PICTURES: Hundreds march against Phoenix Estate development plans

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Hundreds of people marched down Lewes High Street on Saturday (December 5) to object to the Santon and Lewes District Council (LDC) redevelopment plans for North Street and the Phoenix Estate.

The South Downs National Park will meet on Thursday, December 10 to decide on the planning application to build 416 homes and mixed business and retail space.

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Campaigners say the plans are highly unpopular with local residents and businesses on the estate who believe they will destroy jobs and fail to deliver appropriate housing. A petition objecting to the scheme has attracted more than 3,000 signatures.

Dressed in the colours of the phoenix, children from the many youth organisations based on the estate, including the Dance Academy, the Skatehouse and Starfish Studios, marched alongside representatives of the 53 businesses that also share the site.

Around 450 artists, musicians, carpenters, welders, car mechanics and others presently work on the estate. They are threatened with eviction if the council’s plans are approved by South Downs National Park Authority this week.

Joanna Carter, Green District Councillor for Lewes Bridge, said: “The petition I started calling on Lewes District Council to rethink development plans for the estate has now reached more than 3,000 signatures. This shows the strength of feeling in the town that the Santon plans are just not good enough.

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“As well as the destruction of the creative industries and community space, the plans don’t provide enough homes that people could actually afford to live in.”

A Lewes resident on the public petition said: “The Phoenix Estate is incredibly important to so many people in Lewes. My son helped to build the Skatehouse when he was 11 years old. That gave him and other kids in Lewes a sense of belonging and then a wonderful place to skate in all weathers.

“My daughter is a dancer at the Lewes Dance Academy. This dance school is the most important thing in her life. I know that she and the other dancers feel like this is an extension of their family.

“Having the school where it is means that the dancers can use the space after school without huge amounts of travelling.

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“The whole estate is a hive of industry and creativity which basically sums Lewes up. To destroy this community would destroy the heart of Lewes.”

The Phoenix March started at 10am on Phoenix Place, and walked down the High Street from Westgate car park.

PHOTOS BY JAMES RATCHFORD (www.shootthemagic.com).

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