New tenant needed for St Mary-in-the-Castle

20/7/11- Barbara Rogers outside St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings
20/7/11- Barbara Rogers outside St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings

THE businesswoman running St Mary-in-the-Castle will leave in the summer when her contract ends and a new tenant is being sought by the council.

Barbara Rogers, together with a small team, has managed the iconic seafront building since March 2009 for various events and concerts.

The Grade II listed church building’s future was thrown into doubt last July when Hastings Trust’s multi-million pound Myplace bid from the Government was turned down.

The charity wanted to turn St Mary-in-the-Castle into a youth hub.

Following the news Ms Rogers and Hastings Borough Council (HBC) hammered out an agreement, meaning she will be running the cafe and venue until August 31 this year.

The council has now formally begun its search for new tenants for St Mary-in-the-Castle to continue running it as an arts venue.

Ms Rogers said: “I will not be applying because the council is looking for big organisations to take on a 25-year lease. What we have been doing is keeping the place warm, paying the rates and slowly building St Mary-in-the-Castle up as a venue.

“It’s quite a big risk for the council and a shot in the dark because if no one comes forward the place will have to close. It’s a distinct possibility.”

She said the biggest difficulty she has had is booking regular events, especially annual ones, because of the uncertainty surrounding St Mary-in-the-Castle in the past, especially the constant delay over the Myplace bid.

Councillor Jeremy Birch, council leader, said: “Barbara Rogers and her team have done a great job making this beautiful Georgian building available as a community facility.

“They will remain in the building until the end of August and it will be business as usual until we have made our final decision.

“We are putting the lease out to tender to make sure we get the best value for money and to hear ideas on how to make even better use of St Mary-in-the-Castle.”

The council is looking for several requirements to running the building. It must be available to the community for a minimum of 100 days every year and occupiers must respect and maintain the former church’s fixtures and fittings.

The structure dates back to the 1820s and many of the original features still remain, including the pew boxes and painted support pillars.

First stage proposals will be accepted from the end of March and further information is available from commercial property agents Dyer and Hobbis on 01424 423626.