This will change nature of town

Why does the proposed Premier Inn, Lewes site include retail units when there is an on-going problem of empty shops on the High Street, particularly above the war memorial? Are these retail units included for the benefit of the town, or for the benefit of Premier Inn? I suspect the latter, as Premier won’t be able to put bedrooms at street level due to noise and privacy, so in order to make every space profitable, they will let them out.

Do we really want our historical county town to look like a city centre? The Magistrates Court is an anonymous backdrop. Why can’t Premier Inn be equally anonymous? Why is this development being allowed to change the very nature and tone of Lewes? Imagine, for a moment, the Lewes Bonfire being held against a backdrop of clone-town retail units.

I think this development brings home the double-edged nature of being included in the national park and therefore becoming a year-round tourist destination. On the one hand, hotels need to be built in order to accommodate all the visitors to a town which once was simply home to its residents, with numbers swelling twice yearly for Glyndebourne and Bonfire. Now, unfortunately, we have other duties to fill as a visitor attraction. But do visitors really want to pay money to come to Lewes to see it is fast becoming like any other town in Britain? Surely installing a parade of new retail units would be like killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Don’t visitors come to wander around our quirky streets and twittens, and to eat and drink at our pubs and independent cafes?

Can the planning authorities now take control and responsibility for one of the most significant changes to our town in its history? Our town councillors saw fit to recommend refusal to a beautifully- designed cinema, owned by locals and for locals, on the grounds that we already have part-time cinema clubs and the site wouldn’t be easy to drive to (the whole of Lewes could be be included in this last category). The town council should recommend refusal for the Premier Inn retail units, on the grounds that we already have shops and cafes and restaurants, and that some premises have been empty for a considerable time. Any retail units at Premier Inn are going to take away business from those already in business.

Please can the town council also have a long look at what has been happening to Lewes. It used to have a very long commercial High Street, with lots of independent shops, a decent number of them for essentials, such as fresh food. What can be done to revitalise the High Street? The town is becoming inconvenient for those living on its western side, i.e. those living at a distance from supermarkets which are now in the ascendancy in Lewes, rather than taking their place among independents.

The town council has limited powers but a great deal of local knowledge. Please can they use these effectively to minimise the impact of Premier Inn and to help shape a better future for Lewes.

Sarah Heren