SUBUD Lewes insists site negotiations ended as ‘goalposts were moved’

St Anne's school, Lewes SUS-160217-225206008
St Anne's school, Lewes SUS-160217-225206008

SUBUD Lewes is said to be “greatly saddened” after negotiations fell through on the acquisition of a derelict school in the town.

On Tuesday (April 19), it was announced the contract talks between East Sussex County Council and SUBUD Britain had come to an end after more than three years of negotiations.

SUBUD Lewes say the time was not wasted and the decision to end the proposed deal came after ‘the goalposts were moved’ and costs increased.

In a separate release to the joint statement from SUBUD Britain and East Sussex County Council, SUBUD Lewes said: “The SUBUD Lewes Group is greatly saddened that the lengthy and arduous negotiations between the East Sussex County Council and SUBUD Britain have failed to reach an agreement.

“All parties have worked hard over three years to see this exceptional site retained for community benefit but for many reasons this may no longer be possible.

“The county council originally offered the site as freehold, then changed to 999 year lease, and recently changed it to only 125 years.

“SUBUD Lewes deemed the original change from freehold to a 999-year leasehold was acceptable due to the site’s community asset status and the council’s wish to ensure that the site was indeed developed for community benefit.

“SUBUD Lewes’ intention was to invest up to £2 million into the derelict buildings on the site and to build and refurbish the buildings to supply new halls and meeting rooms for community use.

“Last minute changes of leasehold by the county council to 125 years, together with a requirement to take on the liability to rebuild and maintain a collapsing historic boundary wall, at an estimated cost of £400,000 in addition to our intended £2 million, meant the project was no longer feasible.

“We believe the late and unexpected changes to a very short lease term and restrictive conditions have ultimately made the project unviable.

“A 125-year lease also prejudiced our ability to enter into long term and secure agreements with potential partners such as the youth groups, the community cafe and nursery.

“The SUBUD Lewes group is deeply disappointed that the community plans for St Anne’s and discussions with the Lewes youth may not come to anything.

“We accept there should be affordable housing on the site but under the current government’s ‘Right to buy’ scheme, it is difficult to safeguard this won’t become another high end housing development sold to the highest bidder.

“Lastly we want to express the sincere wish that the site remains mainly an asset for community benefit.”

In response, an East Sussex County Council spokesperson said: “The proposal for a 125 year lease was through negotiations around a management agreement for the site. It was part of the arrangements to be put in place that would ensure the site’s future use as a community asset for the benefit of the wider Lewes community.

“The issue of the retaining wall was identified as part of the normal due diligence work and site surveys that are inherent in property transactions.”

“We will be considering options for the site, taking into account what is in the best interest of the community.”

To view the original statement from East Sussex County Council and SUBUD Britain, click here.

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