RYE’S hard fought battle for Lion Street has taken nearly two years but with contracts finally signed on July 18 the future of the FE Centre has been secured for the local community.
The Lion Street building now has a bright future as an arts centre, theatre amnd cinema, while part of it will be used as a ‘church hall’ for nearby St Mary’s.
Sussex Coast College Hastings (SCCH) had planned to sell the site to developers but a campaign supported by Rye residents and Rye Town Council managed to overturn their planning application.
On July 19, Mike Eve , Chair of Fletcher in Rye community interest company, was handed the keys by Phil Barnes of SCCH.
The FE Centre section will now be used by St Mary’s. The rest of the site - The Old Library, Art Room and Link Building - will be developed by Fletcher in Rye who this week unveiled exciting plans for a two screen cinema.
Hugh Kermode, from the Fletcher Group said: “It’s been a long road and behind the scenes there has been a lot of activity and negotiation.”
The Rector of St Mary’s, Canon David Frost said: “It’s great that at last we have the keys to the Centre and in the next few weeks we will be working hard to try and ensure we are open for business in September.
“We haven’t finalised a name for the building yet, but whatever it ends being called, it will be there for the church and the wider community.”
There was widespread anger in Rye when the College wanted to sell the site as housing development land.
The FE Centre building was donated to the town for community use more than 100 years ago by former Rye Mayor Charles Meryon. It was widely used by local groups.
Funds for the purchase were raised by Fletcher in Rye CIC with generous donations from individual supporters.
After several months of discussions, Fletcher in Rye CIC and established Hawkhurst cinema Kino Digital have announcd they are working towards creating a two screen cinema on the site.
A new 120-seat cinema will be built in- between what was the FE Centre and the Library and a more flexible auditorium seating up to 45 people will be created in The Art Room.
The old Library will provide front of house facilities including a licensed café-bar/brasserie and a large terrace.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Fletcher in Rye and Kino Digital whereby the Kino will become an investor in the project and operate the venue.
Mr Kermode said: “Now the task of raising £750,000 for the development starts.
“Planning Permission will be sought from Rother District Council - who have been consulted along the way. Rye’s Jonathan Dunn Architects are preparing drawings and models
“Some repairs are needed as the site has been left unattended for 18 months, but as soon as these are made Fletcher will be holding an open exhibition of the plans.