Opinion divided at North Street Quarter meeting

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Developing the Phoenix Estate to create a mixed-use site with housing, employment space and flood defences has been described as a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’.

At the meeting of the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee today (Thursday, December 10), Leader of Lewes District Council, Cllr Andy Smith, urged committee members to approve the North Street Quarter application.

He said: “When Santon first approached Lewes District Council, we could have taken the opportunity to sell this land for a lot of money.

“We made the conscious decision to stay involved so we could work in partnership to produce the best possible development, The scheme delivers 40 per cent affordable housing, the majority of which is in the first phase.”

He added the chance to create a development that wholly serves the people of Lewes is a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ and should be approved without any further delay.

Cllr Smith was one of a number of councillors and members of the public to speak in favour of the proposal at the County Hall meeting,

Cllr Michael Chartier, ward councillor for Lewes Castle said: “The application meets policy requirements. It also meets the 40 per cent requirement for affordable housing. It also provides flood defences, particularly for the Pells area, which without this development would not be protected.

“There is easy access from the site to the town centre. It is the view of the Chamber of Commerce, this would boost economy in the area. I would urge this committee to approve this application.”

Cllr Ros St Pierre, county councillor for Ringmer and Lewes, also supported the application for reasons of improved access into the town for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. She was also supportive of the riverside walk and bridge, which would not only improve the view on that side of the development, but also help residents in Malling become less isolated as it provides them with easy access to a range of new services.

A spokesperson from the Friends of Lewes also spoke in favour of the proposal to ‘regenerate an unattractive brownfield site’ to create an area attractive to visitors.

However, many people also spoke against the proposal. Mayor of Lewes, Cllr Susan Murray, made reference to recent flooding in Cumbria and called for the proposed flood defences to be urgently reviewed. She also argued any new developments in the town should be ambitious, sustainable and zero-carbon , which the North Street Quarter plans do not seem to be.

Cllr Joanna Carter, district ward councillor, spoke on behalf of the creative businesses and youth groups currently based in the Phoenix Estate, which would be ‘lost from Lewes’ if the development was approved. She said out of the 53 businesses there, only two could afford to move to the supposed alternative workspace in Malling Brooks.

She added: “The Santon plan will destroy buildings that are still used and are a statement of the history and heritage of Lewes.”

A spokesperson from Lewes Phoenix Rising added: “I am speaking for the 3,500 supporters who are saying yes to development but want an exemplary scheme.”

She called for Santon and Lewes District Council to talk to and work with LPR on an alternative plan.

The meeting is still ongoing and a decision is due later this afternoon.