You kindly published in the spring my letter calling for quality solutions to the spate of high-profile development proposals in Lewes – with reference in particular to the magistrates’
court building, the North Street quarter and Southdowns Road (alongside the “ski-slope” behind Tesco).
Those who campaigned for the creation of the South Downs National Park, and the inclusion of Lewes within it, hoped that a dedicated statutory authority might contribute to raising standards of design and respect for the town’s special qualities.
Well, perhaps a cautious cheer or two might be in order?
The South Downs National Park Authority, which determines the most important or controversial planning applications, rejected various schemes at Southdowns Road as not good enough for the town and will be
working alongside groups like the South Downs Society and the Friends of Lewes to defend
this position at a public inquiry in March.
Last week the national park’s planning committee unanimously rejected an application to demolish the magistrates’ courts next to Fitzroy House and build a Premier Inn and new shop units on the site – not because they didn’t want to see a new hotel built in the town, but, again, because the submitted plans were not of appropriate quality, looking, in the words of some objectors, like a flat-top box more at home on an industrial estate. Whether we will now see the submission of a revised scheme or an appeal against the decision waits to be seen but let us at least celebrate the moment. Organisations like ours and the Friends of Lewes have fought hard and long to get the best for the town and it is highly encouraging to see the same stance taken by our MP as well as local councillors, residents, groups and businesses.
When there is such wide-ranging concern and consensus about a planning issue, it seems that the decision makers may be listening!
Let us hope that the developers for the North Street quarter, and any others with designs on
the town, recognise the need to raise the bar. An encouraging note has been sounded but the national park authority must keep up the good work.