LETTER: A tragedy for Lewes if Santon plan is refused

As artist Chelsea Renton marshals her troops for the final battle against the forces of darkness for control of the North Street Quarter it is worth taking a closer look at Phoenix Rising’s proposals.

This self-styled group of impoverished artisans and artists have enjoyed virtually free accommodation for the last eight years and can hardly be blamed for wanting to hang on to it. Their media-grabbing campaign has been highly successful and their recent exhibition was a triumphant demonstration of the art of smoke and mirrors.

But there are some uncomfortable truths and inescapable facts behind their bandwagon which cannot be ignored. Phoenix Rising does not own any of the land and do not have the means to purchase it.

They want to hang on to the central part of the site for their own subsidised use, leaving the hapless developer to pick up the pieces of what is left of the site.

Retaining the dilapidated sheds (considered by English Heritage to be unworthy of listing) means that underground parking cannot be provided, instead they propose a multi-storey car park beside the Phoenix Causeway, on the area designated in the Santon proposal for a Health Hub and civic space. This will mean that at least 300 additional cars will have to be parked on the surface – although this is left to the wicked developer to resolve. Affordable housing is the buzz word, of course, but impossible to achieve in the present climate of high land values without some form of subsidy.

Phoenix Rising’s solution according to their website is for the affordable accommodation to be funded by ordinary residents on the rest of the site, who will pay extra!

These ‘other’ residents, by the by, are to be housed in high density three and four storey blocks of flats as a consequence of the low density ‘artisan quarter’. This is a selfish and poorly thought out proposal that has very little chance of being realised. It would be a tragedy for Lewes if the much better Santon proposal that has benefitted from two years of consultations with the public and South Downs National Park is not approved on December 10.

John Burrows

St Martin’s Lane