A soaring bird’s eye view of the future was given to members of the public in Lewes on Monday.
They were taken down streets that currently exist only in the imagination.
Giant screens showed a three-dimensional animation of the proposed North Street Quarter during an exhibition at Southover Grange.
It’s the most important development area in Lewes, embracing North Street and the former Phoenix Industrial Estate beside the River Ouse.
Particularly striking was a “town square” area facing a new pedestrian bridge spanning the river and connecting to Malling Recreation Ground.
Santon, the owner of the site, wants to revive it and “reconnect it” to the centre of the town. “The regeneration of the North Street Quarter is a great opportunity to put the area back at the heart of Lewes,” said Santon. “Any proposed development must be truly sustainable – environmentally, economically and socially.
“It has to give the people in and around the town the services, jobs and housing they need. It has to be part of Lewes, in tune with Lewes, not from a standard plan.”
The future of Lewes District as a whole is planned up to 2030. The Joint Core Strategy has been approved by both Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park.
The North Street Quarter is part of the specific policy for Lewes town centre, with an allocation for mixed use development and around 350 homes. A further 300 homes are allocated in the town, to be found on presently unidentified sites in the county town within the plan period.
Any future plans for the North Street Quarter will need to follow the principles that have been set out in the core strategy and debate needs to take place around how those principles are turned into reality, ensuring the detail of the development is viable and deliverable.
Concern has been expressed locally about the volume of affordable housing the development would offer. Santon has pledged to focus on the needs of local young people and families.
It proposes shared equity housing and social housing scattered across the site rather than big blocks. There would be something for everyone, the developer said, with a design mix of units from studios to four-bedroom houses.
The consultation process has revealed the public wants local businesses that can provide long-term employment to keep young people in the town.
Santon is creating new industrial units in the nearby Malling Brooks estate to improve the mix of spaces in the town. The first workshop occupiers are hoping to move in next year.
The developer is studying the balance between independent and corporate retail outlets in the North Street Quarter, and the creation of more small spaces for art and leisure activities.
The 14.5-acre site was bought by The Santon Group for a reported £6m in March last year. There had been a long-term question mark over its future.