An ambitious idea to create a central transport hub in Lewes has rapidly captured the public imagination.
The vision for the future centres on ‘double-decking’ the car park at Lewes Railway Station and transferring the bus station to the site.
It was mooted two weeks ago by Lewes Town Councillor Stephen Catlin and will now be the subject of a forthcoming meeting between all the leading players who might be involved.
He has battled to convince the authorities that such an idea is viable.
It would involve adding an additional storey to the existing car park.
Cllr Catlin said this would “at a guesstimate” increase the parking capacity from 400 vehicles to more than 1,000.
“The addition of just a single storey would be no more than 4m high,” he said. “It would be discreet and unobtrusive.
“Such a move would free-up parking spaces elsewhere in Lewes dramatically. It would clear the streets of cars, apart from disabled spaces, and allow for easier movement of traffic where it’s just not wide enough at the moment.”
He said his idea was not a new one. It was first suggested some 25 years ago. “But now the mood and the time are in synchronisation,” said Cllr Catlin. “I’m slightly overwhelmed by the interest shown. We seem to be working towards a common goal.”
He stressed that he did not envisage a full-scale bus station as part of the transport hub, but more an island platform with covered waiting accommodation.
Cllr Catlin’s project took on momentum when Network Rail indicated it could be implemented during rebuilding of the road bridge which connects the railway station to the rest of the town.
“It would give Lewes the benefit of a sophisticated transport interchange and increased room to park elsewhere to serve the town centre,” he added.
Meanwhile, the need for an integrated transport plan for Lewes for the next 20 years has been strongly argued.
Lewes Town Councillor Merlin Milner said: “Now that the railway bridge is finally to be repaired, it is the perfect opportunity for us to collectively look at the county town’s rail and bus provision, road, bicycle and pedestrian traffic routes and parking provision.”
He said Lewes Town Council would be organising a special meeting of its Traffic Issues Working Party with the key providers and local authorities.
He said those who had agreed to attend the meeting were the South Downs National Park Authority, East Sussex County Council, Lewes District Council, Brighton and Hove Buses and Lewes MP Norman Baker.
“The results of this and further meetings will provide valuable information for Lewes’ Neighbourhood Plan which the town council is facilitating,” said Cllr Milner.
He added: “In addition, the forthcoming developments in North Street, the possible developments at Waitrose and the current bus station site must be part of an integrated transport plan that enhances Lewes.”