Lewes councillor narrowly escapes a hit-and-run tractor

Lewes wall damaged by tractor. Stephen Catlin
Lewes wall damaged by tractor. Stephen Catlin

Gardening turned out to be less than a gentle pastime for a Lewes Town Councillor – when a hit-and-run driver smashed into his adopted plot.

Cllr Stephen Catlin had just finished tending one of the raised flowerbeds outside the former Magistrates’ Court in Lewes.

Luckily he had just moved to the second one nearby to take his ease on the wall when a massive tractor demolished the structure on Friday.

“It took most of the brickwork with it,” said Cllr Catlin. “I was so shaken by this that I did not note the number plate of the large red beast. Maybe it will be revealed on CCTV.”

He said that the problem was compounded by no local authority admitting to ownership of the flowerbeds, which appear to have been built at the same time as the now defunct courthouse in 1983.

“This makes repair work difficult as no-one wants to set a precedent of accepting responsibility by mending the wall and the debris remains strewn over the carriageway in Friars Walk,” he said.

Cllr Catlin said East Sussex County Council had swiftly responded to the emergency by erecting warning signs and cordoning off the scene of the destruction. He understood that the county council had built the court, and presumably the flowerbeds, and then passed it to the Courts Service.

Its agent was engaged in checking plans this week to establish if it was the owners. Sale of the court building itself is in its final stages.

Planting and maintenance of the flowerbeds has been undertaken by volunteers under the ‘Lewes Little Gardens’ scheme, instigated by Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe. Cllr Catlin said the accident had “rather taken the edge off” efforts to brighten-up one of the main arteries of Lewes. He said: “These beds have brought great pleasure to a lot of townsfolk and visitors this summer.”

Meanwhile, the county council has arranged for the loose bricks to be retrieved and the wall made safe.