LETTER: Draft plan still needs refinement

Lewes Town Council recently published a report on policies that might form a neighbourhood plan for the town over the next 15 years or so.

Since our draft policies report was announced, a number of residents have taken issue with what they think is a definite plan to build on green fields near their homes.

I would like to reassure them that this is not yet a draft plan, but a presentation of the thoughts registered by townspeople.

The town council is not proposing development of the sites which are indicated – these were shaded on maps by visitors to the various public workshops held during the year.

We now have to test to see if they actually are practical propositions, as when the final plan is drafted it can only include sites that are real possibilities; where land is available and building would be possible.

It was known from the outset that the neighbourhood plan must find viable sites for allocation to provide around 220 new homes, as its ‘share’ of the target number allocated to Lewes in the joint strategy produced by the National Park Authority and Lewes District Council, under government guidelines.

When asked where they thought these homes might be built, people attending our drop-in events have identified a number of sites which appear to offer space.

Officers of the South Downs National Park Authority sit on our steering group and will highlight at an early stage any sites which could NOT be taken forward for housing.

The town council will be contacting landowners to find out whether an identified site may be available for development; and inevitably many will not.

Our neighbourhood plan is evolving under the watchful eye of a steering group comprising councillors and officers of the council and National Park Authority, and representatives of Lewes community organisations.

We have the help and guidance of professional consultants who have organised the various events this year to elicit ideas from the public.

I would like to assure everyone that the neighbourhood plan can only proceed if it is consistent with policies being developed by the park, which itself is subject to national planning policies.

If you have not already visited one of our events and seen or commented on the material we have gathered, you may be interested to visit the dedicated website at www.lewes4all.uk, which exhibits the work done to date.

The next stage will be further public drop-in events in the early part of 2016, to further refine the neighbourhood plan, and we encourage everyone to visit these.

Cllr Susan Murray

Chairman of Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group