AN ERROR of historic proportions was how MP Norman Baker chose to describe the decision to grant planning permission for 190 homes and an Asda in Newhaven.
The MP warned that Lewes District Council planning committee approving the Eastside Asda scheme from developers Avalon, but refusing the Railway Quay Tesco scheme from developers Arrowcroft, would have serious long-term consequences for the town.
The Eastside scheme divided opinion on the planning committee, where it was voted through by a 6 to 5 majority on Wednesday May 23.
Since then the move has prompted a flurry of letters to the Sussex Express, outlining their differing views on the decision, from the MP, cllr Rod Main, cllr Steve Saunders and others.
Mr Baker said: “The planning committee has ignored its own officers’ recommendation to defer the decision for two months, and taken a bizarre decision which I fear may be very harmful for the future of the town and for the port in particular. They have made an error of historic and far-reaching proportions.”
The MP argued the Eastside scheme would fatally undermine the shops in the town centre, damage job creation by allowing housing and retail on industrial land and divert scarce planning gain money into phase one of the port access road, which the port said it did not want or need. He added it would pull the rug out from under the port master plan and threaten the future of the port.
But leader of the district council James Page said: “Newhaven deserves the best. It has huge potential and I had hoped that the opportunity to hear both planning proposals together would have allowed members to weigh up the benefits of both schemes before coming to their decision.
“Frustratingly, the transport solution for the Railway Quay development could not be agreed by the Highways Authority and with such strong objection in place members’ hands were tied.
“I attended the committee meeting and was impressed by the detailed questions from councillors around the possible transport solutions and wider regeneration benefits. The deferral option lost credibility when East Sussex County Council stated they could see no workable solution ahead.”
Cllr Page said Lewes District Council worked hard to get all the facts before the committee and to look at the very important issues around: keeping the existing town centre alive, growth and business opportunities and the relationship with the port and helping deliver its master plan.
He said the council took seriously the feedback from the public consultation and considered the schemes against its own published regeneration strategy.
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