Dramatic plans to transform the townscape and tourism of Lewes have been unveiled.
Far-reaching ideas include the creation of an artificial hill, a cross-town tunnel system, the only inhabitable bridge in the UK and a theme park.
They emanate from a new group calling itself A Voice For Lewes and are a response to plans for the Phoenix Industrial Estate. The group says the project will almost certainly change the town forever, but asks: “Does Lewes have to go down this road blindly or could it grow in a way that the people of Lewes will actually like?”
A Voice For Lewes says in an illustrated booklet, which will soon be widely available: “We would like to offer a completely new Phoenix, born out of historic Lewes with its complex twittens rising and falling between wider streets.
“The hill on which it would be built does not yet exist. But this would lift all the homes, shops and workspaces up off the flood plain, leaving the lower area to motor vehicles [car parking] and larger buildings that will not need natural light on their lowest floor. These twittens would cascade through small squares down towards the river where a riverside walk – complete with Britain’s first inhabitable bridge – resplendent with pubs, bars and cafes will lead from Wiley’s Bridge to meet Cliffe High Street.
Elsewhere, the group envisages building over Lewes Railway Station, tracks and platforms, to create a structure that will be level with Lansdown Place and Southover Road. This could include a multi-level car park, entered from the top, shops and a hotel. The station and the High Street could be linked by a wheelchair- and buggy-friendly travelator.
A Voice For Lewes envisages a tunnel system under the town linking the Offham Road (A275) to the A27 Roundabout, the Phoenix Causeway and railway station together with underground parking.
There are also plans to revitalise the once busy High Street beyond The Bottleneck. “Lewes surely needs a reason for tourists to spend time in the western part of the town,” says the group. “It also needs at least one tourist attraction that will appeal to a wider audience than the heritage-seekers who are already well-served.
“Perhaps the answer can be provided by one of our famous forebears – Dr Gideon Mantell. His place in history was secured when he found the first fossilised dinosaur. Our group believe that the time is right to create a state-of-the-art attraction using the same technologies that created Jurassic Park dedicated to Dr Mantell and his dinosaurs.
“It would create a new tourism dimension for Lewes and breathe life back into the western end of the town.”
A Voice For Lewes said its ideas were designed to encourage the people of the town to think about its future and to remind everyone “that we do have a voice and that voice deserves to be heard”.
The group’s booklet says: “If you agree with us that Lewes should not depend solely on the aims of privately funded property developers and that the community should play a wider role in shaping the future of our town, please let us know.”
A Voice For Lewes can be contacted at 98a Queen’s Road, Lewes BN7 2JQ or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
“Waiting to see what the developer plans and then saying ‘we don’t like it’ helps no-one and is a waste of time. Tell the developer, the councillors, the planners what we would wish to see built before it’s too late.”