Hastings cabinet members have agreed to put a listed Old Town building up for sale, although alternative options haven’t been “written off” according to the council leader.
On Monday (October 7), Hastings Borough Council’s cabinet agreed proposals to put the Grade II listed Old Town Hall building in High Street on to the market.
According to meeting papers, the council-owned building has been vacant since October 2018, with the authority looking at significant costs for both day-to-day maintenance and longer term works.
Council leader Peter Chowney said: “We tried for over a year to lease it and find a tenant for it. It is a difficult building to do anything with really and because it is a listed building you can’t divide it up.
“Interestingly, now we have proposed putting it on the market we have now had some interest from several different groups who are interested in potentially renting it. Whether that will come to anything remains to be seen.
“We haven’t written off the idea of leasing it, if somebody does want to do that then we would still be up for that as well.
“It is just that if we can’t find that, then I think our only alternative is to market it, rather than just leave it empty.”
Cllr Chowney added that the decision to put the building on to the council’s disposal register did not mean it would be sold-off immediately. Its status as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) would also prevent this, he said.
As an ACV, any sale would be open to public challenge which could lead to a six-month pause to allow community members to raise funding for a bid.
According to the council, the building needs costly major works to carry on as a rental property in the long term, including redecorations worth around £30,000 and energy efficiency improvements worth around £16,000.
The council says there have also been several incidences of lead theft from the building’s roof and while there is planning permission to replace it with zinc, the cost to do so is likely to come to around £32,000.
While supportive of the proposals, Conservative group leader Rob Lee warned these features may make it difficult to sell on.
Cllr Lee said: “These strings that are attached to it [mean] it is going to be quite difficult to sell. I suspect we may well find it difficult not only to find somebody to rent the building, but also to sell it to.
“[But] in order to perpetuate the purchasing of properties around the town to create rental income and regeneration, we must be looking at disposing of older assets that perhaps don’t provide us with the income stream they should.
“We are not talking about destroying it. What we are talking about relinquishing ownership making use of it so people can enjoy it, rather than mothballing it and having it sit there costing us money.”