Future of Lewes bus station in doubt!

Could the Lewes bus station be lost? 😦😦😦  A “pre” planning application has been submitted to the National Park planners to demolish the bus station and construct a mixed-use ‘gateway development  with 3 commercial units and 41 residential units. The overall height is planned to be 4 storeys with some 5 storey elements. These are initial plans and they could change. This is what the first part of th application says:

There is a real chance the bus station will be lost. The applicants have been made aware of the planning requirement for a replacement bus station facility but we don’t know at this stage if such a requirement is mandatory. In any event where would a new bus station go? 

The application number is SDNP/21/03284/PRE but according to the South Downs National Park on-line comments are not permitted. This may be because it is a “pre” planning application. However there is no harm in writing to the National Park planning department. Email: planning@southdowns.gov.uk. It may also be worthwhile writing to the National Park members nominated for East Sussex. They are Richard Waring, who is also a Lewes Town councillor,   (richard.waring@southdowns.gov.uk ) and Vanessa Rowlands (Vanessa.Rowlands@southdowns.gov.uk ). They both sit on the Park’s Planning Committee.   

If you value the bus station facility, do write and give them your views. 

Also, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is involved as they are the Transport Authority and it’s believed that discussions regarding the provision of a replacement bus station have been opened with them. One could write to them at publictransport.pts@eastsussex.gov.uk to express your views. The county councillors for Lewes are: 

Councillor Johnny Denis  cllr.Johnny.Denis@eastsussex.gov.uk    

Councillor Wendy Maples cllr.Wendy.Maples@eastsussex.gov.uk 

The irony of this threat to bus services in Lewes comes at the time when the County Council is consulting on a government proposal  entitled Bus Service Improvement Plan! It’s bad enough getting East Sussex County Council to improve the bus service when they’ve done just the opposite over the last decade but this threat to the bus station isn’t a good omen to kick off the county council’s public consultation on their Bus Service Improvement Plan https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/bsip/  This consultation has just opened and will close on 14 Sep 2021 

Development at Old Malling Farm, Lewes

There seems to be a lot of fuss in the Sussex Express about development at Old Malling Farm.  This is all a bit late – by some 5 years!

The principle of development at Old Malling Farm was decided by the Government’s inspector in 2015. More info here on the Friends of Lewes web site 
As a result of the Inspector’s decision the site was included in the Core Strategy Plan and was adopted by Lewes District Council on 11 May 2016. In planning terms a fait accompli.  See:
The development is now part of the of the  South Downs National Park Local Plan,  See page 226/227.  SDNPA Policy SD76 plan extract:

Site – Old Malling Farm

UK Governments ‘Planning Reforms’ and ‘build, build, build’ announcement

The Business and Planning Act 2020 received Royal Assent last week. Here is a summary of the measures covered by the act:

  • The new rules will mean full planning applications will not be required to demolish and rebuild unused buildings as homes and commercial and retail properties. This will be enabled via a new permitted development right.
  • Homeowners will also be able to add up to 2 additional storeys to their home through a fast track approval process. However, there is a requirement to carefully consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension.
  • New rules allowing blocks of flats to be extended upwards by two storeys to create new homes without the need for planning permission come into force on 1 August. The new permitted development right is restricted to buildings of three storeys or more and the extended building must not be taller than 30 metres.
  • Also any live planning permission or listed building consent lapsing in England between 23 March and the end of this year will automatically be extended until 1 April 2021. In normal circumstances, permissions granted in England expire after three years unless work has begun on site, with reserved matters permissions having a shorter two-year lifespan. The government has said the extension will come into force within 28 days of the Act receiving Royal Assent, which took place on 22 July.
  • The Act updates mechanisms that inspectors can utilise when deciding planning appeals. The measure will allow planning inspectors to simultaneously use written representations, hearings and inquiries when deciding an appeal.
  • Among other steps, the act also includes temporary measures to fast-track applications from developers to request changes to planning conditions to allow building site working hours to be extended.

Other planning news: Town Centres There are proposals to create a new “commercial, business and service” use class to help boost town centres as part of the government’s series of proposed changes to the planning system. The Housing Secretary said the new category would “allow commercial, retail and leisure uses greater freedom to adapt to changing circumstances”. Buildings used for retail “would be able to be permanently used as a café or office without requiring a planning application and local authority approval”, he added. Pubs, libraries, village shops and other buildings essential to communities will not be covered by these flexibilities.

Reform of England’s planning system The government is to launch a planning policy paper for comprehensive reform of England’s planning system. The government say the aim is to achieve high-quality, well-designed homes, and beautiful and greener communities for people to live in. Cutting out bureaucracy to get Britain building, while protecting high standards.

Comment: The TCPA (Town and Country Planning Association) responds to Prime Minister’s ‘Build, build, build’ announcements include the opening statement from their Chief Executive, Fiona Howie:  “While the Prime Minister’s references to building beautiful, low carbon homes, his re-commitment to ‘levelling up’ and his desire to ‘fix the problems that were illuminated during COVID’ are positive, it is totally unclear how the associated announcements around extending permitted development rights will achieve these priorities”. RTPI chief executive Victoria Hills has written an open letter in response to government statements made this week in relation to the profession:  Dismantling planning system will lead to failure of ‘build, build, build’ agenda; Regenerate the countryside to regenerate the economy Architects Declare, the UKGBC and the RIBA have all responded with alarm to the Prime Minister’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ speech about the UK’s economic recovery today Boris ‘the Builder’ Johnson has found a new scapegoat: the humble newt. See: Comment by the Guardian   

Further reaction to the attack on newts in the RTPI Planning Resources Magazine by the Editor Richard Garlick “….policymakers seem increasingly cavalier about their evidence base. At the end of last month, the Prime Minister cited “the newt-counting delays in our system” as the reason why the UK was slower than its European counterparts in building homes. Yet the 2018 government-commissioned study into the rate at which planning permissions for homes are built out, led by Sir Oliver Letwin, did not mention newts.  Indeed, it didn’t mention any environmental protection measures as obstacles to prompt building. Inside Housing (the leading weekly magazine for housing professionals) raises concerns that affordable housing has been left out of the PM’s announcement. The prime minister promised a “new deal” at his set piece speech on building Britain out of the crisis. But as Jules Birch points out, there was precious little cheer for the affordable housing sector


Court Road Lewes Development

The future architecture of the area around Court Road and Friars Walk Lewes, has now finally been decided. The Premier Inn replaces the former Magistrates Court, the construction of the residential building fronting the river is well underway and the decision has been reached regarding the future of the former magistrates car park in Court Road. The development of 9 houses on the site of the former car park in Court Road was approved by the South Downs National Park Authority at their August committee meeting in Midhurst. The final decision notice was issued on 30 September 2016. This is a summary of the application:

SDNP/16/01618/FUL | Erection of 9 Residential Dwellings with adjoining outdoor space, car parking and associated works | Court Road Car Park Court Road Lewes East Sussex

 To see all of the application documents and drawings visit:  http://www.southdowns.gov.uk/planning/planning-applications/ and enter the above-mentioned application number. Here are some extracts from the design drawings (click to enlarge) .




Sussex Heritage Awards 2016

The Sussex Heritage Trust announced the winners of this year’s prestigious Sussex Heritage Trust Awards earlier this month (July 2016).  The ‘Rusty House’ in South Street Lewes was one of the winners in the Small Scale Residential category. See photo below. The building also featured on the Channel 4 Programme  Grand Designs. Click here to see the episode  Presenter Kevin McCloud meets the couple who build the house and asks “What will the neighbours think?” I can’t find many comments on the web but here is what The Times newspaper had to say:

A house of steel in Lewes?

For more information see the Sussex Heritage Trust web site





Comments on the Santon Planning Application

Objections by Vic Ient of Save Lewes Architecture to planning application SDNP/15/01146:

This opportunity to create something worthwhile for townspeople is an exciting one but it must be approached with an eye to what is genuinely needed and what will enhance both the town and the National Park in which it lies.

National Park Duties

I respectfully remind the National Park, as listed in the Act of 1949 of its purposes:

The Environment Act 1995 revised the original legislation and set out two statutory purposes for National Parks in England and Wales:

  1. Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
  2. Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of National Parks by the Public.

When National Parks carry out these purposes they also have the duty to:

  • Seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the National Parks.

The words ….conserve and enhance cultural heritage… and together with …foster the economic and social well-being of local communities, particularly resonate.

The words …enhance the natural beauty… as well as Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment…. are especially relevant to the river frontage.

Public Consultation

This application includes literally hundreds of documents. Most members of the public have found it bewildering as to where they start even to understand the proposals, let alone comment on them.

Santon did carry out public consultations in the lead up to the application, which is to their credit; however, with the submission of the application itself there should have been a final exhibition and conference of the actual plans & details, so the developer could fully explain their proposals and give the public a chance to directly question the developer on particular aspects of their proposals. This application should not be proceeded with without that public exhibition and conference. The SDNPA should organise a public exhibition and conference now!

There is a perfect opportunity to do this in June & July 2015. I understand that the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan Group (set up by the Lewes Town Council) is to hold a Plan ‘Visioning Day’ on the 4th June and a 3 day ‘Forum’ between the 30th June and 1st and 2nd July! The Santon application could be on exhibition during these times.

I understand that Santon, LDC & SDNPA already have a project group. I suggest that this project group sets up a ‘reference group’ of all stakeholders, including the existing businesses which operate in the North Street area. This group can be consulted with, by not only holding meetings, but by electronic means (for speed & efficiency) by using up to date internet collaborative tools. This stakeholder group can then remain in existence thought the life of the project (including the implementation stage) helping to achieve a ‘best fit’ solution for all concerned.

Apart from the major issues, like the loss of employment on the site, there are the myriad of detailed design & site layout aspects which have not been tested against public opinion or with interested parties.

The National Park should separate out principles from details. At this stage the Park should only consider the principles of purpose, key planning issues and overall architecture. Details should be considered on an incremental basis at a later stage to allow people to understand them and comment on them.

I suspect that we will live to regret the day when so much detail is passed through unnoticed amid a mass of documents and drawings. Yes, plans are on the web, and yes, one can go and see the documents, but as one council official said to me “to really understand the documents you need to set aside at least two or three days to study them.”


What is desperately needed is genuinely affordable housing, ideally “social” housing, so that the District Council can reduce its very long housing waiting list. Does the plan provide for houses to rent as well as ‘affordable housing?’

Some 400 houses are proposed. It appears that 40% are to be ‘affordable.’ But how many are designated for rental? Any planning permission should be conditional on a significant provision of rented and affordable homes. Perhaps they all should be?

Is there not an opportunity to increase the number of dwellings in some parts of the development by increasing the density per hectare more akin to what exists in Lewes already? This might allow a more appropriate level of commercial development to be provided, whilst at the same time still delivering over 400 homes on the site.

Working Together – LDC + Santon + Phoenix Rising?

This application ignores the enormous potential of the developer and the local people as well as the Council working together as a team. There is still time for the national Park to bring together these organisations to work for the benefit of the town and all concerned.

There is enough division in politics and in society – here is an opportunity to shine a beacon of light and show how major planning applications should be handled, – by working together!

Architectural and artistic heritage

Lewes has a unique and varied architectural and artistic heritage and these must not be abandoned. The key historical buildings in this area should remain and be enhanced.

The plan offered suppresses the real industrial heritage of this town, and sweeps away usable buildings. I believe this application pays no regard to the industrial heritage of this town.

Demolition of the Phoenix Iron and Steel Works

My particular concern is with the plans to demolish the remaining buildings of the Phoenix Iron and Steel Works and the loss of workspace this involves.

The existing buildings could easily be renovated to be useful and attractive to the town and a destination for its visitors, something which few new build developments could achieve.

Pastiche ‘industrial’ buildings

The developer has designed in a ‘Chimney Building.’ This resembles nothing previously built here. It confuses the understanding of the history of the site.

Please refer to the archive of Edward Reeves, the photographers established around 1855 and still continuing, provides photographic evidence of the Works and also of the variety of products made there.

Lack of innovation towards zero carbon energy and environmental goals

Santon and LDC are disenfranchising the people of Lewes and the future occupants of this development from participating in a future zero carbon society.

The provision for electric car charging points is paltry. Where are the electric van charging points?

Renewable energy is offered as an ‘also-ran.’ The developer offers a traditional approach to the prime form of heating for the development using gas. Solar seems to be offered as an option as is the possibility of using the river for ‘district heating’. Is the mention of these renewable forms of heating, just to get a ‘tick in the box’?

Santon and the LDC have a golden opportunity to install a fully functioning zero carbon heating system. If it is not done now, it never will be. Santon is preventing Lewes from taking a real step into the future. Remember these houses and other buildings are going to be here for many decades. Build for the future, not the past!

Public Transport

There are hundreds of documents submitted by the developer and I may have missed one on public transport. However, the question must be asked:

Has consideration been given to providing bus services in the site? Is there a bus turning area? Where will the bus stops be?

Increased vehicular traffic in the town?

There are a large number of documents to plough through in this application and I may have missed one concerning traffic issues across the town. Before approving this application the National Park should be assured that this development will not simply just increase vehicular traffic through the existing narrow streets of the town.

The provision of a large number of car parking spaces must not act as a magnet to draw vehicular traffic through the town. The aspect of infrastructure integration with the rest of the town has not been thoroughly investigated.

The neighbourhood plan for Lewes is in its embryonic stage but it is clear from the discussions that have already taken place that the people of Lewes want to reduce the traffic through the town, not increase it!

Continuous riverside ‘green’ walkway?

It seems that a continuous walkway with a ‘green frontage’ to the river has not been fully included in the development. This is an opportunity missed. There are steps leading down to the river at one point, but what provision is there made for some form of quay for tying up boats (always taking account of the tide, of course) alongside part of the development?

Loss of Jobs

The proposed development sweeps away virtually all of the existing buildings and with it some 400 to 500 jobs.

Yes, we need housing, but we also need jobs. Is it really necessary to take such a Draconian step to allow this development to go ahead?

There is no satisfactory alternative proposed by Santon and thus the National Park should impose an incremental approach to this development such that the sites which employ people are integrated into the development on a gradual basis. Yes, for the building construction crews this would be more difficult, but for the livelihoods of people in this town it would be a godsend.


It seems that the Santon plan provides 8,500m2 of workspace on the North Street site providing:

6,029m2 for a Health Centre
1,256m2 for Business/retail
865m2 for cultural/creative space/restaurant
300m2 for double height workshops

Has someone got the whole thing wrong at Santon?

No doubt high rents will be charged for the commercial space, which will mean that the cultural/creative space will be out of reach for artisans and small businesses. Has someone left a zero off the allocation for workshops?

A survey commissioned by Santon themselves estimated that about 5,000m2 is currently being used by the ‘creative’ workshops alone! Lewes Phoenix Rising estimates that on the North Street Estate they are using a minimum of about 10,000m2.

The National Park should require that Santon revisit their provision of workspace for this site before any application is seriously considered.
The Pells play area

Currently this area is perfectly secure so that parents can sit and watch their children using the play equipment and the grassed areas safe in the knowledge that the area is enclosed and cannot easily get out of the site except via a clearly visable gateway.

However, the proposal by Santon seems to offer an opening up of public access way out of the site towards the river. Is this necessary?

“Rain gardens” & “Swales”

The developer proposes to include “rain gardens” as part of the ‘greening’ of the site. When I visited one of the exhibitions I asked the Santon representative to explain these. He said it was to prevent the rainwater from gushing into the river and contributing to flooding. That may be a laudable effort in order to prevent flooding, but at the same time, it might be creating ‘swamp’ like habitat close to houses which will only serve to breed insect such as mosquitoes. Some people are extremely allergic to mosquito bites and with the threat of malaria getting closer to these northern areas of Europe this type of provision should be avoided.

Detailed design

It seems that part of this development is already scheduled as a detailed application, even including street names!

The external finish of the houses should be the subject of a separate application so that important details are not lost in the rush to approve the overall development. For example, in the present application it seems as though the external finish includes prefabricated window frames which are certainly not compatible with the architectural heritage of the town!