Half a million rural bus journeys are ‘under threat’

Compass Travel owner, Chris Chatfield
Compass Travel owner, Chris Chatfield

More than half a million rural bus journeys a year are facing an uncertain future because of plans to redevelop the North Street Quarter area in Lewes.

A planning application was submitted in relation to the redevelopment of the Phoenix Industrial Estate by joint landowners Santon North Street Ltd and Lewes District Council.

However, a number of businesses in the area have said the project could put their businesses at risk because they can’t afford the rent in Malling Brooks, where Santon is proposing the companies relocate.

Compass Travel, which has a depot on North Street, has said offers of an alternative site in the town are proving too expensive to allow it to stay in the county.

Compass serves rural locations throughout East Sussex, from the villages around Ditchling in the west to the Cuckmere and Ouse valleys in the East. Its routes support 680,000 passenger trips a year, around half of which are taken by concessions.

The company says Santon approached it two years ago to discuss the provision of alternative premises at a similar rent to the current site.

However, the only site they could offer would result in a five-fold rental increase. Compass says this is unsustainable given recent funding cuts.

Chris Chatfield, managing director of Compass Travel, said: “If Malling Brooks is the only alternative available to us, we would be forced to close our East Sussex routes, with the potential loss of up to 35 jobs. Lewes is the only place that we can sensibly locate our depot as it is at the centre of the two major route networks that we operate in East Sussex. We have looked at other sites but none are affordable.”

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