Furniture Now! has been resident in the “Phoenix Quarter” of Lewes for 17 years, 12 of which have been at Phoenix Works at the bottom of North Street behind the fire station.
We are understandably nervous about plans to bulldoze the entire estate as we will lose our business premises as will everyone else. Lewes has an enviable industrial estate for a town of its size.
However, it is clear to us that the premises are not fit for purpose. Our roof is not in good condition and other vacant units near us have major leaks.
There is no insulation to any of the buildings and heating bills are extremely high and therefore CO2 intense. Many of the buildings contain asbestos. The estate is crumbling and there is no investment. Investment would need to be so significant at Phoenix Works that starting again makes sense.
A serious redevelopment could be excellent. However, the proposal is for replacing the business premises largely with housing, hotels and shops.
More emphasis must be given to preserving large business space at realistic rents or significant employment will be lost. If Furniture Now! does not have a home in the “new Lewes” it will have to move to Newhaven or Brighton or worse still, close. I am sure that many other community businesses and charities will find themselves in a similar position. Lewes will be all the poorer for it and the council will have failed its electorate.
Lewes District Council must ensure this does not happen. With the Coalition Government changing planning rules radically so there is a presumption for development with a healthy bottom line, the local Conservative run council would do well to persuade local tax payers that they have our interests at heart and not those of a London based development company that needs to make a massive profit on this development to satisfy their own stakeholders.
Director Furniture Now!, Lewes