Trashing our town – What are the South Downs National Park doing in the heart of Lewes?

Buildings with architecture from the 1960s being constructed in the South Downs National Park!

One would think that in a national park there would be a higher standard of architectural design than elsewhere. Well no, not here in Lewes in the South Downs National Park! The type of design harkens back to the 1960s and in more akin to city centres than in the ancient town of Lewes!

Above: New housing estate being built in South Downs Road Lewes

The National Park say on their web site: All proposals will be assessed according to the ‘impact on local character and appearance’. They go on to say plans may be rejected on grounds of negatively affecting the landscape or scenery. The South Downs National Park Planning Authority seem to have forgotten their own word when approving these plans!

The consultation period was back in 2015 with approval being give in 2016 reference SDNP/15/01303/FUL. Here are some examples of objections from 2015:

The then ward District Councillor Daisy Copper (now MP for St Albans) said:

We quote extracts from her objection:

  • The South Downs National Park’s mandate is to “preserve and enhance” the area. This development would not do this.
  • It should be noted that Lewes Town Council, East Sussex County Council and many residents OBJECT to this proposal.
  • Design. The impact and size of the four storey buildings it totally inappropriate in this area. They are not designed in the context of the surrounding houses and area.
  • There are not enough affordable homes in the proposal.
  • Lack of consultation and transparency. A large number of residents are unaware of the application and have not been given information on how to comment, if they are unable to do so online. The application should not proceed until all residents have all had an opportunity to comment.

The Friends of the South Downs (was then called the South Downs Society) said:

We quote extracts from their objection:
This design of this development is very different from its neighbours in mass, height, materials. The design is inner urban in character immediately adjacent to an area of low rise development. The design appears to bear no relationship to Malling

They go on to say: In isolation, with no overall planned design vision for the Brooks area it will appear an oddity.

Lewes Town Council said:
The Committee OBJECT to the proposals for the following reasons: There were criticisms of the scale; size; poor aesthetic design and detailing, and the removal of trees along Blake’s Walk was deplored. This was considered a poorly-considered overdevelopment, and was thought to be at odds with the local plan. The proposal was ill-conceived with regard to massing, height, and choice of materials. The impact upon the local area was unacceptable, and there were concerns regarding the treatment of gas emissions from contaminated land. It was considered that an opportunity had been missed to include better energy management technology, and there were too-few affordable units included. Arguments promoted in the application regarding the availability of public transport were considered misleading.

It seems these very valid comments were ignored by the South Downs National Park Planners!

Demolition of Lewes bus station – less than a week to submit your views – closing on 15th June 2022!

Will the South Downs National Park approve plans to demolish the Lewes Bus Station?

The Generator Group, and the site owners are proposing to demolish Lewes bus station and replace it with 40 dwellings along with commercial space for offices or shops. Sadly, currently they propose no affordable homes nor do they appear to offer to fund a new bus station.

To comment on this planning application go to: https://planningpublicaccess.southdowns.gov.uk/online-applications/

Click on ‘search’ and then choose ‘simple search’ and enter the application number: SDNP/22/02197/FUL

Or you can email: planning@southdowns.gov.uk

It’s worrying that the National Park seems to want to hurry this application through the planning system allowing only  5 weeks of consultation for the public to make their views known. The application was only validated on the 11th May 2022 and comments must be in by the 15th of June. That’s just 5 weeks including bank holidays and weekends. The National Park have not taken account of the the Queens Jubilee bank holidays and celebrations when many people were quite rightly celebrating the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.

In reality this application ought to be considered as a ‘major’ planning application with a 13 week consultation. However, right now the important thing is to spread the word about this development and ask that people to submit their comments. The developer will no doubt say in their defence they have held public consultations and submitted a pre application. That’s correct and hundreds of people gave their comments on the pre-application which ran for 7 months, from August 2021 to February 2022. Very unfortunately any comments made during that stage will not be taken into consideration by the planning officers when considering the main planning application.

Alternative ‘bus station’ sites

The developer also will no doubt say that they have put forward a series of alternative sites for the bus station but they’ve not offered to fund the building of the infrastructure for these sites. Are these proposed alternative sites suitable? Have a look at the developer’s suggestions by clicking HERE

(See our previous post click ( HERE )


St Anne’s School site Lewes – Still nothing happening!

St Annes’s school in Lewes, East Sussex was a school for children with special needs. It closed suddenly at the end of the summer term in 2005. That was 16 years ago! Since then the ESCC has allowed the land to remain derelict!

The site is right next door to the ESCC HQ building. One wonders how the Leader and Cabinet members can have simply ignored the place for so long as they must be able to see it for their office windows. It is shameful that this valuable site is not being used for education or housing!

Check out this report on Derelict Places Also check out this video of the site also from 2017 from Exploring With Lucy

Future of Lewes bus station in doubt!

Could the Lewes bus station be lost? 😦😦😦  A “pre” planning application has been submitted to the National Park planners to demolish the bus station and construct a mixed-use ‘gateway development  with 3 commercial units and 41 residential units. The overall height is planned to be 4 storeys with some 5 storey elements. These are initial plans and they could change. This is what the first part of th application says:

There is a real chance the bus station will be lost. The applicants have been made aware of the planning requirement for a replacement bus station facility but we don’t know at this stage if such a requirement is mandatory. In any event where would a new bus station go? 

The application number is SDNP/21/03284/PRE but according to the South Downs National Park on-line comments are not permitted. This may be because it is a “pre” planning application. However there is no harm in writing to the National Park planning department. Email: planning@southdowns.gov.uk. It may also be worthwhile writing to the National Park members nominated for East Sussex. They are Richard Waring, who is also a Lewes Town councillor,   (richard.waring@southdowns.gov.uk ) and Vanessa Rowlands (Vanessa.Rowlands@southdowns.gov.uk ). They both sit on the Park’s Planning Committee.   

If you value the bus station facility, do write and give them your views. 

Also, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) is involved as they are the Transport Authority and it’s believed that discussions regarding the provision of a replacement bus station have been opened with them. One could write to them at publictransport.pts@eastsussex.gov.uk to express your views. The county councillors for Lewes are: 

Councillor Johnny Denis  cllr.Johnny.Denis@eastsussex.gov.uk    

Councillor Wendy Maples cllr.Wendy.Maples@eastsussex.gov.uk 

The irony of this threat to bus services in Lewes comes at the time when the County Council is consulting on a government proposal  entitled Bus Service Improvement Plan! It’s bad enough getting East Sussex County Council to improve the bus service when they’ve done just the opposite over the last decade but this threat to the bus station isn’t a good omen to kick off the county council’s public consultation on their Bus Service Improvement Plan https://consultation.eastsussex.gov.uk/economy-transport-environment/bsip/  This consultation has just opened and will close on 14 Sep 2021 

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