Newhaven development - alternative agenda?

I READ R J Bone’s letter concerning the three developments recently proposed for Newhaven. He demonstrates a experience and empathy for developmental matters, presumably this was due to his involvement in planning matters between 1964 and 1974. However, one matter he is sadly out of touch, I’m afraid.

It is my understanding that Asda Property Holdings PLC own the building that the Co-op Supermarket currently uses and all of the other commercial properties in Newhaven Square. Thus the town centre’s future is hopelessly enmeshed within the corporate aspirations of the Wal-mart family.

I think it would be unwise to expect too much sympathy from them as the Wal-Mart heirs are worth as much as the bottom 41 per cent of American families. It stands to reason that their thirst for money will outweigh local sentiment. You may then wonder why they have chosen to buy so much of a town that is almost on its commercial knees and the answer is simple: redevelopment. I fear that once their Asda superstore is built, the grim reaper will appear in the form of Asda closing down Newhaven Square and will leave it to decay until the local planning authority submits and grants permission for flats to be built.

With or without another superstore on the Railway Quay, Newhaven town centre is the townscape equivalent of an endangered species. The formation of the South Downs National Park (SDNP) created a development land shortage from Brighton to Eastbourne within three miles of the coast and the only remaining available space that spells ‘money’ to the developers is within or surrounding Newhaven. If you don’t believe me, look at the SDNP boundaries. Thus Newhaven is now being faced with near-ludicrous commercial proposals, such as the £350 million waterpark, because in 10 - 15 years time there will be very little brownfield and no greenfield sites to develop, that in an area of high population density and near the coast. I may be wrong, but I am prepared to say it: This will finish Newhaven town centre as a commercial entity. I imagine the pubs will remain and many of the older, attractive buildings will become residential, but the shops will be almost non-existent. The evidence for this is the withdrawal of services that would support commercial life: The banks. I can count seven banking/savings organisations that were in existence, possibly there was more. Now there is one.

My guess is that within the boundaries created by Asda and Sainsbury’s, and the Railway Quay and Parker Pen/Cross Stone developments, a new commercial/shopping centre will emerge. Who knows, Newhaven town may regenerate as a niche shopping/leisure area once again, with plenty of footfall from the several hundred dwellings that will be created we will likely see cafés, restaurants, wine bars, antique shops, boutiques, a launderette, maybe even more pubs, but the shopping heart of this town will be on the other side of the river and that is almost a fact already. Newhaven has witnessed ever more rapid decline for almost a hundred years now, maybe now we will see some benefit from that pain. Local government hereabouts needs some vision - and guts.

Henry Page, Newhaven