The new leader of Lewes District Council, Cllr Rob Blackman, has outlined some personal views, hopes and ambitions on taking office.
Key among these is a possible change of direction for Lewes House, the council’s historic former home on School Hill.
Staff moved out in September 2013 and the ground floor has recently been used as an exhibtion centre.
As for its future, Cllr Blackman said: “Although no decision has been made at the moment, we are currently planning to rent it out as serviced offices along with a cultural space.
“My own personal view is that it would make a fantastic boutique-style hotel, but we will fully consult on any changes.”
The new leader stressed: “It’s just my opinion at this stage and will need careful consideration and detailed discussion with both the cabinet and the council officers.”
Elsewhere in the county town, plans for the North Street (Phoenix) Quarter had reached a stage where the amount of housing could be accurately gauged – he expects more than 350 new homes will be created.
Down on the coast, Cllr Blackman said: “We are confident that £8.9m for flood defences in Newhaven will be secured. This will make the town’s brownfield sites that are ripe for development far more attractive.”
Consultation has started on the planned University Technical College in the town, scheduled for completion in September 2015, and the district council has secured around £11m in funding.
Cllr Blackman said he intends to ‘appear’ regularly on the various online forums in the District to answer public questions. “As leader, I represent 95,000 people in this District and a regular appearance on the existing forums seems a good way of communicating with everyone,” he said.
Affordable/social housing will be high on the agenda. “We want to deliver the number of such homes that are needed where they are needed,” said Cllr Blackman.
“We have commissioned a report which will tell us exactly what affordable and social housing we need for the next few years. And then through a variety of means we will make sure we deliver on that requirement.”
Conservative Cllr Blackman (Seaford East) was elected by a single vote at last week’s full meeting of the council.
His victory by 20 votes to 19 over Liberal Democrat group leader Sarah Osborne saw the balance tipped by UKIP’s Cllr Phil Howson.
There were two abstentions – Cllr Donna Edmunds (UKIP) and Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe (Independent).