New bid to build Premier Inn on Lewes court site

Former Lewes Magistrates Court building.
Former Lewes Magistrates Court building.

Fresh plans have been submitted for a Premier Inn in Lewes – to the dismay of opponents.

Developer Quora is seeking to build a 60-bed hotel on the site of the former Magistrates’ Court in Friars Walk.

The application has been made to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), but has not yet been validated.

Quora will be distributing a community leaflet to homes in the coming weeks to provide details of the plans and an opportunity to comment.

The scheme, which would involve demolishing the court, was recommended for approval last December but unanimously rejected by the SDNPA’s Planning Committee. Members said the design was not suitable for a conservation area.

Members of the Save Lewes Architecture and Say No To Premier Inn action groups are concerned that though the design may have been amended the proposal will be the same.

A Quora spokesperson said: “We hope that local people will wait to see the plans and new images before drawing conclusions. The principle of the hotel was accepted at planning committee meeting last year. The previous scheme was refused purely on the basis of design and we have worked hard to incorporate comments received from community representatives into the new design.”

She confirmed: “An independent design workshop was hosted in February and the feedback from the local people and design specialists present has been incorporated into the scheme. Consultation is ongoing and both Quora and the Authority will listen to views throughout the planning application process.”

She added: “We are currently finalising new artist’s impressions to highlight what changes have been made and how the proposed new buildings would look. The new visuals will be submitted later this month and soon after we will be distributing a leaflet to local homes to keep local people informed and gather their views.”

The latest move comes against the backdrop of other possible hotel plans – at Lewes House and in the North Street Quarter. The action groups say before a decision is made to build more hotels, the SDNPA should conduct an up-to-date survey of local bed occupancy. The last one was made by Lewes District Council in 2008/2009.

“In that report not all accommodation providers were consulted and therefore figures cannot be accurate,” said Charlotte Curtis, of Say No To Lewes Premier Inn. “They should not be used as a valid reason for making a decision whether Lewes needs yet another hotel. It could lead to a surplus of hotel and B&B rooms if there isn’t one already.”