TRUSTEES of Hailsham Community Hall have applied to the Charity Commission for permission to surrender the lease on the building to Wealden District Council.
Wealden wants to use the building on Vicarage Lane as its new council hub as part of a major scheme to move the council’s offices to a single site.
In return, the district council will pay a one-off cash injection of £600,000 to cover repair work to the hall, to enable it to be used for council meetings as well as providing better facilities for the people of Hailsham.
Due to current low investment returns, the Hailsham War Memorial Institute, which own’s the lease, is unable to finance the replacement of the hall roof and other works needed to bring the hall up to scratch for local groups and residents.
If the Charity Commission agrees to the hall’s Trustees surrendering the lease, renovation and refurbishment work on the Hailsham Community Hall will commence in May.
All current users will need to seek alternative facilities while the work is carried out, which it is estimated could be around 12 months.
“I think this could be a superb asset to the town,” said Hailsham Town Councillor and Wealden District Councillor Geoff Rowe.
“It is a show piece for Wealden District Council and as such they will do it up nicely and the town is going to get the spin-off from it,” he added.
But the scheme has become a hot potato among many of the hall’s users, who are concerned that Wealden will dominate use of the hall which was intended for the community.
Wealden District Council owns the freehold of the land, while the charity, the Hailsham War Memorial Institute Trust, owns the lease on the hall which gives it the right to occupy the building for 124 years.
This week, Wealden District Council confirmed the community would continue to use of the building and there will be a legal agreement to ensure the hall remains available to the community in accord with the original intention of the charity’s gift.
A Charity Commission spokesperson said, “We have been contacted by Hailsham Town Council, as trustees of the War Memorial Institute about their proposal to dispose of Hailsham Community Hall to Wealden District Council.
“Any such disposal would require the Charity Commission’s authorisation.
“Therefore we have asked the trustees for further information about their proposal, which we will then consider.
“As a result we are unable to give an estimation of the time scale at this stage.”