I attended the meeting of Lewes District Council’s planning committee last week in the hope that a revised bid by developers Arrowcroft Holdings might be reconsidered as a way of regenerating Newhaven.
However, from almost the moment the meeting opened it seemed that the views of an East Sussex Highways officer and his committee were going to take precedence over the needs of Newhaven and its residents.
Indeed, it was apparent that even the improvements to traffic flows and safety from an independent consultant were to be stonewalled by those on the committee who, alongside ESCC Highways, seemed determined that the Asda/Barrett proposal known as ‘Eastside’ should be passed. Under forensic questioning by one or two other members of the committee, some of their arguments soon started to fall apart: while acknowledging there would be extra traffic from both schemes, they had no answer when it was revealed that there would actually be a larger increase in the volume of traffic on to Drove Road and the A259 from an out-of-town store and housing estate than from Railway Quarter, other than that the latter would “cause greater problems.” But these problems could not have been ones solely on the grounds of safety since an independent highways engineer and consultant had already submitted a report to the contrary.
It then transpired that Arrowcroft’s project was also supported by Network Rail’s route enhancement manager for the general improvements that it would bring to Newhaven Town railway station and its setting, and also by Network Rail for the highways improvements that it would deliver including commuter parking and a comprehensive improvement to the interchange.
Further questioning also confirmed that the Port Access Road in its second stage had neither planning permission (it will have to cross two creeks) nor, crucially, the blessing of the Port Authorities who would be in no hurry to fund it , as neither would ASDA nor, for certain, would Barrett. So not only would it need additional funding but its very name is therefore a misnomer in discussing the Avalon bid.
At the end of the meeting the Chair of the planning committee seemed surprised when the votes of the other nine members came out in favour of deferring the Eastside bid by 5 votes to 4.
It seemed for a moment that the majority view of those who had wanted another plan, one which had the potential to have transformed Newhaven from the centre, giving residents an attractive area which they might actually prefer to live in and look at, would be given another chance. But, of course, I should have known that after all these years a matter of a two month deferral would be out of the question.
The Chair, who incidentally had voted against a housing scheme for the elderly in her constituency of Chailey, then cast her own vote which overturned the decision of the other nine councillors because hers was in this case the casting, or phantom, vote: a vote which may have miraculously changed the outcome for all who live in Newhaven.