Concerns have been raised about the condition of St Mary in the Castle given its long term vacancy.
At a full council meeting on Wednesday (January 24), Labour councillor Judy Rogers asked Cllr Julia Hilton, the new leader of Hastings Borough Council, for an update on the condition of St Mary in the Castle and the efforts being made to preserve it.
The landmark venue has been empty since November 2022, when the trust which had been responsible for its management ended its lease with the council.
At the time, the trust had been seeking financial support from the council, saying it had been unable to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and faced significant maintenance costs.
Cllr Rogers said: “This is a very delicate building that has been empty now for the best part of two years.
“Advice given by English Heritage on ancient buildings and listed buildings is that they should be heated to a regular temperature of 15°C in order to keep the building in good order. Unfortunately the boilers have not been working in the building for some years.
“Can she reassure us that the building is in good order and can she let us know what are the plans for the building to keep it operational?”
In response, Cllr Hilton said: “I share, like the rest of Hastings I think, concern [about] how we are going to secure the future of St Mary in the Castle. It is something that we will be getting briefings on very shortly in terms of possibilities.
“I still haven’t had those briefings and I haven’t yet had a chance personally to go and look how the building is doing.
“Obviously it has been empty now for a long time and I think the sooner we can come up with a solution the better. But that is one area where I think we really do need to hear input from cross-party, because I think it is something we all care about.
“That is what one of the new committees of cabinet will be supporting work on.”
The committees referred to by Cllr Hilton were announced in the past week, as part of what the new leader described as a way to “move the council away from a centralised cabinet-based model of governance.”
These four new committees, which will not have direct decision-making powers, will be focused on: the Local Plan; tourism and festivals; climate action; and cultural assets, including St Mary in the Castle.