Santon/LDC’s latest plans for the provision of employment space at North Street continue to fall far short of the needs of the town.
Lewes Phoenix Rising’s plans provide nearly 7,000 sqm of basic, adaptable workspace within the modestly refurbished buildings of the historic Phoenix Ironworks. Providing both single and double-height workshops, the space will be suitable for manufacturing, creative industries, services and community enterprises. This can be done at low cost to enable existing businesses and youth venues to flourish, as well as providing new space for start-ups.
We are also including a depot for Compass Buses so that they can continue to provide over 500,000 passenger bus journeys to our rural villages.
By contrast, Santon’s plans for the site would provide just 17% of the work space proposed by Lewes Phoenix Rising – namely:
- 1,195 sqm of “flexible workspace” (about the same floorspace as theNeedlemakers), which is primarily designed for office space and is dispersed in small units in expensive buildings around the site. They have not understood the type of basic, adaptable workspace required by makers and manufacturers.
- Of this, only 518 sqm of this will be at subsidised rents of around £8 per square foot (£80 per sq m) – a small concession in response to public objections to the loss of affordable workspace. But this is just7.4% of the low-cost employment space that Lewes Phoenix Rising is proposing and just 5% of what businesses on the site use now.
In addition to this token 1,195 sqm on the site, Santon is offering its new Malling Brooks Industrial Estate to provide 6,969 sqm of “purpose-built employment space”. However,
- Only two of the largest businesses on the site, Gosnalls and Wenban Smith, have confirmed they will be able to relocate to Malling Brooks.
- The vast majority of businesses say that sites offered on Malling Brooks are prohibitively expensive – including Compass Buses, William Hardie Designs, The Dance Academy, North Street Garage, Community Chef and Furniture Now. And they are completely beyond the reach of the dozens of small workshops and studios on the Phoenix, housed in buildings such as Pop Up Studios, Foundry Workshops and Zu Studios.
- Rates and terms at Malling Brooks clearly indicate this is intended as a conventional industrial estate planned for large corporate rents not local start-ups and social enterprises. Oakley Commercial’s advertising makes the point that the new businesses will have Homebase andScrewfix as their neighbours.
Santon has claimed, as part of a relocation strategy for businesses in the Phase 1 development area (at the southern end of the site), that it is offering temporary affordable workspace elsewhere on the Phoenix Estate. This is not true. Contrary to what Santon/LDC are saying in their new Employment Assessment, most businesses have never been offered anything and remain in the dark as their leases come to an end. The few that have say the alternatives offered are either semi-derelict, already occupied, unaffordable or sometimes all three. Well-established local businesses and the creative cluster of small workshops, studios, youth venues and community enterprises are close to the point of being forced to close or leave Lewes altogether.
In our view, we are about to lose the last affordable workspace in Lewes, the type of space we need to incubate local independent businesses, the creative industries and social enterprises.
The Santon/LDC amended plans will not ‘foster the economic and social well-being of the people living in the National Park’. This is contrary to one of the duties of the National Park as set out in the Environment Act of 1995.
The fact that Santon/LDC are also stubbornly refusing to make use of the existing Ironworks’ buildings on the site, in spite of their structural soundness and importance as heritage assets and the cultural activity they house, is contrary to the duty of the National Park to conserve and enhance cultural heritage, as required by the National Parks Act of 1949.
What can you do?
Once again, it is time to make objections to the Santon/LDC plan. We have attached a link to the Employment Assessment Addendum (by Clifford Dann) and the Cultural Quarter Business Plan (Five Lines) so that you can see for yourself what Santon/LDC are proposing.
To see all the amendments to the Santon/LDC application (ref: SDNP/15/01146/FUL) go to the South Downs National Park website to
Be patient – this can take some time!
If you are concerned about any aspect of the plans, the simplest way to comment is via the online comment form (select the ‘Comments’ tab) at:
Otherwise, send an email to: email@example.com
or write to: Planning, Southover House, Southover Road, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1AB quoting the application reference number SDNP/15/01146/FUL.
Make your voice heard!