SDNPA fails in its core duties and consents a plan that will destroy 450 livelihoods in Lewes
The planning committee of the South Downs National Park Authority consented the Santon / LDC plan to redevelop the North Street and Phoenix Estate area of Lewes on Thursday December 10th.
Having fought for a viable alternative solution that would deliver the 400+ new homes that Lewes needs while still housing many of the businesses, enterprises and cultural venues that have flourished on the site, we are deeply disappointed in the SDNPA’s complete failure to live up to its own duty to foster the economic and social well-being of communities in a National Park.
The decision puts into question the Park’s competence to assess urban regeneration schemes of this size and social / economic / environmental implications. The officer’s report and the ensuing committee meeting presented an almost entirely uncritical assessment of the application, which took all the developer’s proposals at face value – regardless of the 600 objections and concerns that have been raised about them.
Rather than proper scrutiny of the economic, social and sustainability impacts of the plan, the committee frustratingly spent more time on micro-cosmetic issues such as smartening up Willey’s footbridge, decorating the walls of the underground car park with heritage scenes, wondering whether there would be broadband, and making sure the flood defences aren’t ‘bland’.
- There was no discussion as to how affordable housing could be delivered below 80% of market rate, although it has been repeatedly acknowledged that affordable for Lewes is 43% of market rate
- The proposal for a water-source based district-heating system was dealt with in seconds with absolutely no scrutiny of its viability nor the lack of any clear renewable energy strategy despite extensive concerns raised by local experts
- No concern was shown for the loss of a depot for Compass Buses although it services dozens of rural destinations that the National Park would want to support
- Especially frustrating was the total lack of analysis of the proposed flexible workspace – just 11 small box units – and its suitability for the number and type of businesses that Lewes needs to support
- No response to an impassioned plea on behalf of 3,000 young people to keep large-scale youth facilities on site
This is indicative of an authority which itself admits to being unused to assessing urban regeneration schemes of this kind. The debate focused more on superficial prettifying and recording past heritage than asking hard questions about how to secure a National Park in which people of all incomes can live and work NOW. Such hard-headed analysis is critical at a time when the towns that the National Park is tasked to steward are under threat from a wholesale land grab by developers and foreign investors.
You can watch the whole committee meeting, including speakers in objection including Chelsea Renton of Lewes Phoenix Rising, District Councillor Jo Carter and Wendy Baker of the Dance Academy – here: http://www.southdowns.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/199964
So what’s next?
The LPR management team will be meeting to discuss next steps and consulting with our 1,646 signatories. Many thanks for your continued support – and keep in touch with your thoughts.