I am writing this as a voice from the silent majority in Lewes who can see the real benefits of the North street development.
Had councillors actually knocked on residents’ doors they would have discovered a large groundswell of support for the scheme in Lewes. One LDC councillor, Joanna Carter, has publicly stated that she stood for council only to support Phoenix Rising.
Other councillors, such as councillors R and S Murray and councillor Ruth O’Keefe, have appeared in Phoenix Rising promotional material and have actively promoted the organisation. The silent majority are not agitators; they are the people of Lewes who go about their busy lives assuming that by not showing opposition to the scheme it must be obvious that they support it.
They see that Santon’s plans will bring real benefit to the town in terms of employment, housing, the town’s economy and recreation.
Lewes Community Land Trust has signed a memorandum with Santon/ LDC for 15 shared equity houses on the site. Crucially it will enable the houses to be recycled in perpetuity to genuine Lewes residents.
The proposed river walk and bridge will bring new recreational focus to the presence of the river in the town. Phoenix Rising plans do not include either a river walk or a bridge.
Santon will provide all the necessary infrastructure, such as carpark, drainage, highways and crucially flood defence, which will protect the Pells area. Phoenix Rising plans do not include any of this expensive infrastructure and the Pells will still be left vulnerable to flooding.
The Santon plans also include the building of a creative hub along with a 106 agreement that will secure a subsidy (50 per cent of the market rent) for half of the North Street Quarter workspace. Conversely the Phoenix Rising plans seek only to keep the current unlisted, unsafe and derelict buildings currently being leased to them on a short-term basis for peppercorn rent.
Overall the silent Lewes majority sees Santon’s proposed development as an opportunity that may well not come again – one that includes modern medical and dental facilities, a pharmacy, shops and restaurants, as well as provision of housing for the elderly. If the development does not get a green light from the Southdowns National Park this derelict site will probably languish for a generation.
Lewes is in fact very lucky to have this brown field site to develop in the first place in the centre of town. The site is owned by Santon and LDC jointly. In fact Phoenix Rising is producing plans for land that they do not own. I am pleased that the Friends of Lewes is in agreement with the silent majority in supporting Santon’s plans, plans which have evolved in the light of an expensive three-year consultation period.