St Mary given green light to hold events

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THE COUNCIL has rushed through an interim licence to allow events to be held next month at the iconic St Mary-in-the-Castle venue.

On Monday, members of the cabinet voted unanimously to approve the licence to Buckswood School.

This will allow the new managing director of the venue to run events at the Grade II listed building.

Buckswood School applied for charitable status in November and was expecting the go-ahead last month.

Ms Ashdown was keen to have charitable status in place in time for the inaugural event on March 23 which is the album launch of local artist Otti Albietz.

But three months later, Ms Ashdown is still waiting to hear the results of the application.

The Guestling-based private school was granted permission to take on the lease of the Pelham Crescent building in December and run it through a charitable trust.

The school aims to establish the building as a cultural destination for the south east but also as a community asset with a wide range of uses.

Funded and supported by the school, the trust will be made up of 11 trustees, each with their own portfolio, including arts and culture, education and youth, business development and communities.

Buckswood intends St Mary-in-the-Castle to be used by the whole community. It will focus the venue, youth and education, performing arts, community groups together, external investment and the cafe and exhibition space.

Leader of the council Jeremy Birch told the meeting: “We just want to get on with it.

“There is a programme of activities and they need to go ahead.

“In essence this licence allows the trust to implement it and really get going.”

Ms Ashdown told the Observer: “With no guarantee that the Charity Commission would review and approve our application quickly, it was felt that an interim measure was needed.

“So the council kindly agreed to a tenancy of will between themselves and Buckswood so we could get in there and start the necessary building work and confirm the provisional events that we have had queries about. At the same time the charitable trust status application would be being processed, and when approved the ten year lease would be signed.”