Shock at ‘Friends of Lewes’ approval of Lewes Magistrates’ Court site design

I was interested to read the letter from Robert Cheesman, chairman, Friends of Lewes, (Working towards pleasing design), recently.

I and many others were shocked at the way the Friends of Lewes approved the design of this commercial enterprise to be built in the conservation area of the town, and which the South Downs National Park Authority’s own design officer stated was ‘banal; and quite unsuitable’.

It seems their organisation is more Friends of Quora, the commercial developer, than Friends of Lewes. Did Mr Cheesman really think, as he says, that the replacement (for the Magistrates’ Court) was “sympathetic to this central part of the town”?

Perhaps he could tell me why The Friends ignored these points:

1. There is no parking space for hotel visitors unless they use the public car park which is already almost always full. The SDNPA case officer recommended North Street development which is not yet approved, let alone built and some distance from the Magistrates’ Court. He didn’t seem to know where this was.

2.The layby is too small for Premier Inn delivery lorries.

3 There was no up to date survey to see if a 118-bed hotel was required. The last one was in 2008 and inaccurate.

4. There was no independent survey as to whether the building could be converted to other use without demolition.

5. There was another bid to buy the building and convert it into flats for first time buyers, community arts studios and small shops. Why was this ignored?

With the addition of a Premier Inn, they will be turning the town into a clone of, and no different from, many others in the UK.

Why, at the Planning Committee hearing in Midhurst, did only two planning committee members speak out against this unsympathetic project but which the Friends thought was good enough? Because they (the former) were the only ones who lived quite near and cared about Lewes. I assume many of the Friends live in Lewes, though they don’t seem to have any idea about preserving its history and must have a strange sense of design, to approve this.

Angela Wigglesworth