Better option for Newhaven Quay

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I LIVED in Denton in the ‘60s and have had strong family ties to Newhaven since childhood. My wife is a born and bred Newhaven girl.

I joined Newhaven Urban District Council in 1964 initially to design roads, sewers and land drainage schemes ahead of the Avis Way industrial development and was subsequently involved in housing, industrial and highway design in the area until 1974.

I have been saddened by the decline of the town and have great interest in its regeneration, thus I visited the exhibitions and presentations by the three developers and wrote to the Planning Authority during the consultation period.

It was obvious that three new food supermarkets would not be necessary or sustainable and rather than regenerate, would accelerate the further decline of the town centre.

Since the initial presentations, the Cross Stone Parker Pen proposals have been withdrawn, which is a shame as a number of interesting and innovative elements were offered, including bringing back into use some of the emotive Parker Pen buildings. This scheme would not have assisted directly with town centre regeneration, but could have enhanced the local facilities, without being in conflict with existing town centre businesses.

Subject to a limit of only one food supermarket, all three schemes contained much of merit and it would have been a useful exercise to bring all the interested parties together to explore the feasibility of one cohesive proposal for all three sites.

Regretably this does not appear to be an option and may never have been, given the different priorities and funding of the developers.

Recent correspondence seems to query the validity of the approval for the Asda/Barratt scheme and while I am clearly not aware of the details of the planning committees discussions, believe the change of land use from industrial to housing was not in question, there being many empty industrial units and vacant sites in Newhaven. The approval decision was probably more to do with limiting further delay on this application, as the Arrowcraft Railway Quarter scheme could not be progressed simultaneously due to highway design considerations.

It must assumed there is a proven need for additional housing with the small linked industrial and supermarket development at East side, but as this is in effect ‘out of town’ development, the town centre would not be greatly harmed by the Asda store. Suitable landscaping could present a pleasing soft edge to the boundary when viewed from the A 259.

Having read some of the new planning submission papers for the Arrowcraft scheme, I have serious reservations about some proposals and concerns on the effect to the existing town centre outlets from this ‘near to town’ scheme. The Co-op stores survival must be in doubt.

Highway matters now being resolved, the application can be considered on its merits and there is no doubt that the western elevation of the harbour quayside and buildings would be greatly enhanced, to the benefit of the town and the impact on visitors.

This scheme has much merit, but its centrepiece food supermarket, of whatever flavour, would have a detrimental effect on the town centre. A better option may be smaller retail outlets in one supermarket style shell, to include electrical and white goods, clothing, hardware/DIY ,etc, none of which would conflict seriously with other town centre traders.

A major structure at this location is necessary to provide impact to this frontage and help upgrade the visual amenities of the area.

Reference to the restoration of the listed buildings is of some concern, as in reality it may well become a holding conservation scheme, merely to protect the buildings from further decay until, at some future time, a developer is interested in speculating on restaurants, cafes and shops. The proposed fuel station is sited in almost the same location as a previous Shell facility, which closed in the late ‘60’s due, I believe, to underground tank instability. This facility would be of benefit only to dock ferry traffic, as the area could not support a fourth.

It is a shame that the iconic ‘shear legs’ have gone along with the huge rail mounted dockside cranes, as these in many ways were the identity of Newhaven and were visible from afar.

Today, such examples of historic industrial items would be preserved by heritage or lottery funding and environmental contributions from the developer and integrated into the Railway Quarter, giving this great little town a visual identity again. At present its identity is linked to a hideous mis-located structure called an Energy From Waste Facility!

Perhaps with some original thinking and determination, a replica ‘shear legs’ could be acquired or fabricated and a suitable dockside crane found and installed as static features. Lastly, there seems to be some doubt concerning the old engine sheds listed status, but it is surely worth retaining for possible future use as a heritage museum, illustrating with suitable major exhibits, the towns railway, fishing and cross channel ferry history, around which it grew up.

R J Bone, Seaford