Cabinet agrees plans in response to new working arrangements

With more residents than ever contacting the council online and the majority of staff now working flexibly from home, Cabinet councillors at Lewes District Council have today (3/2/22) agreed to move out of Southover House.

Southover House in Lewes boasts a large reception area and enough office capacity for around two hundred staff, but with new working arrangements in place and proving very effective, the building is significantly under-utilised throughout the week.

Councillor Zoe Nicholson, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance & Assets, said: “It makes no sense to spend money maintaining a council building when there is so little use made of it.

“The world of work has changed in ways that very few people could have predicted and while it took a little time to adjust, that is exactly what has happened and not just in council offices - many of our residents have changed the way they engage with us too.”

The council’s longer-term ambition is to establish a new customer contact centre in Lewes town centre and permanent office space at the former UTC building in Newhaven.

Council officers are also in talks with Charleston in Firle about turning Southover House into a cultural centre to deliver a learning and education programme, modern and contemporary exhibitions, as well as studios, work and social space for the creative community in the district.

Mindful of harder to reach groups in local communities, the new centre would also improve access to Charleston’s growing art collection, provide accessible office space and grow tourism and the creative economy in Lewes town and the surrounding areas.

Councillor Nicholson added: “Our discussions with Charleston are very exciting, particularly the prospect of welcoming a world-renowned organisation to the heart of Lewes and seeing more people than ever enjoy the inspiring cultural experience on offer.”

In the short term the council will share the reception area within County Hall in Lewes and make use of offices within the building – the date for this move will be confirmed soon.