An old building in the centre of Uckfield faces a new era.
The Hub, next to Luxford Car Park, has been at the heart of providing help for people in Uckfield and the wider area for many years.
Last month, Citizens Advice moved out to a new home at Uckfield public library.
The Hub is now empty but the adjoining building is still occupied by Uckfield Baptist Church.
The whole site is owned by Uckfield Town Council and town clerk Holly Goring told this website:
“Our tenants who occupy The Source (Uckfield Baptist Church) are under a lease agreement with the town council and will continue to occupy under the terms of the agreement.
“At present, the town council has not taken any decisions on the work required to The Hub, The Source or the future of the site longer term, and continues to work closely with its tenants to support them with their day-to-day work and the support they provide to the town’s residents.”
Controversy when Tesco eyed property
The buildings in Civic Approach, next to the Luxford Field car park, form part of many Uckfield people’s young history and were at the centre of an outcry more than a decade ago when it emerged a deal was being cooked up to sell the property to Tesco.
Uckfield Town Council worked towards the end of 2007 to secure the premises to provide for what it then called a “thriving community centre in the heart of Uckfield, forming a base for local voluntary bodies to provide facilities for youth and adults alike”.
A ‘child of World War 2’
Many Uckfield people will have fond memories of the building as a youth club, although it has had a number of uses since it was opened in 1945.
The property was built by the Board of Education (a function now undertaken by East Sussex County Council) to meet what was described as a “long-felt need for the town” and opened as a youth club just before World War 2 ended.
In the subsequent 75 years, as well as a youth club, the buildings have housed classrooms and were used at one time as a training centre.
Town council won fight to buy property
In 2007, a storm broke out around the future of the building.
At this time – before the financial crash in 2008 – retail was booming.
Tesco was looking to expand its Uckfield store and came up with an all-embracing plan for the town centre.
It was widely believed the supermarket giant wanted to purchase the property to make a new access to an expanded store.
Fight for open-market sale
Cllr Paul Sparks, now on the town council, was a county councillor at the time and was a leading opponent of what at the time appeared possible – a “behind-closed-door’ sale to Tesco.
Protests, including those from Cllr Sparks, led to an open-market sale of the property by tender.
Even that did not clear the way for the buildings to remain for community use.
Uckfield Town Council did not make the highest bid. That came from a developer with a plan for retail and homes.
However, the town council’s bid was accepted by East Sussex County Council and the premises passed into the town’s ownership early in 2008.
The property, which comprises two wings with a small linking section used as an entrance lobby, was initially envisaged for providing facilities for young people.
Uckfield, like most towns at the time, suffered from anti-social youth culture which thrived on under-age drinking and a lack of place to go at night.
The facility was aimed at mitigating the problems by establishing a night culture which did not rely on alcohol for its entertainment.
Research by the town council found a number of organisations which felt they had potential to offer something to the youth of the town but had not permanent base.