IT becomes increasingly clear as one passes the sad relic that was the Canon O’Donnell Hall that a sorry state of affairs has been reached, and that the future of this building is now in doubt.
It never was any sort of gracious edifice (indeed the word “gracious” only applies if the word “good” is placed before it), nevertheless as an historic building, even if unlisted, a measure of respect has to be accorded it.
That respect is now being given to it in potential conservation terms by the two authorities concerned, the District Council and the South Downs Planning Authority, who have the final say, unless the developer/owner wins an appeal over the next planning refusal he gets.
I fear that the latter possibility begins to loom large, unless a beneficial use can be found which meets the onerous financial requirement of the building’s renovation.
There is little sign of that at present. It seems more than likely that the developer will go for the planning appeal route, in the hope of getting consent for an overtly commercial redevelopment scheme.
The best way of averting a disaster of that kind would be if he can be persuaded to accept a sensitively designed scheme which actually enhances the Lewes Conservation Area, in architectural and planning terms.
It is to be hoped that the development brief being prepared by the South Downs Authority based on conservation will do the trick, but I remain to be convinced that this will succeed, because of the financial aspects.
I hope I am wrong, but I feel that sooner or later redevelopment of the site will have to be considered.
In that event, I am still of the view that a well designed advisory scheme which respects the site will have to be produced, perhaps via a design competition if all else fails.