Value of St Mary’s Social Centre in Lewes is “immense”


The future is looking good – if not 100 per cent secure – for the St Mary’s Social Centre in Lewes, after last week’s meeting of Lewes District Council’s Cabinet.

The council’s main decision-making body voted to confirm the resolution passed overwhelmingly at the May 8 council meeting that makes it a requirement of any redevelopment of the Christie Road site that the social centre is allowed to continue to function.

As expected, there was one minor amendment made: a clarifying note that said the council’s call for the centre to be allowed to function “without interruption” should be taken to mean that any interruption should be kept “to a minimum”.

Cllr Chris Bowers, leader of the council’s Lib Dem group who had proposed the May 8 resolution aimed at giving the social centre the security it needed, told council Leader Cllr James Page he had to be careful not to undermine the motion passed by 37 votes to none last month.

“We shouldn’t get too precious about the word ‘interruption’,” Cllr Bowers told the meeting, “but the value to the community of the centre is immense, and if you start undermining the ability of the groups that use the centre to function, you will get into a real mess. Lewes cannot afford not to have the St Mary’s Social Centre.”

Cllr Page said he took the point, and the clarification of the word “interruption” was simply to avoid the council “tying itself in knots” before it has a contract signed with a regeneration strategy partner.

The meeting was attended by a number of members of the public, including two representatives from the St Mary’s Social Centre, Chairman Colin Reynolds and Trustee David Hackett.

Mr Reynolds expressed himself satisfied with the outcome, though he said the trustees and users of the social centre should still keep a keen eye on the council’s emerging “regeneration strategy”.

The Christie Road site on which St Mary’s Social Centre stands is one of 49 sites owned by Lewes District Council that it has put out to tender as part of this regeneration strategy.

The inclusion of the site does not mean it will automatically be up for redevelopment, but that is the fear among the centre’s users and local residents.