Premier Inn in Lewes ‘would benefit the local economy’

Lewes Magistrates' Court
Lewes Magistrates' Court

A director of the company behind plans to introduce a budget hotel to Lewes has sought to soothe local concerns about its impact.

Ben Ellis, of developers Quora, said the 62-bed Premier Inn would have a positive effect on the town.

It would create around 60 jobs for local people, he said, and boost the local economy.

An increase in visitors would mean more money was spent in the town – to the benefit of shops, pubs and other businesses. The Conservation Area would be regenerated.

Quora wants to demolish the redundant Lewes Magistrates’ Court and replace it on the Friars Walk site with the Premier Inn and retail outlets.

Mr Ellis said the development would answer a real need – figures indicate that fewer than five per cent of visitors to the South Downs National Park actually stay in accommodation within it.

“People can be wary of developers,” he said. “Often they don’t like change - but change can be a positive thing and Lewes has always evolved down the centuries. I would say ‘don’t be afraid of the positive’. This is a living town. We want a scheme that will add to the vibrancy and vitality of the town centre.

“With proposals such as this there are always many different viewpoints and we are trying to meet as many as possible.”

Concerns about the design of the building were being addressed. It would have a high quality contemporary look, using up-market building materials.

Quora hopes to have an image of a fully revised design available next week. Car parking has been another issue locally. Mr Ellis pointed out that the court has its own car park with 45 spaces and guests visiting the hotel would be encouraged to come by train or by bus.

The court, opened in 1986 by Diana Princess of Wales, went on sale in February last year with offers in excess of £1 million being invited.

The court was closed in 2011 as a result of government cost-cutting, despite a fierce campaign to keep |the dispensation of local justice retained in Lewes. Since then it has stood empty.