Plan emerges to use School Hill House in Lewes as part of boutique hotel

Lewes House (left) and School Hill House (right).
Lewes House (left) and School Hill House (right).

The concept of a boutique-style hotel at the former Lewes District Council offices on School Hill has developed further.

It has been suggested that such a scheme should also include School Hill House, which stands next door.

The two historic properties are separated by the twitten Broomans Lane.

School Hill House is also owned by the district council and is currently home to a medical practice.

It is understood this would move to a state-of-the-art premises within the planned North Street Quarter development if the hotel idea progresses.

Cllr Rob Blackman, the Conservative Leader of the council, said: “We’ve done our homework and we know that for Lewes House to become a hotel it would need to be of a certain size.

“We have known for some time that to work as a hotel, School Hill House would have to form part of the infrastructure.

“Any diligent council would explore all of its options whilst remaining sensitive to the building itself and its place in Lewes’s history.”

Cllr Blackman continued: “Lewes District Council needs to become financially self-supporting as we move towards 2017 and therefore we must look at ways of maximising revenue.

“A hotel owned by the taxpayer but operated by a skilled and successful operator would help us to do this; the more of this type of activity we engage in the more we can control our own destiny and keep council tax low.

“It would simply be a dereliction of our duty if we didn’t investigate all options but as I’ve already gone on record as saying, we would make sure that full consultation takes place.”

The Lib Dems on the council are fiercely opposed to the boutique hotel concept, believing Lewes House should be preserved for the community as a key cultural asset.

Meanwhile, Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe (Independent) has called for Thebes – the former stable buildings serving Lewes House – to be returned to public use as an art gallery.

She said: “I feel that if there are proposals to turn Lewes House, with or without other buildings, into hotel accommodation, with the capital receipt to be used for some much-needed purpose like building new social housing when the waiting lists are at an all-time high, then, having moved all of the officers to Southover House very likely with this or similar purpose in mind, these proposals should be very seriously examined.

“However there are some important things to be considered, not least the fate of Thebes, created as an art gallery space in 2000 and lost again in 2008.”