Lewes MP Norman Baker calls for transparency on St Mary’s Social Centre

St Mary's social centre petition, Lewes
St Mary's social centre petition, Lewes

Lewes District Council need to publically and transparently state its intentions for St Mary’s Social Centre, said MP Norman Baker.

Over recent months, speculation about St Mary’s has been rife, with many residents concerned about its future and particularly rumours that it might be demolished and redeveloped with up to 14 properties on the site.

The speculation has resulted in a petition in support of the centre garnering some 4,000 signatures.

The Lewes MP initially raised his concerns about speculation on the site’s future with Nilam Popat, Corporate Head Communities and Enterprise, in October last year.

In response to Mr Baker’s concerns, Ms Popat stated: “Currently there are no plans for the future of the centre and the organisation has a lease until 2022.”

However, she further stated that the council is reviewing its assets.

The position of the council was reiterated by its Chief Executive, Jenny Rowlands, in a conversation with Mr Baker in November last year.

She informed the local MP that the council was compiling a comprehensive list of assets with a number beingput out for expressions of interest, but no conclusions should be drawn from any particular site being on the list.

In light of the ongoing concern, Mr Baker has written again to the Chief Executive to call on the council to “state publically, once and for all, what it intends to do with the site and to state explicitly that it has no intention to demolish this important community asset for redevelopment”.

The MP said: “I understand that the council needs to keep its assets under review and I am comfortable with the council undertaking such an assessment, but it is clear that local residents are very concerned that everything might not be above board.

“It is all well and good stating that the lease does not expire until 2022, but as long as there is a break clause, and the council is not saying it will not use it, the 2022 date has no real relevance.

“What the council must do, and this is what I am asking its Chief Executive to do, is to state publically and clearly what it intends to do with the site.

“If it does not intend to facilitate in any way its demolition or sale then it needs to say that publically and explicitly.

“If the council does not intend to break the lease, providing this public promise should be no problem at all.”