‘Surprise’ as options explored at site of former Lewes school

Access to the site of the former school has been blocked
Access to the site of the former school has been blocked

Progress appears to be being made at the former St Anne’s School site in Lewes ... but it has taken local councillors by surprise.

The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) website quotes proposals for 47 homes there in pre-application notes.

That was news to Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe this week and she did some investigating of her own into the future of the school, which closed in 2005.

She said: “Like many people, from the correspondence I have received, I was surprised to learn that the St Anne’s site had apparently entered the planning process.

“After making enquiries it turns out that this is part of a pre-application process started by the SDNPA and has yet to actively involve East Sussex County Council.

“The county council is still committed to full consultation on any future planning application, I am advised.

“I would have hoped that the officers at the National Park would have contacted me even at this early stage as the local county councillor and I am trying to get in touch with them as I have yet to hear from them.”

Cllr O’Keeffe continued: “I know that a lot of local residents are keen to find out more about any planning application and to take any part possible in the process.

“The figure for the number of possible dwellings mentioned in the pre-application notes on the National Park website are apparently a reflection of suggestions found in the Lewes Town Neighbourhood Plan and the proposals for the local District Plan rather than a firm statement, I am advised.”

Cllr Stephen Catlin said: “I attended every meeting of the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, as a town councillor. These [52 and 53 in the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan] are strategically important to the town and its housing needs.

“To have promised the Chair, Ian Linton, and others that they would be involved, and then not invite them, shows discourtesy to the residents of the town in which East Sussex County Council has made its home.”

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We are currently exploring options for the vacant former St Anne’s School site.

“This is still at the very early stages and over the coming months we will be working with the South Downs National Park Authority and Lewes District Council and consulting with local residents, to progress any proposals.

“The number of homes identified is from the Lewes Town Council Neighbourhood Plan and has not been proposed by the county council.”