Category Archives: South Downs National Park

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

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”.

National Park ignore local residents – Lewes SHALL have a new hotel!

Well, it is all over, and we fear that Lewes will never be the same again. Lewes residents returned from a very frustrating hearing at Midhurst yesterday where the vote went in favour of Quora by 7 to 3.

Yet again, the officers of the South Downs National Park Authority recommended approval. Only three members of the public were allowed to speak for 3 mins each. The developer responded with their speaking slots. Then the chairman selected Tom Jones (also a Lewes District Councillor and ‘Lead Planning Member) to open the discussion.  He was in full support of this development and praised the architect for all his ‘improvements.’ He pointed out that, as Lewes already had a building like Waitrose just around the corner one more won’t make much difference as Lewes is full of different styles of building anyway!  He wasn’t concerned about the waste disposal situation from the demolition. Mr Jones seems to think it a perfect solution that all the waste from the demolished building will be taken up the High Street in small skip lorries makes the whole thing ok as far as he is concerned! Perhaps he wouldn’t say the same if it was in his village of Ditching! His most outrageous comment was to say there will be no parking problem because all the visitors to the hotel development can park in the North Street Quarter where there will be parking for 300 cars!!  Our comment: i) the North Street Quarter has not yet been agreed, let alone built,  and ii) it is a very long walk with all your suitcases from North Street to get to the Premier Inn.

Tom Jones’ talk seemed to set a precedent and others then followed suit like sheep and agreed – APART from three members, – Charles Peck and Neville Harrison spoke with passion and eloquence along with Barbara Holyome.  But, it was not enough and the vote went against us – the chairman also voted against us.

The case officer, Ransford Stewart, seemed very unsure of his facts – he referred to the Fitzroy Memorial Library as the Fitzroy Hospital?! Also he was unsure of how to pronounce ‘Lewes’! This was compounded by the fact that most of the members were not familiar with Lewes!

We feel that residents of Lewes have been let down by the Friends of Lewes and Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group (CAAG) – they both supported this latest version of the plans!

So there it is – after a long battle it seems to be all over and we have to sit back and wait for Quora, Juice Architects, Premier Inn & Whitbread PLC to ruin (and run) our lovely old town.

 

 

Another revised application!

Here we go again! It seems the consortium of big business including, Whitbread plc, Premier Inn, Quora Developments and the officers at the SDNPA are determined that Lewes will have a massive new building including a large hotel and shops (and maybe bars & restaurants?) whether the people of Lewes want it or not.

Juice Architects & Quora have modified their plans slightly to overcome objections raised by the committee members of the SDNPA. These plans are now on the National Park website. Click here to review them and make your comments. This time we only have until 3 December to get our comments in.

The latest design looks like this:

massing view

 

 

 

 

Please note – this is the architect’s drawing. The brickwork is largly grey with a grey roof. The architect cleverly avoids showing a large scale drawing in context with the grade II Fitzroy Memorial Library which in fact is right next door.  It all seems similar to the one which the members rejected.

Quite apart from the design issues, and the oversized ‘massing’ of the building, ESCC Highways officers don’t seem to be concerned about the car parking problems that some 12 shops and a 59 bedroom hotel will cause. The developer is not buying the old magistrates court car park so there is no telling what is going to happen to that. Also ESCC have ignored concernes about the problems of HGV vehicles travelling to and from the site through our narrow streets to take away the masses of rubble that will be left after the demolition. Neither have they addressed concernes about the considerable number of HGVs which will be required to bring in the materials to build the new hotel. On top of this they can’t tell us about road closures! The developer’s plan shows the project taking 18 months. So we have to to face 18 months (or more?) of HGV traversing out narrow streets!

Lewes Community Opportunity

Local ImageAs many of you may know the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) went against officers’ recommendations to approve the hotel plan at their meeting on the 9th October.

Lewes residents made a good showing in the public gallery over in Midhurst and three Lewes residents spoke against the planning application pointing out the continued litany of misleading drawings and inappropriate design aspects. Members of the SDNPA went against the officers’ enthusiastic support for the Premier Inn design and referred it back to the developer thus giving them a further bite of the cherry at a later date.

In the run-up to this meeting the planning application for the Lewes Repertory Theatre’s (LRT) re-use of the existing building was withdrawn from the agenda by the SDNPA officers saying there were objections by the ESCC Highways Department and the Environmental Health Department of the Lewes District Council. As the SDNPA officers made a fuss about these two objections LRT are now having to employ a professional planning consultant and other specialists to ensure the ‘technical’ objections are satisfactorily answered. Once these have been dealt with the LRT application will be considered by the SDNPA.

The LRT objective in making this application is:

CommunityThe building will be publically owned as a public trust or by public share subscription with multiple tenants (LRT being only one of these) serving the community in Lewes and the surrounding area. LRT are hoping that the current owners, the Ministry of Justice will support this objective so that the proposed public organisation can be formed.

 

 

 

In the meantime please would you give the LRT campaign a boost by doing one or all of the following things?

  • PETITION: Many of you have already signed the petition, but if you haven’t please would you add your name to the list; – just click here to go to the petition page. You can check if you’ve already signed it by clicking here.
  • PLANNING: Many of you have already written into the SDNPA registering your support for the LRT application, but if you haven’t please would you do so by clicking here and following the links.
  • DONATE: LRT and it’s supporters have had to incur extra costs to get the planning application processed. This includes the planning application fee, the cost of architectural services and planning consultants to mention just a few items. The theatre company lost its premises in a fire earlier this year at the Phoenix Centre in Lewes. Now they are incurring costs to fight this planning battle. Can you help with a donation towards the costs? Just click here to go to the donation page of the LRT Supporters Group where you can make a contribution online or get the details to send a donation.

Thank you!

Planners from Midhurst forcing hotel plans on Lewes!

West ElevationDespite all the objections to the design, disruption and a whole host of other issues from the Lewes Town Council  local groups (including The Friends of Lewes & the South Downs Society) and the public, planners want to force Lewes to have a Premier Inn hotel

The planners are at it again! They are again recommending that the former magistrates court in Lewes should be demolished and hotel plus shops be built in its place. The design includes the use of a mass of grey-blue bricks together with steel and glass awnings. The National Park’s own Design Officer has come out against the design as have the vast majority of the Lewes people.

In December 2013, the previous dreadful design was recommended by the planners to the members of the SDNPA but the members agreed with the residents of Lewes that the design should be refused. Well, the developer and the planners are not prepared to take no for an answer and on Thursday 9th October, in a few days’ time, the members will have to decide on the revised planning application.

Lewes needs to make a good showing at the planning meeting in order to demonstrate the strength of feeling of local residents. Can you join us? Let us know if you can come over to Midhurst on Thursday 9th (we are car sharing and have laid mini-bus transport). There is no charge but a donation on the day would be great! Just fill in the contact form (click here) or phone Charlotte on 01273 473250. We will be leaving from Lewes Railway Station at 8.00 am and returning in the afternoon. We will arrive in Midhurst in time to get a coffee/tea before the meeting. It is likely the Magistrates’ Court item will be over by lunch time.

If you can’t come you can still write to the planning department to make a comment opposing the demolition & redevelopment by – coping this reference:  SDNP/14/01650/FUL  and paste it into the search box at the SDNPA web site by clicking here. If you have time please also contact the Planning Dept (click here) or better still write to the members of the planning committee. Click here for details of all SDNPA members.

Thanks you!

PS: there is a further Machiavellian twist to the sad story of the old magistrates court site. You may know that Lewes Repertory Theatre applied for planning permission in back in July to convert the court site into an arts and cultural centre. The National Park had decided that this application should be heard at the same time as the building demolition and construction of a Premier Inn application. Well just at the last minute officials at East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council have found reasons for querying the application which means that a decision on this theatre application is going to be put off. It seems that the developer of the Premier Inn is being allowed a ‘clear field’ before the theatre application is brought to committee for decision. We are unsure of what this means but it’s clearly not very fair or democratic! Read more about this on the Lewes Repertory Theatre’s Supporters website (click here)