“We have it in our power to build the world anew”.
Tom Paine’s famous pronouncement repeated much later by President Obama in his inaugural speech could suggest to some that a Premier Inn should be built in Lewes. But we are totally inclined to think otherwise!
Let’s look at some past history of Lewes architecture to see if it can teach us anything.
Sir George Gilbert Scott architect of the magnificent and much admired Midland Grand Hotel opened in 1873 at St Pancras railway station, also designed and gave Lewes the Fitzroy Memorial Library
building in the same Gothic Revival style.
The Victorians proudly marked the arrival of the railway in Lewes in the 1840s by building ‘The Railway Hotel’ at the end of the terrace in Friars Walk.
Sir John Betjeman, past poet laureate now physically immortalized by his delightful statue at St Pancras; included Lewes in his magnificent series of BBC TV films in the sixties about “Six More English Towns”. He enthused about Lewes’s vernacular and Georgian architecture, and the varied use of glazed brick headers, mathematical tiles, and knapped flints used in classic combinations as local building materials throughout our lovely county town.
The Fitzroy memorial Library building was not demolished when it stopped being a library; instead it survives as an elegant and historic private residence for a Lewes family.
The Railway Hotel was not demolished when it stopped being a hotel, instead it became first a pub, and then later a private residence for Lewes people.
Quora’s dream of demolishing a fine court building merely to make a space for a temporary looking 59-bedroom Premier Inn with bike racks, is in truth a nightmare for those of us who are determined to keep Lewes Lewes.
The magistrates’ court should instead be transformed to an alternative mixed residential use just as other Lewes buildings have been in the past. That’s how Lewes got to look and feel like Lewes.
(Waterstones bookshop conversion is an excellent recent example - lovely shop below with spacious flats above).
If Quora is successful, this unnecessary 59-bedroom hotel with shops will be jammed incongruously between the Fitzroy Memorial Library and the old Railway Hotel and will dwarf both by its sheer size, mass and height.
The SDNPA Planning committee members sitting in far away Midhurst will have the final choice and will take the decision for us on the 11th December 2014.
The choice for them will be to support the greed of big business in the form of Whitbread and Premier Inns’ expansive town-centre ambitions, supported by Quora, their wily spin-doctors at Planning Potential, and the mysterious Killarney organization in Madeira.
Or alternatively, to turn down the Quora application for demolition and hotel construction for the third time, and support the people of Lewes by opting instead for the recent purchase and change of use solution for mixed residential, community and commercial uses proposed by Mr Philip Gorringe.
Tom Paine I suspect, would have no trouble whatsoever in making the correct choice for Lewes and its people.
Come to Midhurst on the 11th December and show the planning committee that you care about Lewes, its architecture, its people and its future.