St Mary-in-the-Castle closure fears allayed

Barbara Rogers outside St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings
Barbara Rogers outside St Mary-in-the-Castle, Hastings

THE future of St Mary-in-the-Castle has been secured - at least for another year.

Barbara Rogers, the businesswoman currently keeping the iconic building open with a café and management of event bookings, feared the venue would close at the end of next month after ambitious £4.25million plans to transform it into a youth hub failed.

But she, together with council bosses, hammered out an agreement this week where she will continue to run St Mary-in-the-Castle until the end of August 2012.

The news spells the end of months of uncertainty for Ms Rogers amid the constant delay over whether the Myplace bid had been successful or not.

Councillor Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “I am very pleased that we have been able to agree terms with Barbara to allow her to continue to manage St Mary-in-the-Castle until the end of August next year.

“I know that events are planned well in advance, and this will ensure that this wonderful building sees continued use over the coming months.

“Between now and then we will be marketing the premises with a view to seeking an operator who will give St Mary-in-the-Castle a sustainable future.

“At this stage it is not possible to say what sort of bids we will receive, but I am looking forward to expressions of interest that will keep public access and performance opportunities as significant elements.”

Hastings Trust wanted the multi-million pound Myplace bid from the Government as part of an attempt to keep the seafront concert hall open.

But the charity was dealt a blow last Wednesday (July 20) when it was told by letter that it had been unsuccessful.

Ms Rogers said: “I am very pleased that we can continue to manage this fantastic facility until the end of next summer at least.

“It has been very difficult to plan ahead with the uncertain future the building had and we can now take regular weekly and monthly events.

“I have already got a couple of bookings for the autumn.

“We will now work hard to ensure that we continue to give this town first-rate entertainment as well as being a resource for educational and community use.

“We have some work to do to achieve this but I am very optimistic we can.”