‘Why not keep Hailsham centre so people can enjoy it?’

laurence keeley from herstmonceux ENGSUS00120130314105405
laurence keeley from herstmonceux ENGSUS00120130314105405

There are dozens of possible uses for a building which used to house a Hailsham day centre, a county councillor claims.

Cllr Lawrence Keeley, UKIP member for Hailsham and Herstmonceux, is calling for a re-think on the potential sale of the Firstfields Resource Centre in London Road.

The building was declared ‘surplus to the county council’s requirements’ at a meeting on June 17 and members approved a motion to dispose of it. It was agreed that authority should be delegated to the council’s chief operating officer to agree final terms of the sale.

The Firstfields Resource Centre - a former barracks - used to house a learning disability day service plus adult social care offices and meeting rooms. After consulting users, carers and staff the council agreed these functions should be relocated to Linden Court, Eastbourne. The Firstfields Centre closed on July 13 last year.

But Cllr Keeley opposes the sale. He told the Gazette, “I would like to look over it in some detail and I am already seeking people who might be able to take advantage of the existing building. What about, for example, the Hailsham Foodbank, providing music tuition or possibly an older people’s lunch club? If there is anyone out there who feels they can use it, please contact me on: 01323 832660. I’d be pleased to hear from them.”

But Hailsham mayor, Cllr Jo Bentley explained, “The county council have explored every possible avenue and it’s not really suitable for any other use.

“It’s vital that local authorities make the best use of any resources they have. Also - I am not sure I believe it is right to separate people with learning disabilities from the rest of the community. We have moved on from hiding people away in some sort of commune. Whatever their problems, people need to join in with society and live where we all live.”

The centre was acquired from The Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association in May 1960. The site is about 0.355 hectares and comprises a part two-storey barracks building dating from the 1920s providing about 870 square metres of accommodation with parking for about 20 vehicles.

Buildings immediately at the back are occupied on a freehold basis by South East Coast Ambulance Service which enjoys a right of way over the site.

Local members were consulted and none opposed the disposal of the site.