Judgement day for Premier Inn plan for Lewes

Artist's impression of Premier Inn, Lewes.
Artist's impression of Premier Inn, Lewes.

A controversial scheme to build a Premier Inn in Lewes will be debated by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) planning committee.

In total 100 residents objected to demolishing the former Magistrates’ Court in Friars Walk and replacing it with a 59 bed hotel and shops.

Planning officers at the SDNPA are recommending the scheme for approval, but the planning committee will decide the final outcome on Thursday December 11.

Developer Quora was asked to reassess its designs because the planning committee considered they were not up to scratch when it looked at the planning application in October this year. It was deferred allowing Quora more time to work on the designs.

The hotel plan has caused controversy, raising concerns about the design and the impact on local businesses.

The SDNPA design officer is objecting to the scheme, saying the building was unattractive and failed to replicate classical and geometrical proportions in Friars Walk.

But a Quora spokesperson said: “Local developer Quora has worked hard to finalise the design of the proposals for the former Magistrates’ Court.

“We welcome the SDNPA’s recommendation to approve the scheme and can demonstrate to planning committee members how we have taken on board their comments.

“The Friends of Lewes and Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group have both helped to shape the latest plans and they both acknowledge Quora has made significant changes to the proposed scheme.

“The two reputable, expert-led groups have confirmed they are happy with the scale and massing of the proposed scheme and neither object to the principle of demolishing the former Magistrates’ Court.”

Lewes Town Council is objecting, calling for more evidence that the court could not be converted and saying it was unconvinced there was demand for additional hotel accommodation in Lewes.

The planning officers’ report said the Friends of Lewes objected for a number of reasons, including unresolved overall design issues and the South Downs Society objected due to a lack of local distinctiveness. The development will create 60 jobs. The report said a study in 2009 highlighted a lack of budget hotel accommodation in Lewes.A construction management plan has been accepted in principle, but the SDNPA will secure further details as a condition of allowing the development to go ahead.

The report by SDNPA planning officers said the design was now considered to reflect the local distinctiveness of Lewes, adding conditions would be imposed to secure a high quality finish. The report said the SDNPA design officer and the SDNPA Design Review Panel had concerns over the design and how it interpreted local distinctiveness, but said as noted by English Heritage and the SDNPA Historic Buildings Adviser the proposal had successfully incorporated advice from the consultation process (albeit some was conflicting) and addressed the committee’s concerns.