Publicans fear Premier Inn could hit trade in Lewes

Lewes Magistrates' Court
Lewes Magistrates' Court
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Local publicans have lodged an objection to plans for a new hotel in Lewes.

Fifteen signed an open letter to the South Downs National Park Authority against Quora’s application at the site of the former Lewes Magistrates’ Court.

The developer is seeking to demolish the existing building in Friars Walk and replace it with shops and a Premier Inn hotel.

An application has been made for an alcohol and restaurant licence.

The publicans fear the plans could put them out of business. Tony Leonard, of The Snowdrop Inn in South Street, is one of those who signed the letter to the authority.

He said: “The national park authority has a duty to protect the local economy and social well-being.

“We believe our pubs contribute hugely to both.”

Ben Ellis, of Quora, countered: “The reality is, with the wealth of excellent local pubs, the majority of which do fantastic meals, people staying at the hotel will use these local facilities to drink and eat, creating more, not less, business locally.

“As I understand it the pubs are not objecting to the hotel element and acknowledge the need for one.”

Meanwhile, Lewes Green Party has written to the authority to strongly object to the development plans.

It claimed the scheme would damage, or even put out of business, existing local and independent traders from B&Bs and pubs to small retailers.

Cllr Susan Murray (Castle Ward) said: “These are the reason people come to visit Lewes and we need to build on this special quirky quality of our town to keep it vibrant, not make it like anywhere in the UK by introducing a bland chain hotel and a bar that would undercut local pubs and source their supplies from elsewhere rather than from the local economy.

“The Snowdrop Inn, for instance, purchases goods and services from more than 80 companies, the vast majority of them local to Lewes.”

Cllr Murray continued: “The proposal promises inward investment, and jobs, the assumption being that money will improve the area, ebentually ‘trickling down’ to those who need it.

“However, the new hotel and retail centre may increase footfall and money spent, but Lewes will see little of it. It will flow straight out again to head offices and shareholders,” she claimed.

Where visitors to the proposed hotel leave their cars is another concern, says Lewes Green Party.

“Parking is difficult in Lewes and we are appalled that the developers appear to believe that customers could just park in the existing – very heavily used – public car park,” said Cllr Murray.

“No permission for a hotel should be given without a cast-iron guarantee that separate parking provision will be made.”

She added: “We do recognise that as a gateway town to the National Park Lewes does need more bed spaces for tourists, but clearly this should not be at the expense of local independent businesses or of destroying the special nature of our town.”