‘Great dismay’ over gallery’s former home

The old Towner building
The old Towner building

It is with great dismay that I see the old Towner Art Gallery and Local History Museum, a grade 2 listed building, is on the property market yet again.

Eastbourne Borough Council sold the former art gallery by auction to a private developer in 2006, he was granted planning permission for 11 apartments with seven car parking spaces.

However, owing to the economic situation, the building was left and suffered from the elements and vandalism.

In 2009 The Old Towner Project was formed with a main aim of saving this beautiful old building, the gem at the heart of Old Town Conservation Area.

With the help of the council various measures were required of the owner to safeguard the security and fabric of the building but inevitably, neglect meant that the place has continued to deteriorate.

Last summer came the news that the building had been sold and bought by an Eastbourne developer who, we were told, would go ahead swiftly to convert.

However, nothing has happened and now it is advertised for sale once again, this time at a price of £995,00 with other possible uses suggested rather than development!

I have heard that the developer is finding it hard to go ahead with the project, as with construction work, grade 2 listing and the few parking spaces, he cannot make a reasonable profit. 

If two developers have found it impossible to precede what is its future?

Our plan is for a community arts centre for both performing and visual arts.

It would be a centre for the Eastbourne Festival with maybe a café too.

This idea has considerable backing from local people, who want to see the building used and accessible to all; our problem is one of money! While we can find grants and private investors we cannot afford to pay a million pounds, with more finance needed to convert and maintain.

This building is vulnerable while it remains empty. There is a moral as well as financial dilemma here! What is the answer?

Helen Warren, chair of The Old Towner Project, Prideaux Road.