Plea for second look at where new homes will go

Ruth O'Keeffe at Convent Field with missing play equipment ENGSUS00120130210151707
Ruth O'Keeffe at Convent Field with missing play equipment ENGSUS00120130210151707

Lewes District Councillor Ruth O’Keeffe has explained the background to her potential petition giving local people a say in the town’s future housing sites.

And she refutes claims the petition is ‘inaccurate’ and the description that ‘horrific consequences’ could result from challenges to the scheme.

The petition - with more than 1,000 signatures on (and hundreds more on paper) - calls on the Council to halt plans to build on a number of community asset sites and ‘look again at how to assist in building social and affordable housing in the District to achieve this without depriving the community of many irreplaceable facilities.’

Cllr O’Keeffe explains: “The petition is not inaccurate. Telling people that a different service or asset, or one that has been 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 the service do not agree.”

She points out trying to prevent people from signing or supporting the petition because a body does not agree with residents’ interpretation ‘is surely undemocratic.’

And she goes on: “It did not ask for a breach of contract. It asks specifically for a halt to the process to think about how to proceed in a way that takes account of residents’ and many councillors’ wishes.” There are provisions, she says, including ‘a viability gateway’ for sites to be removed from the development package and others to be substituted. “Viability is not all to do with money as sites may be removed due to excessive disruption of the present facility if development occurs.”

There are, she explains, a large number of other possible sites that have not presently been chosen. “Rather than everyone being divided up and conquered as they fight for individual sites, there should be a request for a rethink over site allocations as well as efforts people near individual sites might make.” And she believes something better can come out of a situation where many residents are upset by the way the scheme has been put forward.

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