Breaking news: Plans to build Premier Inn in Lewes rejected

Norman Baker at Magistrates' Courts, Lewes.
Norman Baker at Magistrates' Courts, Lewes.

Controversial plans to demolish the former Magistrates’ Court in Lewes and replace it with a Premier Inn have been thrown out.

The 11-strong Planning Committee of the South Downs National Park Authority unanimously rejected the scheme at a 90-minute meeting on Thursday afternoon (December 12).

They went against a recommendation for approval by officers.

Developers Quora had sought to replace the former court, in Friars Walk, with a 62-bed budget hotel and retail outlets.

Committee members decided the design of the proposed building did not go far enough towards reflecting the distinctiveness of Lewes architecture, said Margaret Paren, Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).

Vic Ient, who has been spearheading a vigorous opposition campaign, said after the meeting that he was “elated and so relieved” about the outcome.

“We have saved the town from a dreadful, box-like design,” he said. “Our speakers convinced the commitee that Lewes is the jewel of the towns in the National Park and they had the courage to refute the officers.”

Ahead of the meeting, which was held in Midhurst and attended by some 30 members of the public, Lewes MP Norman Baker had made a last-ditch and passionate appeal regarding the future of the site.

He warned members of the Planning Commitee that the Premier Inn application “threatened the character of the town”.

Mr Baker said: “I generally do not comment on planning matters but due to the sensitivity of the location I cannot stay silent on this one. I have therefore written to members of the SDNPA’s Planning Commitee to convey my objections.”

The MP said he regarded the scheme to be “totally unsuitable” for such a sensitive site in the middle of the Lewes conservation area.