It was standing room only at Lewes Town Hall when concerned residents discussed the proposed demolition of the former Magistrates’ Court and its replacement with a 62-bedroom hotel, with a bar, restaurant and retail units below.
John Curtis, one of the organisers of the meeting, said: “We don’t want the unique character of Lewes destroyed.”
He said the aim was to raise awareness of the proposal by Quora Developments for the site in Friars Walk, to share information and decide what action to take.
“You may see that a number of us here tonight are B&B owners, and while we have obvious concerns about the effect on our small businesses, these go far beyond this,” said Mr Curtis.
Another B&B owner, John Anderson, was the issue was “not all done and dusted”. The planning application will now be considered by the South Downs National Park Authority. He claimed there had not been enough consultation.
Gavin Barker, of Lewes Pound, said local authorities were often “beguiled by the size of inward investment. Big figures make a big impact”.
But often the initial spend is looked at , not whether the money stays and circulates in a local economy. “The kind of investment proposed for Lewes doesn’t have a good track record,” he said. “Premier Inn is a chain probably accmpanied by other chains whose financial firepower can undercut local businesses indefinitely, or at least until the local competition is crushed.
“Local shops are then replaced by other national brands and none of them invests or puts anything back into the local economy.”
Andrew Clarke, proprietor of Potts in Cliffe High Street, said: “As a trader we welcome more shops, but I am totally opposed to the appearance of the hotel.
“We are going to wreck the town if Quora gets away with this. We will have box after box, tacky building after tacky building.”
B&B owner Kay Andrew was concerned about the impact of large lorries that would be going to the site and the parking facilities. “There are only three entrances to the site and the huge tipper trucks that would be used, twice the weight of a double decker bus, will cause bi traffic problems,” she said.
The meeting raised many concerns about the proposed design, flooding, transport, the archaeological heritage beneath the former court, the effect on the economy, increased traffic and a new drinking licence.
Jim Franks, who lives adjacent to the site in Fitzroy House, said: “We will be completely overshadowed. We were told we can make holes in the roof to let the light in.”