Phoenix has put Lewes on the map

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I am writing to express my deep concern about the proposed development by Santon.

I’ve lived in the Lewes area since 2003 and in the town itself since 2011, and I work in Lewes as a counsellor.


The Phoenix Estate currently provides 450 jobs for local people, and most of those jobs will simply disappear. Three of the larger businesses will relocate to Malling Brooks, and a tiny space will be available on the site, equivalent to the Needlemakers. This represents a huge economic loss to the town.


Affordable housing at 80% of market rates is not affordable housing. The Santon development is hopelessly inadequate and fails to offer housing at rents that ordinary people can afford.


Lewes is currently punching way above its weight culturally, and this is mainly due to the Phoenix area. Many people look at the unprepossessing exterior and have no concept of what these buildings are bringing to Lewes.

I’ve regularly attended events at Zu Studios, to give one example, including lectures, workshops and talks. I also go to the party nights at Zu. Unlike a typical nightclub, there are very few people drinking heavily or being otherwise intoxicated. Often the nights are alcohol-free. People say, “I wish we had something like this in London” and my friends who travel down to the parties rightly recognise Lewes as a special place.

I am personally involved in a new art form called Nordic larp, and recently ran a day of workshops at Cafe des Artistes. This was the first time such an event had been run in the UK. My friends from Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland are all aware of what happened and I look forward to putting on bigger and better events in the future and welcoming them to the town. The affordability of the venue and generous space made it possible to do something that would simply not have happened in London, and again that was why dozens of people travelled from as far away as Newcastle and Cardiff, many staying overnight and getting to know the town. One attendee, Cat Tobin, wrote, ‘Today, I travelled to the lovely town of Lewes, famous (to me, now) for calling its little lanes “twittens”.’

For these people, the Phoenix has put Lewes on the map.

Phoenix Rising

I would like to know why the Phoenix Rising plan, passionately proposed by local residents, is not being considered as an alternative? It is architecturally superior, provides genuine low cost housing, preserves the jobs in the area, and offers far more to the town as a whole.

A Battle for the Soul of Lewes

This development by Santon represents a huge missed opportunity, a money making scheme that will gentrify Lewes while taking away its future. If Santon goes ahead, this part of Lewes will become like its anonymous shopping precinct, which is identical to that in any other town in the UK. These planning decisions don’t come along often. The choice is this - either Lewes becomes a combination of a London dormitory and a retirement village, which is what the Santon development offers; or it retains and enhances its character as the most unique small town in the Home Counties.

This is a battle for the soul of Lewes, similar to the one fought successfully decades ago to stop the A27 going through the centre of the town. When I moved out of London I chose Lewes because I wanted somewhere that wasn’t just a commuter town. I wanted somewhere to live, not somewhere to spend weekends. It has met my wish for 12 years, and I very much hope it will continue to do so.

Kevin Burns