Local Liberal Democrats have criticised “ill-advised” plans for turning Lewes House into a boutique-style hotel.
The suggestion has been made by the Leader of Lewes District, Cllr Rob Blackman, who said such a scheme for the former council offices could incorporate School Hill House, which stands next door.
Cllr Sarah Osborne, leader of the Lib Dem group on the council, said: “To hear Rob Blackman speak recently of using the School Hill medical practice next door to Lewes House as part of the plan was unbelievable.
“Rob Blackman seems to accept our argument that Lewes House on its own would not be suitable to be turned into a hotel and he is now trying to include a building that is currently occupied and is probably not going to be available for a good few years.”
The Lib Dems feel that Lewes House should be saved and developed into a cultural asset. They are arguing for a need to capitalise on the efforts of the many groups in Lewes who have been working for years to lift the county town into the national cultural arena.
Local historian and academic Paul Myles, who collaborated with the Lib Dems to deliver four major sculpture exhibitions and the Thomas Paine Festival, is working with them again to save Lewes House.
He said: “Now is time to use Lewes House as a permanent showcase. There is a model for this, and Lewes House fits it perfectly. No huge capital is required, the upper levels of the building are already set up as offices and can start earning revenue immediately.
“This allows the principal rooms at ground level to be used to showcase the best of Lewes District in many different and ever-changing ways.
Mr Myles is mounting a major exhibition, ‘Georgians Revealed in Lewes’, which is set to run in September this year, followed by two more retrospective expositions for the Christmas period following the successful Slaters’ Sussex last year.
The National Portrait Gallery has indicated a willingness to lend, and the British Library is supporting the ‘Georgians Revealed’ project.
The Lib Dems believe that having Lewes House as a cultural asset will economically benefit the District.
Cllr Osborne added: “We now have an opportunity for Lewes House to take its rightful position alongside the Jerwood Gallery, the De La Warr and the Towner, strengthening our cultural stamp, and providing more convincing reasons for the tourist destination.”