It has been described as the largest and most significant potential development the town of Lewes has seen for decades and tomorrow, the final decision will be made on the future of the Phoenix Industrial Estate.
Ever since Santon and Lewes District Council jointly submitted the application to redevelop the area back in March, the town has been divided in three - those in support of the proposed North Street Quarter, those who suggest an alternative plan and those against any development of the site at all.
The application plans to deliver high levels of affordable housing, provide vital flood defences, create a riverside walkway, create flexible employment space, provide additional, off-street parking and a healthcare hub serving 26,000 patients.
A spokesperson for Santon said: “The North Street Quarter will revitalise this brownfield site, creating a smart new gateway into town. The new riverside walk and footbridge along with new through routes will improve access to the area and reconnect it to the town’s social and cultural hub, the historic High Street.
“As well as creating several new attractive public spaces and gardens, the project will also fund improvements to existing play spaces at Pells Park and Malling Recreation Ground.”
While the plans to transform the ‘eyesore’ have been welcomed by many, the proposal doesn’t sit too well with those who currently occupy the estate, including a number of businesses and youth facilities.
Skatehouse, the Dance Academy and Starfish Youth Music, which collectively serve 3,000 users a month aged 2 to 21 years old, are just some of those calling on Santon and LDC to protect their premises on North Street.
Claire Heath, project director of Skatehouse, said: “The current location is ideal as it is easily accessible by public transport. It readily caters for the eight primary schools and two senior schools in Lewes – not to mention the many other schools within the district.
“Losing these services from Lewes would be absolutely disastrous for families, schools and the community.”
Café des Artistes is one of a number of creative businesses, start-ups and social enterprises based within the estate also fighting against the development, as it would mean they have to find alternative accommodation should the plans go ahead.
Christian Thompson, the leaseholder, said: “Santon promised they would offer alternative accommodation to businesses, but they’ve only shown us expensive, unsuitable space in a building that was previously condemned.”
Despite Santon and LDC issuing reassurances that help is available for those businesses unable to afford the rent in alternative spaces, such as Malling Brooks, in the form of subsidise market rents, more than 2,800 people have signed a petition calling on the applicants to rethink the plans.
Started by Councillor Joanna Carter, the petition fears the plans will destroy the unique economic hub of creative businesses and lead to a loss of existing local employment and venue space in the town, including the reusable heritage buildings of the Phoenix Ironworks, without providing the truly affordable housing Lewes needs.
The petition also asks for the applicants to work with Lewes Phoenix Rising, an action group formed of volunteers which has submitted an alternative development scheme to the South Downs National Park Authority.
LPR focuses on retaining and refurbishing some existing buildings, including the ironworks, for low-cost workspace, rather than knocking them down. It also matches the number of houses Santon wants to build - 416 - but has 49 more social-rent homes than the 40 per cent proposed by the applicants.
Santon and LDC submitted an amended plan in October, incorporating feedback from public consultations.
The final decision will be made by the SDNPA’s planning committee on Thursday, December 10 at County Hall, in Lewes. To view the application in full, visit www.southdowns.gov.uk/planning/planning-applications/north-street-quarter-lewes.
Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.
Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.
1) Make our website your homepage at www.sussexexpress.co.uk/
2) Like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Sussex-Express/
3) Follow us on Twitter @sussex_express
4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.
And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!
The Sussex Express - always the first with your local news.
Be part of it.