Lewes Phoenix Rising puts forward alternative vision for industrial estate

Artist's impression of the alternative Phoenix Quarter in Lewes.
Artist's impression of the alternative Phoenix Quarter in Lewes.

This is the alternative vision for the North Street Quarter unveiled by Lewes Phoenix Rising this week.

The group aims to renovate the Phoenix Ironworks to provide workspace, and wants to build 50 one and two bedroom homes and work live units, as well as 400 further homes.

View from the river of the Lewes Phoenix Rising scheme

View from the river of the Lewes Phoenix Rising scheme

But developers Santon and Lewes District Council said the North Street Quarter’s economic strategy focused on providing 26,000 square foot of flexible workspace in different sizes, suitable for small, artisan-style businesses.

Sheila O’Sullivan, of Lewes Phoenix Rising, said: “Our surveys have shown that the diverse cluster of manufacturing, cultural, creative and social enterprises currently on North Street use at least 10,000m2 of space.

“But in the Santon/LDC plan, just 1,165m2 is provided specifically for cultural, venue and creative space, and only 300m2 provides the double-height workspace that many of these businesses need.

“The presumption is that enterprises currently on North Street will go to the yet-to-be-built Malling Brooks Industrial/Trade Park or elsewhere in town. But only three or four large businesses have said they can afford to relocate to Malling Brooks.”

The council and Santon said a Section 106 legal agreement would secure capital to subsidise some of this workspace for start ups, which could include some of the existing businesses.

It would be managed by a local social enterprise that ensured the workspace was affordable.

Lewes Phoenix Rising said it wanted to renovate the Phoenix Ironworks to create 7,000m2 of workspace and build 50 one or two bedroom homes or live work units which would be available at social rents.

But Santon and Lewes District Council, which own the land, said they had received several offers to run a social enterprise space and intended to tender this service, if the scheme is approved by the South Downs National Park Authority.

Santon’s scheme includes 400 homes, a large underground car park and mixed-use business space.

Lewes Phoenix Rising is opposing the Santon plans for not assuring sufficient genuinely affordable housing nor providing adequate space for the creative and manufacturing businesses and social enterprises which have developed on the site.

The group’s architectural consultant Alan Thompson, a RIBA chartered architect who has led design review panels for projects including the London 2012 Olympic Games, said: “Keeping these buildings does more than reflect on Lewes’ past, it will allow the town to keep and grow the industry and creativity they house.

“Some can be renovated to house cultural and social enterprises; others are ideal for providing large-scale space for all types of businesses to work side by side, from manufacturing to one-man workshops.

“It’s a really exciting plan. What will make this development unique and valuable to Lewes is working with its industrial heritage – rather than demolishing it to build pastiche constructions with no relevance to the town or useful function as places to work.”

Lewes Phoenix Rising is fundraising to submit an outline planning application for its proposals for the Ironworks area.

Fundraising events include an auction dinner to be held at Pelham House Hotel on 29 May.

To comment on the planning Santon application visit the South Downs National Park’s website.

Buildings on the North Street site will be defended against floods and therefore offer a long-term legacy of commercial activity.

It will deliver 416 new homes, 40 per cent of them (165) affordable, new riverside public spaces and walkways and workspace which can accommodate 475 jobs.

An underground car park will house 330 spaces. Santon said this would make it easy for visitors to walk to the High Street and added access from the Causeway to the site would ensure traffic on the one way system was reduced.

President of Lewes Chamber of Commerce David Clark said: “This is just what Lewes and businesses in the High Street need and we are pleased to see such a large amount of new, purpose-built commercial space being included in the site, which will help existing businesses to grow and will attract new ones to Lewes.”