Canon O’Donnell - is this the end for the centre?

It seems likely to me that we are seeing now the death throes of the Canon O’Donnell Centre in Western Road, Lewes, an impression I gain every time I pass it by.

Nothing whatever appears to be happening to revive this unfortunate relic from the past, or to rescue its important site from decay and ultimate dereliction.

After receiving several refusals of planning consent for demolition of this unlisted building for redevelopment as housing, on grounds of poor design principally in a Conservation Area, the developer / owner seems to have given up the attempt, and resigned himself to letting the building rot.

My earlier suggestion of partial conservation ie.of the north wing facing Spital Road, and replacement of the southern part facing Western Road by an appropriate new design, possibly via a design competition, creating a suitable new use on the site, appears to have been ignored.

All we are left with is a miserable architectural relic, with apparently no future as it stands. It seems a classic case of blunt and immoveable commercial pressure up against implacable conservation neutrality, with no positive or constructive way forward in sight. The owners might justifiably be forgiven for serving a purchase notice on the South Downs National Park Authority as the responsible body in respect of loss of beneficial use and reduced value of the site.

The residents of that part of Western Road in close proximity to the site might also claim loss of amenity and of rateable value, due to the prolonged decay and progressive dereliction of the site. No doubt however these would both be argued against by the relevant planning lawyers, in their restrictive way.

The entire situation unhappily reflects no good light whatever on this prominent part of Lewes, and the moralistic aspect should therefore be

taken into account alongside of any legalistic or commercial aspects that might be brought to bear on the matter.

Michael Parfect

Lewes