Theatre plans for Lewes Magistrates’ Court

Former Lewes Magistrates Court
Former Lewes Magistrates Court

New plans have been submitted to turn the former Magistrates’ Court in Lewes into a ‘centre of excellence in the production of film, theatre and television’.

Mr Sean O’Kane, founder and director of Lewes Rep Theatre (LRT), wants to change the use to ‘Assembly and Leisure’.

LRT’s vision is to turn the present building into a centre for classes, training, rehearsal, performance and production and with the potential to host a wide range of events.

Developer Quora is still committed to bringing the site back into use as soon as possible, with plans being considered by the South Downs National Park Authority.

Mr O’Kane said the building offers possibilities for a variety of uses that respond to pressing community needs.

He said LRT has been approached by a number of established community groups who would relocate if the application was successful.

The Old Magistrates’ Court could accommodate studios, exhibitions, and host events by voluntary organisations.

The site has excellent disabled access and could have crèche facilities, Mr O’Kane said. LRT is now fundraising in order to realise this vision within the community.

Should LRT’s application succeed the next step will be to approach the owners of the building, the Estates Dept. of the Ministry of Justice.

“The Old Magistrates’ Court is solidly built, in excellent condition and centrally located,” said Mr O’Kane.

“It could easily become a valuable resource centre for our community, generate significant levels of full time and part time employment and it would be a ridiculous waste of money, tantamount to vandalism, to demolish it.”

The application, (SDNP/14/03805/FUL) can be seen and comments registered on the SDNPPA website

A public meeting will be held on Monday August 18 at 7.30pm at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes, where Sean O’Kane will respond to questions.

A Quora spokeswoman said: “The principle of a hotel and retail on the site was accepted last year and since then we have worked with community representatives to address the comments on design and we are confident we are close to agreeing a scheme that is right for Lewes.

“Anyone can submit a planning application for any building but if they don’t have ownership or control of the area it will never become reality.

“The applicant proposing a theatre has not contacted us regarding use of the space and has no control over it.

“Quora is the only organisation that does have a contract permitting us to invest in Lewes by developing this site.”