Council hits back over lodge claims in court

Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council
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THE council has hit back over the repossession of the Arts Lodge after Mark Lewis claimed in court the leader ‘told lies’.

Council leader Councillor Donna Jones was yesterday accused in court by Lewis of lying in the run-up to the eviction on February 7.

But the council, which has always disputed Lewis’ account of events, said it had given him plenty of notice.

A Portsmouth City Council spokesman said: ‘Mark Lewis was given more than eight months’ notice advising him the lease would expire on Sunday 5 February 2017.

‘Repeated efforts were made offering alternative premises, and we urged him to get in touch because the lease expiry was fast approaching.

‘Mark Lewis was fully aware that we had planned to take back the property and we had asked the keys to be returned because renovations to the lodge were due to get underway shortly.’

The spokesman added the council had ‘hoped to avoid any confrontation and resolve it amicably’.

Art and Soul Traders, later a community interest company, signed a 10-year lease in December 2012 with the council.

In May 2016 the authority wrote to Lewis saying it would activate a five-year break clause.

Lewis met with the council repeatedly to discuss alternatives and was told the lease would expire on February 5.

The court heard yesterday that he and Alison Brett thought they would be given a monthly rolling contract and would not have to move out.

The council said it had sent repeated emails urging them to arrange alternative accommodation.