What now as Canon O’Donnell Centre in Lewes escapes the bulldozer

Canon O'Donnell centre Lewes
Canon O'Donnell centre Lewes

THE future of the Canon O’Donnell Community Centre in Lewes is back in the melting pot after plans to demolish the Edwardian building were dismissed.

On appeal, a Government Inspector has rejected both the bulldoze proposal and the replacement of the landmark structure with three houses and two flats, together with associated car parking.

The controversial demolition plans for the 1907 building were originally turned down in August last year.

The proposal had drawn criticism from The Friends of Lewes, Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group, Save Britain’s Heritage, Lewes Town Council, The South Downs Society and Lewes Coalition.

The appeal was made by Ms Eman Barrakat against the decision of the South Downs National Park Authority to refuse both planning applications.

Inspector Tim Wood concluded that the scheme was unacceptable because of its effects on the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and National Park.

He also said the application would have a detrimental impact on neighbours’ living conditions.

The Inspector noted that the Canon O’Donnell Community Centre occupies a prominent site in Western Road, Lewes.

He conceded that the long-empty building appears to be neglected and in a poor state of repair. But the Arts and Crafts-style structure, notwithstanding the fact that it is vacant and boarded up, was an interesting design. Its prominence meant that it makes a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area.

In dismissing both appeals, Mr Wood said that demolition and replacement with new homes would have an “unacceptable” effect on the locality and the occupiers of the neighbouring property, and would fail to provide accommodation that was well planned. He said: “I have taken account of the marketing of the site and to the costs of refurbishment set out by the appellant. Neither of these matters convinces me that the proposal is the only solution to bring the site/building into beneficial use.”

Now the way is open for the Canon O’Donnell Centre to play a new role in Lewes.