Concerns with major Lewes housing development’s design

Councillors are calling on developers to rethink the design principles of a major housing scheme proposed in Lewes.

Developer’s proposals for a 226-home development at the Old Malling Farm site on the outskirts of Lewes should do more to improve accessibility, sustainability and its environmental impact, according to ward councillors Adrian Ross and Zoe Nicholson.

The comments from the Lewes Bridge councillors come in a letter (submitted earlier this month) responding to a consultation on a development brief  – a document which developers say would guide a ‘landscape-led’ scheme.

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In their joint letter, the Green Party councillors said: “We recognise that the Old Malling Farm site is allocated in the National Park’s Local Plan and we generally support the development of the site and the provision of additional housing in Lewes.

“However, we think that this particular design brief is unsatisfactory in a number of important aspects. 

“We therefore object to the adoption of this design brief without significant improvement and change.”

In their letter, Cllr Nicholson (who is also leader of Lewes District Council) and Cllr Ross go on to say they have particular concerns around “poor road access”, “the lack of sustainable transport provision” and describe it as a “car-dominated design”.

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To address this, the councillors say, the development should reduce the number of parking spaces available to each home and ensure there are good cycling and walking links to Lewes town.

They also say the brief does not do enough to compensate for the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services at the site.

Similar concerns have been submitted  by the South Downs Society – a 1,500 member conservation society also known as the Friends of the South Downs.

In its response, the society calls for the introduction of parking restrictions at the site, to prevent issues with commuter parking.

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The society also calls for developers to agree to providing a pedestrian crossing on Old Malling Way via a Grampian-style condition (meaning it would happen before the wider development begins).

In the proposed development brief, however, developers say the scheme would include “high quality” walking and cycle paths, both within the development site and in its connections to Lewes town. 

Parking, meanwhile, would be in accordance with East Sussex Highways guidance and include both on-street and on-plot spaces (i.e. driveways), and also include public transport links via a bus stop in Old Malling Way. 

Buildings would also be energy efficient and use on-site renewable sources, the brief says.

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The brief also says the development would be split into four distinct quarters, each with its own “sense of place.”

Overall, developers say, the scheme would be a “landscape-led” scheme, which is sensitive to the surrounding area.

Consultation on the development has now closed, but more details of the proposal can be found by searching for the reference SDNP/DBC/SD76 on the South Downs National Park planning portal.

Consultation on the wider outline application is still active, however, with more details available by searching for the reference SDNP/18/06103/OUT.