the council’s property portfolio. Any proposal for the future use of the building will be carefully considered to balance the need to reduce costs, while delivering the best service for the community and protect the heritage of the building.”

A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said: “There has been recent speculation about the future of Southover Grange and its use as a Registration Office. It is owned by Lewes District Council which leases part of the building to East Sussex County Council for use as the Lewes Registration Office. East Sussex County Council has decided not to renew its lease, which is due to expire in May 2013.”

Assistant Chief Executive Simon Hughes said: “We, like other authorities, are looking at how we use property, our own assets as well as property we lease and we are all working together to ensure public assets deliver the best services in terms of value for money.”

Nilam Popat, Corporate Head of Communities and Enterprise from Lewes District Council, said: “Any proposals for the future use of the building will be carefully considered to balance the need to reduce costs, while delivering the best service for the community and to protect the heritage of the building.

“If East Sussex County Council decide to move to another location there is nothing to prevent Southover Grange continuing to be used for weddings, assuming it is licensed as such.”