Protests over arts centre facing the axe

A protest march to save the Arts Lodge in Portsmouth. Front, from left, Charles Harris, founder Mark Lewis,cafe manager  Alison Brett and Megan Linford. 

Picture: Sarah Standing (160921-4987)
A protest march to save the Arts Lodge in Portsmouth. Front, from left, Charles Harris, founder Mark Lewis,cafe manager Alison Brett and Megan Linford. Picture: Sarah Standing (160921-4987)
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AN OUTPOURING of support has been shown for an arts centre facing the axe.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition to save the Arts Lodge after Portsmouth City Council gave it eight months to vacate its Victoria Park base.

The authority wants to replace the centre with a cafe run by adults with disabilities.

Mark Lewis, from Art and Soul Traders, which runs the centre, said the eviction would not only leave them homeless, but it would leave them bankrupt as it cannot reclaim any extra paid rent or take on any paid work while they are in dispute.

Yesterday, about 40 people attended a protest outside the civic offices while a meeting took place between Mr Lewis, councillors and council officers. But no resolution was found and Mr Lewis vowed to fight on.

He said: ‘It is an attack on the lodge that will leave us bankrupt. We have created this centre over 16 years and we will not be bullied into being evicted.’

At the meeting, Mr Lewis was offered alternative locations at the former parking office at the Isambard Brunel multi-storey car park on Alec Rose Lane, and a property in Limberline Spur, but he said these were not suitable.

Mr Lewis, who redeveloped the lodge as it was derelict when he took over, said he would be instructing lawyers and starting a crowd-funding campaign to help him fight the council.

He said: ‘People realise what is really going on – that it is community versus corporation.

‘The council has a masterplan and we are not included in it.’

Council leader Donna Jones said there was a plan to regenerate the Victoria Park area. She said the lodge building would play a vital part, and would enable the authority to save money as the park maintenance and animal care would be run from the building centre too.

To sign the petition go to change.org/p/portsmouth-city-council-save-portsmouth-arts-lodge