LETTER: A blot on the landscape

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Sean O’Kane is quite right to draw attention to the unused potential of the former Canon O’Donnell Centre in Lewes, something which I have been doing repeatedly for some time now, but so far without success.

It stands at present as little more than a combination of planning blight and developer stagnation, a blot on the landscape at the Western Road end of the Lewes Conservation Area.

The position is an unfortunate one.

As I understand it, the building was acquired some years ago via a substantial payment for redevelopment as town housing.

Since then, however, successively proposed schemes have all met with refusal on design grounds.

At the same time, pressure has been applied by local conservationists for the building’s retention and preservation, albeit unlisted.

The result has thus been one of progressive inaction, while the building stands empty, boarded up, and unused.

In former times, when Local Authorities had the necessary money and willpower for compulsory purchase of such local landmark buildings for community use and rehabilitation, this deadlock could have been resolved without undue difficulty.

Even now it may not be too late, but action is needed, rather than expressions of pious regret.

The Canon O’Donnell Centre, it seems to me, is eminently suitable for conversion to an Arts Centre capable of accommodating not only rehearsal studios for Lewes Repertory Theatre but also some of the uses being displaced from the Phoenix Ironworks building by the Santon redevelopment scheme.

This is surely something worth aiming for, and finding the requisite finance for, in the Lewes community interests.

As an additional lever, it might even be possible to persuade the Friends of Lewes to turn their attention and energies to such a cause, as a worthy climax to their enabling role in the redevelopment of the former Magistrates Court for Premier Inn purposes.

Michael Parfect,

Cranedown, Lewes