Petition calls for sites process halt in Lewes District Council plan

An aerial visualisation of the North Street Quarter. Photograph courtesy of Santon
An aerial visualisation of the North Street Quarter. Photograph courtesy of Santon

By the time of its deadline on September 23, it’s expected almost 2,000 people will have signed a petition challenging the sites chosen in Lewes District Council’s development plan.

The petition, created by independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe on reads: “We the undersigned call upon Lewes District Council to halt the scheme which has recently come into the public domain to build on a number of community asset sites and to look again at how to assist in the building of social and affordable housing in Lewes District in order to achieve this without depriving the community of many irreplaceable facilities, for instance car parks, a social centre, open spaces, toilets and a household waste site, and fully including both local residents and ward councillors from acrosss the whole District from the very start in every and any new proposal.”

Cllr O’Keeffe told the Express: “I set up a petition in August to challenge the chosen sites after the public outcry at what residents very much see as the potential loss of facilities they would like to keep. Claims have been made, printed in The Express, that the petition was ‘inaccurate’ as services would not be lost, and that ‘horrific consequences’ could result from challenging the scheme in this way.

“The petition is in no way inaccurate. Telling people a different service or asset, or one changed in a way that makes it for them less valuable, is the same or better than the one that they have petitioned to keep, is not ‘saving’ it if people who use it do not agree. Presenting the change as ‘the same or better’ does not make it so.”

For example, she feels a possible community toilet scheme is not the same as a public toilet. Many of the sites, she says, are valued community facilities and the public should be, as suggested in Council documents, central to the decision making process. “That they have been described as being chosen as sites that were ‘underused’ or even ‘derelict’ is surprising when you put this alongside public petitions with signatories in the thousands to keep them.”

She says the petition does not ask for a breach of contract but for a halt to the process to think about how to proceed in ways that take account of residents’ (and many councillors’) wishes. “It is a matter of some concern that a contract has apparently been signed that puts taxpayers at such risk if things go wrong for any reason later on. Rather than everyone across being divided up and conquered as they fight for individual sites there should be a request for a rethink over site allocation as well as efforts people near them may make.”

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