Plans for hotel on Lewes Magistrates’ Court site deferred

An artist's impression of what the hotel and shops development could have looked like

An artist's impression of what the hotel and shops development could have looked like

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In a surprise move, planners yesterday (Thursday) deferred making a decision on an application to demolish the old Lewes Magistrates’ Court and replace it with a Premier Inn and shops .

The planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority went against officers’ recommendations to approve the proposal, deciding the design of the building did not meet expectations.

While campaigners from Save Lewes Architecture were pleased the protests of residents had been listened to, developer Quora told the Sussex Express it would not be making a comment on the deferral at this stage.

Quora aimed to build a 59-bedroom hotel with a restaurant on the second and third floors of the Friars Walk building.

The ground floor would comprise either one or a mixture of retail, financial and professional services, a restaurant or cafe, a non-residential institution or assembly and leisure uses.

While the ground floor would have been predominantly glazed, the upper floors would have been blue/grey brick with clay tile hanging facing the car park, a natural slate roof and flintwork at key points.

The hotel would have been accessed from the south-eastern corner of the building facing the car park.

Lewes residents hired a minibus to get to the Midhurst meeting venue and operated car shares.

Several, including members of Keep Lewes Lewes and Save Lewes Architecture, spoke of their concerns, including the building being out of scale, the ‘unattractive’ design detracting from the character of Lewes and the cultural heritage of the national park, the fact it was a ‘grey mass’ and transport issues.

Vic Ient, of Save Lewes Architecture, asked the committee to delay consideration of the application until the plans from the Lewes Repertory Theatre were tabled or refuse it.

After the meeting he said: “They have been asked to improve the design significantly.

“All the hard work of the residents of Lewes writing letters criticising the design of the building has worked.

“The designs they have come up with [including the drawing on the front page] were called optional sketches by Quora.

“So many issues were raised by the committee , including the grey mass of the bricks, the bland shop fronts and the listed building next door. Now we move on and wait to see the new designs.”