LETTER: Our only option is to raise questions

By coincidence Geoff King’s letter (23 Oct) in your paper came with a delivery of a pamphlet from Lewes District Council (LDC) titled New Homes in Lewes with sub headings “Our proposals for new homes and how to have your say” and “We want you to help design new homes”.

The veil of secrecy and prevarication during the period since this project was muted means that any productive input from us has long past gone and our only option now is to raise questions and to raise any objections regarding the five sites in Lewes.

The following are some questions for the LDC: Did the proposed project get the full support of the councillors, if not how many and who did support it? The project is to build “around 415 new homes on council-owned sites across the district of which at least 40 per cent will be affordable and owned by the council. How will the council pay for these homes? What is the local market value in order to see the affordable cost and how many homes are to be built in Lewes? The council has “teamed up” with a consortium including Karis Developments, Southern Group and architects Conran and Partners to deliver these homes. What does teamed up signify, has a contract been awarded as a consultancy to advise the council or to build the homes, whichever it is was there a competitive tender process used in accordance with good business practice?

The sites will be sold “for market housing at maximum value and use the funds to build council-owned and some shared ownership homes for local people”. Does this mean that the sites will be paid for by the developers who will then include this in the market value of the built homes?

There would seem to be a problem for the council selling at maximum value which will result higher priced homes and affordable homes or sell at a lower value which would reduce the cost of the homes but would provide less funds for their home provision plans. The LDC priorities are *Building affordable homes for local people *High quality design and sustainability and *Bringing more money into our town centres.

Readers might think that the last priority will be achieved by selling homes to non-local people to move into the town with consequent strain on the infrastructure. The five Lewes sites are now known and St May’s Social Centre has already raised strong compelling reasons for this proposal to be dropped.

There has also been objections to the removal of the public toilets in Western Road but the reasons given are laughable. I quote “They were built in the 1950s when the race course was open and there was much more activity in this area. So it was the crowds walking to and from the flat racing course, possible twenty afternoons a year, that needed the toilets!

“Since then usage has sharply declined and the facilities have been a target for vandals”. So have the other three toilets in the town.

“A single disabled toilet is now open to all users which is used an average of 11 times per day. Having reluctantly used this toilet I’m not surprised. I wonder how often it is cleaned and also what is the highest daily number recorded? Also “The intention is not to replace these toilets but to look at alternative ways of providing this facility”.The mind boggles, perhaps we can trot round to the ESCC building in the foyer, any other suggestions?

Finally there is a website “to see architect’s sketches, environmental impact surveys and traffic and parking studies”, a visit to the site revealed none of these. One other point, affordable housing is meaningless, at least in 1927 when my parents took a mortgage on their new house it was described as suitable for the working class. There will be drop-in sessions in early 2016 and the planning application is in summer 2016. There will be a period of public consultation so all those with objections or suggestions have got some time.

Brain Beck

Highdown Rd