Category Archives: Lewes

Don’t demolish existing buildings – refit and renovate – it’s better for the environment!

For over 75 years, since the listing of historic and unique buildings were included in the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 about half a million buildings have become listed at either at Grade II, Grade II* or Grade I status across the UK. Essentially this means that the building may not be demolished without special permission from the local planning authority.

However, there are no equivalent laws in the UK that protect the other 25 million UK buildings from needless demolition. According to the Architect’s Journal we lose around 50,000 buildings a year because of this. We support the Architect’s Journal when they say it is time to refresh the Town and Country Planning Act and introduce a ‘Grade III’ status. The restriction on demolition would help reduce the massive carbon footprint of the construction industry. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering the ‘built environment’, of which the construction sector is a crucial component, currently contributes some 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions.  

We need to raise awareness of the environmental costs of demolition and rebuilding. Renovation of an existing building would reduce CO2 emissions and give the opportunity to repurpose many wonderful, but not strictly historical, existing buildings. We are not alone in the quest, The Victorian Society are constantly campaigning for buildings which could be saved from demolition. The Twentieth Century Society are also keen to preserve significant national and local buildings.  

When an area comes under the spectrum of ‘regenerate’ we can breathe new life into a town or rural community by not tearing down a building but by upgrading it.  Buildings, properly integrating with nature, insulated and improved against flooding would not only cost less in climate and financial terms but would maintain and enhance the architectural heritage of the area.

The Government not only needs to change the planning law to introduce the new Grade III listing should also reduce VAT on renovation costs. In the UK we have a crazy situation whereby renovation materials are rated at 20% VAT but a new build is zero-rated, By changing the law there will be a level playing field between new build and renovation.

The cover photo shows the former Magistrates’ Court in Lewes which was demolished to make way for a hotel and shops some of which are still not occupied  The waste of a building which was only opened in 1986 seems unnecessary. The ‘carbon cost’ of the original build (materials) then the demolition (waste processing) and the rebuild (materials) have never been calculated but they must have been high. The new demolition and building project got planning permission in 2015.  

See also the article of 4th January 2023 in Sussex World which covers this topic.

This is a follow-up to The Times article of Monday 2nd Jan 2023 where Kevin McCloud of the TV programme Grand Designs calls for a halt to the demolition of buildings like the M&S building in Oxford Street because of the unnecessary level of carbon emissions in demolition and rebuilding.

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:

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

Or you can email:

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 )

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: 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,   ( ) and Vanessa Rowlands ( ). 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 to express your views. The county councillors for Lewes are: 

Councillor Johnny Denis    

Councillor Wendy Maples 

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  This consultation has just opened and will close on 14 Sep 2021 

Court Road Lewes Development

The future architecture of the area around Court Road and Friars Walk Lewes, has now finally been decided. The Premier Inn replaces the former Magistrates Court, the construction of the residential building fronting the river is well underway and the decision has been reached regarding the future of the former magistrates car park in Court Road. The development of 9 houses on the site of the former car park in Court Road was approved by the South Downs National Park Authority at their August committee meeting in Midhurst. The final decision notice was issued on 30 September 2016. This is a summary of the application:

SDNP/16/01618/FUL | Erection of 9 Residential Dwellings with adjoining outdoor space, car parking and associated works | Court Road Car Park Court Road Lewes East Sussex

 To see all of the application documents and drawings visit: and enter the above-mentioned application number. Here are some extracts from the design drawings (click to enlarge) .




Sussex Heritage Awards 2016

The Sussex Heritage Trust announced the winners of this year’s prestigious Sussex Heritage Trust Awards earlier this month (July 2016).  The ‘Rusty House’ in South Street Lewes was one of the winners in the Small Scale Residential category. See photo below. The building also featured on the Channel 4 Programme  Grand Designs. Click here to see the episode  Presenter Kevin McCloud meets the couple who build the house and asks “What will the neighbours think?” I can’t find many comments on the web but here is what The Times newspaper had to say:

A house of steel in Lewes?

For more information see the Sussex Heritage Trust web site





SDNPA vote in favour of theatre-cultural centre

At last the planning application by the Lewes Repertory Theatre has been put before the members at yesterday’s (Thurs 12th Feb 2015) planning meeting in Midhurst. All except one member (Alun Alesbury abstained), voted in favour of the plan. There were supportive speeches from members Charles Peck, Neville Harrison & Barbara Holyome. Thanks to those members for supporting Lewes all along!

It may seem confusing to have the planning authority approve the demolition & hotel construction in December and in February be so supportive of retaining the building. I suggest asking the Director of Planning, Tim Slaney, to explain!

Here is what Vic Ient, of Save Lewes Architecture,  said to the committee:

“I’m here before you with a heavy heart. Although this application has the support of your officers and is the ideal purpose for the building, we all know that the hotel development has been passed. I am still puzzled at the enthusiastic support by your planning officers for this and why no objections were raised by East Sussex County Council highways or the police. It should never have been a matter of just architecture which you were unfortunately cornered into at the very first meeting back in December 2013. The development flew in the face of the concept of the National Park, the conservation area of Lewes and the wishes of the local people.

It is a very great pity that the members did not have the opportunity to review the theatre application alongside the hotel development in December. However, there may be a very slim chance for this cultural centre. It could be that the negotiations between the Ministry of Justice and the overseas offshore company do not conclude. Or that Whitbread’s decide they have enough Premier Inns all round the country. It would be wonderful to see a significant cultural and arts centre spring up from the ashes of this debacle.

The application is a perfect use for this redundant courthouse. Sustainability is key. Demolition will waste all the energy already used erecting the original building. Constructing the hotel will waste energy, materials and release more CO2 all over again. Far better than just paying lip service to the sustainability of a new building. The multi-faceted use would really benefit local people. There are provisions for playgroups, music, dance and theatre facilities as well as good quality employment and training in the production of radio, film, theatre and tv programmes. In comparison to the hotel, the theatre proposal would provide more than equivalent employment. Disabled and nondisabled would develop their long-term career skills with valuable career prospects and salaries.

It would enhance the vitality and viability of Lewes benefiting those who live in and visit the National Park immeasurably. Many organisations such as the Theatre Trust and the South Downs Society supported this application as did the Lewes Town Council. It is a pity their voices were disregarded by the members when passing the demolition and hotel development.

Please approve the plan and make the conditions specific to the retention of the existing building such that the D2 classification only applies to this type of use within the existing building”.

National Park ignore local residents – Lewes SHALL have a new hotel!

Well, it is all over, and we fear that Lewes will never be the same again. Lewes residents returned from a very frustrating hearing at Midhurst yesterday where the vote went in favour of Quora by 7 to 3.

Yet again, the officers of the South Downs National Park Authority recommended approval. Only three members of the public were allowed to speak for 3 mins each. The developer responded with their speaking slots. Then the chairman selected Tom Jones (also a Lewes District Councillor and ‘Lead Planning Member) to open the discussion.  He was in full support of this development and praised the architect for all his ‘improvements.’ He pointed out that, as Lewes already had a building like Waitrose just around the corner one more won’t make much difference as Lewes is full of different styles of building anyway!  He wasn’t concerned about the waste disposal situation from the demolition. Mr Jones seems to think it a perfect solution that all the waste from the demolished building will be taken up the High Street in small skip lorries makes the whole thing ok as far as he is concerned! Perhaps he wouldn’t say the same if it was in his village of Ditching! His most outrageous comment was to say there will be no parking problem because all the visitors to the hotel development can park in the North Street Quarter where there will be parking for 300 cars!!  Our comment: i) the North Street Quarter has not yet been agreed, let alone built,  and ii) it is a very long walk with all your suitcases from North Street to get to the Premier Inn.

Tom Jones’ talk seemed to set a precedent and others then followed suit like sheep and agreed – APART from three members, – Charles Peck and Neville Harrison spoke with passion and eloquence along with Barbara Holyome.  But, it was not enough and the vote went against us – the chairman also voted against us.

The case officer, Ransford Stewart, seemed very unsure of his facts – he referred to the Fitzroy Memorial Library as the Fitzroy Hospital?! Also he was unsure of how to pronounce ‘Lewes’! This was compounded by the fact that most of the members were not familiar with Lewes!

We feel that residents of Lewes have been let down by the Friends of Lewes and Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group (CAAG) – they both supported this latest version of the plans!

So there it is – after a long battle it seems to be all over and we have to sit back and wait for Quora, Juice Architects, Premier Inn & Whitbread PLC to ruin (and run) our lovely old town.



Another revised application!

Here we go again! It seems the consortium of big business including, Whitbread plc, Premier Inn, Quora Developments and the officers at the SDNPA are determined that Lewes will have a massive new building including a large hotel and shops (and maybe bars & restaurants?) whether the people of Lewes want it or not.

Juice Architects & Quora have modified their plans slightly to overcome objections raised by the committee members of the SDNPA. These plans are now on the National Park website. Click here to review them and make your comments. This time we only have until 3 December to get our comments in.

The latest design looks like this:

massing view





Please note – this is the architect’s drawing. The brickwork is largly grey with a grey roof. The architect cleverly avoids showing a large scale drawing in context with the grade II Fitzroy Memorial Library which in fact is right next door.  It all seems similar to the one which the members rejected.

Quite apart from the design issues, and the oversized ‘massing’ of the building, ESCC Highways officers don’t seem to be concerned about the car parking problems that some 12 shops and a 59 bedroom hotel will cause. The developer is not buying the old magistrates court car park so there is no telling what is going to happen to that. Also ESCC have ignored concernes about the problems of HGV vehicles travelling to and from the site through our narrow streets to take away the masses of rubble that will be left after the demolition. Neither have they addressed concernes about the considerable number of HGVs which will be required to bring in the materials to build the new hotel. On top of this they can’t tell us about road closures! The developer’s plan shows the project taking 18 months. So we have to to face 18 months (or more?) of HGV traversing out narrow streets!