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) .

court-road-drawing

court-road-south-elevation

court-road-east-elevation

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.”

Housing

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.

Workspace

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!

SDNPA vote in favour of theatre-cultural centre

At last the planning application by the Lewes Repertory Theatre has been put before the members at yesterday’s (Thurs 12th Feb 2015) planning meeting in Midhurst. All except one member (Alun Alesbury abstained), voted in favour of the plan. There were supportive speeches from members Charles Peck, Neville Harrison & Barbara Holyome. Thanks to those members for supporting Lewes all along!

It may seem confusing to have the planning authority approve the demolition & hotel construction in December and in February be so supportive of retaining the building. I suggest asking the Director of Planning, Tim Slaney, to explain!

Here is what Vic Ient, of Save Lewes Architecture,  said to the committee:

“I’m here before you with a heavy heart. Although this application has the support of your officers and is the ideal purpose for the building, we all know that the hotel development has been passed. I am still puzzled at the enthusiastic support by your planning officers for this and why no objections were raised by East Sussex County Council highways or the police. It should never have been a matter of just architecture which you were unfortunately cornered into at the very first meeting back in December 2013. The development flew in the face of the concept of the National Park, the conservation area of Lewes and the wishes of the local people.

It is a very great pity that the members did not have the opportunity to review the theatre application alongside the hotel development in December. However, there may be a very slim chance for this cultural centre. It could be that the negotiations between the Ministry of Justice and the overseas offshore company do not conclude. Or that Whitbread’s decide they have enough Premier Inns all round the country. It would be wonderful to see a significant cultural and arts centre spring up from the ashes of this debacle.

The application is a perfect use for this redundant courthouse. Sustainability is key. Demolition will waste all the energy already used erecting the original building. Constructing the hotel will waste energy, materials and release more CO2 all over again. Far better than just paying lip service to the sustainability of a new building. The multi-faceted use would really benefit local people. There are provisions for playgroups, music, dance and theatre facilities as well as good quality employment and training in the production of radio, film, theatre and tv programmes. In comparison to the hotel, the theatre proposal would provide more than equivalent employment. Disabled and nondisabled would develop their long-term career skills with valuable career prospects and salaries.

It would enhance the vitality and viability of Lewes benefiting those who live in and visit the National Park immeasurably. Many organisations such as the Theatre Trust and the South Downs Society supported this application as did the Lewes Town Council. It is a pity their voices were disregarded by the members when passing the demolition and hotel development.

Please approve the plan and make the conditions specific to the retention of the existing building such that the D2 classification only applies to this type of use within the existing building”.

BBC Radio Sussex interview on the court site planning decision

_73553743_dwnuda1dBBC RADIO SUSSEX INTERVIEW – SAVE LEWES ARCHITECTURE – 12TH DECEMBER 2014

BBC in italitcs:

BBC: Something we talked about before and this is the possibility of a 59 bed Premier Inn on the site of a disused Magistrates Court in Lewes. That’s now been given the go-ahead by South Downs National Park. The development will also include four shops and a café. Campaigners have fought against the plans hoping for a centre of excellence of film, tv and theatre production. Now Lewes will also get its first full time three screen cinema for forty years, built within the Harveys Depot which was also been given the go-ahead at the meeting yesterday. Vic Ient from Save Lewes Architecture which has campaigned against the plans, joins me on the line now. Now, Vic, what’s your reaction to this?

Let me say, I am not against the plans for the three screen cinema. That is an excellent proposal. But as far as the Premier Inn development is concerned on the Old Magistrates Court site, it is a sad day for Lewes, quite frankly, because the development which is proposed is going to be a lot bigger than the present building.  I don’t think people quite realise that and, sadly, I don’t think the officers of the National Park quite realise that either!

(interrupting, the BBC interviewer said:  Well, let us hear what they had to say. We did approach them for a statement. They said, ‘ Lewes is distinctive, vibrant. We take our role very seriously as the planning authority and they went on to say this is the third time our planning committee have considered the proposal. We have  visited the site, examined the evidence,  listened carefully to those speaking both for and against the application and held a lively and informed debate. They feel they are giving what the majority wants and given the right decision and clearly you don’t agree with that.

I certainly don’t! I wrote and spoke to the National Park on more than one occasion and asked them to hold a public conference here in Lewes, not over in Midhurst over 45 miles away, but here in Lewes, about what should be built on this site, and they refused point blank saying they were quite familiar with the site themselves. Let me just tell you not one single chief officer lives in East Sussex, they all either live in West Sussex or even further away. The current case officer couldn’t even pronounce Lewes!

But they have considered all the options haven’t they? Isn’t there something to be said for having a cheap hotel where people can enjoy the local areas and it brings a boost to the local economy and it’s a difficult balance isn’t it between architecture and looking to the future creating jobs, creating money coming into the area?

Look, I’m not against jobs. This site could have employed over 40 people involved in community, theatre and other activities. I have had people talking to me about a location for their dance school. All of these things could have been incorporated within this building. As it is, and I am sure you know, and may have stayed in similar hotels yourself, Premier Inn employ low paid, part time workers and very often these people don’t even live in the area and the supplies that come to these hotels come in great big articulated lorries from the other end of the country.

Interrupting, the interviewer said:  That is quite a sweeping generalisation, isn’t it and I am sure one that they would dispute because they do provide jobs, they do provide accommodation for people to stay in who will then spend their money in the local area. So there has to be some economic benefit.

 I don’t agree, the present hotels are not full anyway. The South Downs National Park has only just started carrying out a hotel survey in Lewes – only just started!

So what’s next then? Obviously, it’s been given the go-ahead, so that’s the end of the fight then?

I am afraid we are now going to be given what Whitbreads, Premier Inn and the developer want. We are going to have have to put up with their development. Now they could have adapted the present building. Let me give you an example; in Oxford, a planning application to tear down the old prison was refused and the hotel developer converted the prison to a hotel. Now why couldn’t the developer have done that here?

Clearly you are very upset about this. Thank you for sharing your views on the programme.