Lewes 226-home development approved

Plans for 226 homes proposed in a new development on the northern edge of Lewes have been approved.

Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 1:29 pm

Greenfield land at Old Malling Farm between Old Malling Way and the River Ouse was allocated for development in the joint core strategy and then carried over to the South Downs local plan.

An outline planning application was then submitted and this has been amended to up the amount of affordable housing to 50 per cent.

The scheme also includes a commitment to zero carbon, electric vehicle charging points, car club spaces, improvements to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, public open space and money towards traffic calming measures and sustainable transport links.

Land at Old Malling Farm in Lewes
Land at Old Malling Farm in Lewes

The application was given the green light by the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee on Thursday (June 10).

Officers described how the site was ‘something of an island in terms of use owing to the mature screening on all sides’.

Although visible, they felt the impact of the development was capable of being mitigated through a sensitive layout to be considered at a later stage.

Proposals would lead to an estimated 11.5 per cent biodiversity net gain, although this figure could be higher.

Any land in flood zones two or three would be excluded from the development area.

Vehicular access would be from Monks Way, but most of the committee debate centred around the need to secure a convenient route for pedestrians and cyclists towards the town centre.

This would be in the south-east corner of the site towards the former railway cutting.

Officers said that an access in that location would be delivered but further technical work still had to be done about whether it was delivered in the form of a ramp or stairs with a channel for bikes.

One of the considerations would be that a ramp would take up more room in an area with local wildlife site status.

Echoing the views of several other members, committee chair Alun Alesbury said: “I regard it as critically important that we secure a fully ramped non-motorised access down into that cutting from the south east corner of the site. I do not think there should be any doubt or shilly-shallying about that.”

Andrew Shaxson added: “The more attractive we make that access, the more we will reduce the need for vehicles to go on and off the site.”

Earlier in the meeting one Lewes resident speaking in objection had called for the scheme to be a car-free development, while a spokesman for Cycle Lewes and Lewes Living Streets had stressed the importance of a link to the town centre from the site’s south-east corner.

Meanwhile Adrian Ross Green district councillor for Lewes Bridge, described how ‘vociferous objections’ from residents and organisations had led to significant improvements to the application, but he felt several extra conditions needed to be attached before permission was granted.

He felt the biggest issue remained site access along quiet residential roads ‘not designed for the volumes of traffic that this development in its current form would generate’.

He explained: “The design of the site must reduce the need for residents to drive to and from the site.”

He also mentioned the need for a path in the south-east corner to create an attractive walk or cycle of less than 800m to the nearest supermarket.

Mr Ross also wanted to see the applicant required to investigate the costs and benefits of providing on site a community hub to include employment, retail and social amenity space.

He also felt the developer should be required to provide for the continuation of the path to Hamsey alongside a full assessment of additional requirements for schools and GP services.

David Jobbins, speaking for the applicant and landowner, described how the scheme was a low-density development which would retain a number of important landscape features as well as contributing £1.7m to highway improvements and around £1.9m in Community Infrastructure Levy payments.

Offices noted the committee’s strength of feeling about the need for a ramped non-motorised access in the south-east corner as well as comments about retaining as many trees in a central band running across the site as possible.

The application was then approved by members unanimously.

After the meeting, Mr Ross and fellow ward member Zoe Nicholson welcomed the improvements made to the scheme.

Mr Ross said: “This has all been achieved due to amazing work by many local societies and by the 250+ residents who raised objections. Thanks and well done everyone.

“Although we didn’t get everything we asked for, this is a huge step forward. We will continue to push for other improvements including: an extension of the old railway line over the Ouse to Hamsey; a community hub, café and shop; and a firm commitment to a pedestrian crossing over Church Lane to St Michael’s Terrace.”

Ms Nicholson added: “Well done to all those who objected and campaigned to get this application to build on Old Malling Farm as good as it could be.

“This site has been in the planning stages for decades. We’ll now keep up the pressure on the South Downs National Park to hold the developer to their promises.”