Funding for firms but not youth site

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A Lewes District Councillor has expressed her frustration that money from the council’s budget has been put aside to help businesses affected by development, but not to support a community group.

At a council meeting on Thursday, February 25, Cllr Joanna Carter presented a motion to amend the council budget to include a £12,000 relocation fund for Skatehouse, which is being forced to move when work starts on the North Street Quarter in May. Although some Lib Dem councillors were sympathetic to the proposal, Conservative councillors felt relocation should be funded from elsewhere.

Councillor Carter said: “I find the Conservatives’ stance slightly frustrating as the council unanimously passed a motion for a £50,000 relocation fund for businesses on council land affected by the North Street Quarter. It’s hard to see why a relocation fund for commercial businesses should be approved but financial support for a community interest company such as Skatehouse cannot.

“Given that more than 3,000 people have asked for it to be saved, the council cannot fail to see what a valued place Skatehouse has become for young people in and around Lewes. We will keep pushing for a solution for Skatehouse and the other youth venues that will be displaced by the North Street development.”

Dozens of people marched, scooted and skated through Lewes last week to present a 3,000 signature strong petition to Lewes District Council.

The petition, which was presented by District Councillor Joanna Carter and Skatehouse directors Claire Heath and Jordon Halls to applause from the public gallery, calls on the council to help relocate the town’s indoor Skatehouse.

More than 1,000 young and older people a month use Skatehouse. Supporters say Skatehouse has not only become a place where young people can learn new skills and socialise, it also provides a safe place to go in all weather.

Jordon Halls said: “Young people need routine in a safe environment. Children have said to us ‘It’s amazing to have a place where I can learn and feel safe. Whatever problems I have, I can come here’.”

Claire Heath added: “We would need some start-up money to move into new premises and build a new skatepark, but we could have one built within a month, which means we can quickly start generating revenue again. A long-term lease would also allow us to tap into broader sources of funding that our current temporary lease does not. It is crucial we can continue to keep our entry fees low so young people at all income levels can access Skatehouse.” 

A spokesperson for Lewes District Council said: “We will make arrangements to consider the petition at full council.

“Once we are in receipt of the petition, officers will prepare a report for councillors to consider, but we cannot second guess what councillors may or may not decide when they come to debate the matter.”

A spokesperson from Santon North Street, joint applicants for the North Street Quarter, said: “The Skatehouse was only ever temporary but the Malling Fields skatepark will be renovated as part of the redevelopment of the North Street Quarter.”

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