“…they can move to Newhaven”
This is the response we at Lewes Phoenix Rising have heard on a number of occasions from some Lewes District Council (LDC) officers and members, in response to our concerns regarding the lack of suitable or affordable space for small businesses and social enterprises if their development plans for the Phoenix Estate go through.
Newhaven’s gain would be our loss.
International experience shows that the most successful and economically resilient towns are often those that have a unique identity and where there is close collaboration between locally-based enterprises and skills. Lewes just so happens to have a historical economy and cultural heritage of light industry, manufacturing, arts and design, backstage industries, ideas and creative and social enterprise. These are the businesses that exist now on the Phoenix Estate and elsewhere in the town.
We should blow on this spark and create a flame – an economy that will see us into the 21stcentury, nurturing our identity, providing jobs, apprenticeships, opportunities for young people and a reason to visit the town, other than to admire the architecture.
We do not believe the current Santon/LDC plan to provide some ground-floor space under residential and offices recognises the requirements of such an industry. Yes, we need small spaces for studios but we also need places where a designer can weld, a carpenter can use machinery, a band can rehearse, a bonfire society can make a tableau, we can train and educate and young people can start up, affordably, on their own. And they need stability and proximity to each other.
Around 450 people are currently employed in the area bound by the proposed development. In October 2014 we conducted a survey with Santon to understand the interconnections (shared machinery, space, services, skills and ideas) between the ‘creative’ businesses on the Phoenix Estate.
80% said the interconnections with other businesses were important or very important;
83% said moving out of the Phoenix Estate would be problematic or very problematic;
The top 3 reasons for basing their businesses on the Phoenix Estate were: price, size of space and location.
LPR has developed and costed a plan to renovate the buildings of the old Phoenix Ironworks to provide substantial affordable space, with an additional 48 affordable rental homes and live/work units for those who need them most, to live and work in the centre of town. We want the new development to have a vibrant heart, where Lewes’ creative and independent energy is given free rein, protecting its unique identity and allowing its economy to thrive and grow.
Without this, Lewes could be little more than an expensive commuter town providing bijou studios, retail, housing and trade parks. We will indeed have to go to Newhaven or elsewhere (as many already have) to live affordably, set up a workshop, get something made or have fun. And the very reason why so many moved here – or chose to stay here – will be gone.
Lewes Phoenix Rising