Mayor of Lewes, Cllr Susan Murray, has criticised Lewes District Council for its handling of the New Homes plan.
In a letter to the leader of Lewes District Council, Cllr Rob Blackman, Cllr Murray said: “I am writing on behalf of Lewes Town Council to complain about the totally inadequate advertising of your council’s Lewes new homes consultation session on July 29.
“None of us were aware of any advance publicity for the event, whether in the form of advertising in the local media, posters around town or any kind of leaflet drop.
“Certainly a straw poll of all councillors, coming from every part of Lewes, the following evening revealed not one had received any such leaflet.
“We understand that the event was listed on your website but with no date or time published until 24 hours beforehand.
“ Very few of us have the time or inclination to scour websites on a daily basis just in case something of interest comes up.
“How can you possibly claim to have carried out any kind of meaningful consultation when so few local residents knew it was taking place.
“To hold such an event at the very beginning of the school holidays when many people would be away just seems to further insult the many active citizens of our town.
“Lewes Town Council calls upon Lewes District Council to halt the scheme which has recently come into the public domain to build on a number of community asset sites, and to look again at how to assist in the building of social and affordable housing in Lewes District in order to achieve this without depriving the community of many irreplaceable facilities.
“Local residents, parish councils and ward councillors should be fully included in the discussion about every new proposal.”
In response, Cllr Blackman said: “I know the team working on the project were also surprised there were few people who attended the Lewes consultation event, particularly as it had been advertised in the same way as the events in Newhaven, Seaford and East Chiltington by a leaflet drop of neighbouring properties and on the website.
“I think what we have not explained very well is that we are at the very early stages of the consultation process, which we are using to help shape our proposals.
“This is in advance of the statutory planning consultation process which will be undertaken once the planning applications have been submitted.
“As you will be aware, the Town Council will be a statutory consultee for these applications, but can also get involved during the consultation we are undertaking at present.
“We anticipate the planning applications will be submitted in August 2016 for sites in Lewes.
“We are arranging further rounds of consultation with residents concerning the Lewes sites, which will be in the New Year when more information on proposed designs are available.
“I have asked officers to put together leaflets for each area to explain the New Homes project and the delivery of council-owned affordable homes for local people, the sites and very broadly what our proposals are and the consultation process.
“This will advertise the dates of the consultations for those areas where planning applications are due in for this year, and for those such as Lewes, which are due much later, we have indicated when we anticipate the next consultation will be and direct them to the website for updates.
“We will happily inform the Town Council in advance of when those events take place and of course share the proposed designs.
“There will be third consultation date before the planning application is submitted and then, as I have mentioned, the statutory consultation process.
“The crucial point is that we have opened the discussions with residents and businesses about the sites, the community facilities, received their views and we can now continue with the consultation with them to develop the designs and work out how much needed facilities can be retained.
“The discussions you are calling for have started and I do not believe we should stop them. I also believe we need to work together on delivering much needed homes for the district and 165 council homes – that is good news, we can surely rally around and work out how we overcome residents’ concerns and retain key facilities too.
“I can assure you I would be delighted to work with you and of course we will improve our consultation with residents as we go through this process over the next 12 months.”
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