Think again on Premier Inn hotel plan for Lewes, plead campaigners

Lewes news
Lewes news

Opponents of the proposed Premier Inn in Lewes have begged the developers to think again.

They say the former Magistrates’ Court building on the Friars Walk site, earmarked for demolition and replacement with the budget hotel, could be adapted.

When members of the South Downs National Park Authority’s Planning Committee rejected the previous design by Quora last December they said any new design should be “a beacon of light” for other developments in Lewes which they regard as the “jewel in the crown” of all the towns in the National Park.

Vic Ient, of the Save Lewes Architecture campaign, said: “The new design is an improvement on the last one, but the last one was so bad anything would be an improvement!

“I would implore Quora to think again and engage an architect and contractor who have the skills to adapt the existing building.”

The Save Lewes Architecture and Say No to Lewes Premier Inn groups met National Park officers recently and tried to persuade them to consider reusing the existing building, but they were blocked.

John Curtis, of the Say No group, said: “It seems the National Park is determined that we should have a new building and a hotel whatever the people of Lewes think.

“Thousands of pounds is being spent on developing a Neighbourhood Plan, a Lewes District Plan and a National Park Plan but it seems when it comes to actual decisions anything goes and the plans go out of the window.”

Quora has now sent out a leaflet to thousands of homes in the town asking people what they think. Mr Ient said: “I’m really pleased that Quora is at last, after a 12-month delay, listening to us and consulting the public. It shows that local pressure is working.”

But he accused the developers of being “somewhat economic” with the facts. “They say that a ‘survey’ by Lewes District Council proves the case for a hotel. Well, that survey was carried out in 2008, six years ago, and in fact it didn’t suggest a new hotel. The report was rather woolly. Quite frankly I don’t know why the district council paid for it,” he said.

Mr Ient said a more recent survey carried out in 2013 by Visit Britain Southeast, the government’s tourism organisation for the area, actually shows across the National Park the occupancy is only 49 per cent and only peaks at 95 per cent in August in some places.

He also questioned Quora’s assertion that the National Park has agreed to the principle of a hotel. “All you have to do is look at the minutes of the December 2013 National Park planning meeting to see that no such resolution was passed,” he said.