Seeking to give controversial building a new lease of life

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THE Lewes Community Land Trust is seeking to give the controversial Canon O’Donnell Hall a new lease of life.

Like it or loathe it, the landmark building escaped destruction and replacement with flats and houses thanks to a Planning Inspector’s appeal ruling.

But the future of the Edwardian structure in Western Road remains uncertain.

Few buildings have stirred-up such a range of emotions among Lewes residents. Many see it as an important ‘Arts and Crafts’ contribution to the western approaches of the town. Others dismiss it as an unremarkable pebble-dashed period piece that no longer serves its purpose.

Lewes Community Land Trust said one thing is certain: unless a valid use for the Canon O’Donnell Hall can be found it will continue to deteriorate and become an eyesore.

The Trust believes that the building can and should have a future, and be preserved for generations of Lewes people to enjoy. “That is why we are proud to have played our part in fighting the application to demolish it,” said the Trust’s Anthony Dicks. “Now we would like to open discussions with the present owner with a view to sharing responsibility for maintaining and managing the hall for community use.”

Mr Dicks said the Canon O’Donnell Hall is only one of several buildings and sites at risk in Lewes from “inappropriate development” and that the Lewes Community Land Trust is keen to save for future generations. Others include the former St Anne’s School and grounds and, of course, the Phoenix Industrial Estate.

Mr Dicks said: “Our Trust exists to explore sustainable options for the community to develop and manage sites in Lewes for the benefit of all, where practical preserving the kind of buildings and open spaces that research has shown the townspeople want.”

None of this could be contemplated without funding, he added – and the opportunity will shortly exist for people who care about Lewes to make a financial contribution.

The Trust will create a fund in the near future for the purpose of saving buildings and using them for the benefit of the local community. Lewes Community Land Trust has charitable status and all investments will be protected under and FSA-approved scheme.

If you would like to help, financially or in any other way, see the Trust’s website at www.lewesclt.org/ or call 01273 476510.