LETTER: This has been a complete debacle

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St Anne’s school was much loved and appreciated in Lewes. But now its beautiful leafy site lies neglected and ignored whilst negotiations over its future grind almost to a standstill.

This 4.5 acre site had been zoned residential by LDC in their core strategy before ESCC was persuaded to sell it as a community asset transfer in 2011.

Subud Britain was chosen as the lead bidder despite putting in the lowest tender, a derisory £400,000; property prices have risen substantially in the intervening years since Subud Britain began their protracted negotiations in July 2013.

I think this whole proposed deal should be reassessed. Kevin Foster, chief operating officer at ESCC said on 18 Jan 2016, ‘I can confirm that the lease has not been signed to date’.

Meanwhile we, the community are continuing to pay for maintenance, upkeep and security on the neglected site and buildings, as well as the cost of paying the negotiating officers involved in the bid process.

Frankly this has been a complete debacle. The Scrutiny Board set up by ESCC in the face of sustained community outrage at the choice of Subud Britain’s bid was nobbled by Becky Shaw, CEO of ESCC from the outset. It was allowed only to provide suggestions for future deals rather than to change or inform the original decision.

Front line services are being severely cut by central government’s ‘austerity’ measures.

Increased council taxes are inevitable and LDC is scrambling to find land to build houses on. Community infrastructure is fraying at the seams. Yet still the decision to sell St Anne’s cheaply so that Subud Britain can build a national headquarters, a place of worship with rooms to be let at commercial rates, is left on the negotiating table.

There could be Lewes families living on the St Anne’s site by now!

The main reason for choice of winning bid was that it was unconditional and fully financed.

In practice the extraordinary length of time that it has taken to complete shows that it was neither. Either the YMCA or the LCLT bid would have been at least as safe in terms of risk as the preferred bid.

I wish to call on the ESCC to restart this whole process that has been so mired in controversy, in a more transparent way.

This community needs homes desperately; building them on St Anne’s 4.5 acres is a no brainer. As the tender for bids was ‘informal’ it would seem that ESCC can pull out of these stale mate negotiations without penalty.

Rita Ellis,

Lewes