North Street Quarter decision was made ‘without proper scrutiny’

Photo by James Ratchford ( SUS-150712-091627001
Photo by James Ratchford ( SUS-150712-091627001

Lewes Phoenix Rising has said it is ‘deeply disappointed’ with the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee’s decision to approve the North Street Quarter application ‘without proper scrutiny’.

LPR, which fought for an alternative plan to redevelop the Phoenix Estate, has criticised the committee’s lack of discussion about issues including affordable housing and flexible workspace.

A spokesperson for LPR said: “Having fought for a viable alternative solution that would deliver the 400+ new homes that Lewes needs while still housing many of the businesses, enterprises and cultural venues that have flourished on the site, we are deeply disappointed in the SDNPA’s complete failure to live up to its own duty to foster the economic and social well-being of communities in a National Park.

“The decision puts into question the park’s competence to assess urban regeneration schemes of this size and their social, economic and environmental implications.

“The officer’s report and the ensuing committee meeting presented an almost entirely uncritical assessment of the application, which took all the developer’s proposals at face value - regardless of the 600 objections and concerns that have been raised about them.

“Rather than proper scrutiny of the economic, social and sustainability impacts of the plan, the committee frustratingly spent more time on micro-cosmetic issues such as smartening up Willey’s footbridge, decorating the walls of the underground car park with heritage scenes, wondering whether there would be broadband and making sure the flood defences aren’t ‘bland’.

“There was no discussion as to how affordable housing could be delivered below 80 per cent of market rate, although it has been repeatedly acknowledged that affordable for Lewes is 43 per cent of market rate.

“The proposal for a water-source based district-heating system was dealt with in seconds with absolutely no scrutiny of its viability nor the lack of any clear renewable energy strategy despite extensive concerns raised by local experts.

“Especially frustrating was the total lack of analysis of the proposed flexible workspace – just 11 small box units – and its suitability for the number and type of businesses that Lewes needs to support.

“No response to an impassioned plea on behalf of 3,000 young people to keep large-scale youth facilities on site.

“This is indicative of an authority which itself admits to being unused to assessing urban regeneration schemes of this kind. The debate focused more on superficial prettifying and recording past heritage than asking hard questions about how to secure a National Park in which people of all incomes can live and work now.”

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