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Council may pay pub chain to take on De La Warr

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Plans to sell Bexhill's De La Warr Pavilion to a high street pub chain are in doubt after property experts have warned that the building is worth nothing to most commercial operators.

Pub chain JD Wetherspoons will decide later this week if it will make an offer on the Grade I-listed Modernist landmark. But it is unlikely to make a cash bid, a source close to the deal said: 'The chain is struggling to put any price on this at all. The council may even have to pay them some money to take it on.'

The Pavilion's annual maintenance costs run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and its listed status will make it very expensive to adapt to a pub, he added.

It is currently in use as a public gallery, theatre and restaurant.

The building's owner, Rother District Council, has suspended applications for lottery funding to complete its refurbishment programme while it seeks a private partner.

John McAslan and Partners has already spent £2.5 million in Heritage Lottery money on refurbishing the building and a similar amount is needed to complete the job.

McAslan plans to extend the building and refurbish the entrance halls. This contract could depend on whether the council finds a commercial partner or if it reverts to lottery funding.

Although he would not condemn or back the council's plans, McAslan said: 'It's a public building and it would be nice to see it completed in the same spirit.'

The plans to sell off the Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff-designed building have particularly angered conservationists.

Twentieth Century Society consultant director Ken Powell said: 'I'm very gloomy because the council is taking a reverse direction to McAslan's work and the Pavilion management's efforts to broaden its appeal. I think a commercial operator would find it very difficult to adapt because every texture must be preserved inside and out.'

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