On 12 December, over in Midhurst, next week, the South Downs National Park Authority will be making a major planning decision affecting the heart of Lewes.
What they decide now, I believe, will not only decide the future of the old magistrates’ court site but it will be a marker for other architects to follow when it comes to new major developments in Lewes town, including the bus station site, the Waitrose/Wenban Smith site and the North Street Quarter.
We know quite a lot about the North Street Quarter because the developer has been including the public in its consultations in quite some detail.
Sadly this is not the case when it comes to the magistrates’ court site where a hotel and shops is planned.
The developer, Quora Developments (from Nottinghamshire) and the architects, Juice Architects (of London) for the magistrates’ court site have ignored the people of Lewes.
We, though, will have to live with their mistakes, they won’t! I have written to the developer and tried to call them. I must admit I haven’t tried their partner “Killarney Comercio Internacional LDA” who are the buyers of the building as they are registered in Madeira!
The proposal for a hotel and shops built like an industrial rectangular box is hardly suitable for the centre of our historic town.
Let’s hope the National Park see it the same way. Certainly the people who have commented on the planning website have given a resounding ‘No’ to the design.
If you check on the National Park website you can see that, out of 189 representations (regarding the applications to demolish and to build) 181 people/organisations gave a resounding ‘No’ to the flat roof ‘industrial estate, box’ like design.
Yes, some people were in favour of an hotel but not with this design. Only two people gave their unconditional support for an hotel.
The South Downs Society, the Friends of Lewes, the Lewes Area Conservation Advisory Group and Sussex Heritage Trust have all lodged strong objections to the design.
Residents in Friars Walk also submitted a petition. Will the planning authority listen to them? Well, we must live in hope!
Victor S Ient
A Lewes resident and a member of the Save Lewes Architecture Group