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!

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