A £5 million new youth hostel for the South Downs has been given the green light.
With further funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Youth Hostels Association can complete the transformation of Itford Farm, in Southease.
The project, conceived and progressed by Active Lewes, a not-for-profit company, will transform 13th century farm buildings into a 68-bed youth hostel, café and visitor centre, open to non-residents.
Work is now under way and it is expected the new facilities will be up and running by spring 2013. The new Youth Hostel will be known as YHA South Downs.
It occupies a prime location on the South Downs Way National Trail, next to Southease Railway Station and the A26, and is expected to be a hugely popular venue.
Active Lewes, working with the Greenbank Trust, began fundraising for the £5m project in 2001 and secured significant funds to enable the project to proceed. In addition to the YHA, other significant contributions have come from the Heritage Lottery Fund , the South Downs National Park Sustainable Communities Fund, the South East Regional Development Agency, Viridor Waste Management, Veolia Waste Management, East Sussex County Council, the Highways Agency and Active Lewes.
“We’re thrilled that the new hostel will now go-ahead thanks to the additional Heritage Lottery Funds and the South Downs National Park,” said Jake Chalmers, YHA Property Director.
“We’re also grateful to the Greenbank Trust, Active Lewes and the owners, the Rees family, for their efforts in making this important facility possible.
“The world-class hostel will be a gateway to the new national park, adding to our network of hostels, and introducing a new generation of young people to the South Downs.”
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the South East, Stuart McLeod said: “We are delighted to see this project now come to fruition and look forward to the exciting transformation of this 13th century site.
“With a new, sustainable future within the heart of the South Downs National Park now secure, Itford Farm will be conserved for future generations so that everyone can enjoy its fascinating heritage.”
Cllr Simon Kirby, of East Sussex County Council, said the conversion would “provide a boost to tourism, benefiting local pubs, restaurants and shops, and securing a future for a richly historical building”.
Peter Masters, of Active Lewes, said: “With the top-up funding from the HLF and the new major investment by the YHA the project will at last secure all the community benefits that Active Lewes sought to achieve when we started the project more than 10 years ago.”