YOU are much too kind to Hastings Borough Council in your report ‘New tenant needed for St Mary-in-the-Castle’ and editorial on the issue.
I am leaving, not because my operation is too small and a big business is needed, but because I am utterly disgusted with the way the council has treated St Mary-in-the-Castle, and ourselves.
Let me set the record straight. I won a short-term lease here almost three years ago while the Myplace application was awaiting a funding decision.
This was the result of the building being put out to tender for the first time ever.
I took it in the hope that that unsuitable application would be turned down and I could return the building to long-term use as an arts centre, as so many local people had worked for in the past.
The application process dragged on and was not put out of its misery until last July, my short-term licences by that point had reduced to just two months.
The council cannot understand or appreciate the arts centre here, the people who use it, or the potential for the future which we could offer.
I see four possible scenarios happening to St Mary-in-the Castle:
1) The council already has a preferred bidder lined up, the most likely being Hastings Trust. Whether they could get the grant funding necessary is very uncertain.
2) The council does not have anybody but seriously believe an entertainments corporation would take this on, vanishingly unlikely without a council subsidy. Any corporation that showed interest would probably run a mile when they discover the practical difficulties of running the building.
3) It could become a furniture warehouse or some such.
4) It could be closed down and start deteriorating. An English Heritage grant of more than £100,000 would have to be repaid, much expense would be incurred in officer time, additional insurance premiums etc, and the building would again become very damp and subject to vandalism.
Meanwhile, we will carry on until the end of August as agreed. We have a good programme of events despite everything, and our cafe is open Thursday to Sunday up to Easter, then every day except Monday. Use St Mary’s, and enjoy it, while you can. Meanwhile, perhaps Cllr Birch should consider his position.