- The Friends of Lewes Society is the civic society for Lewes and has been in existence since 1952. It gives a cautious welcome to the proposals being put forward by the Santon Group for re-development of the North Street Quarter site as in its current state the area is hardly a credit to the town.
- The Society have not yet seen detailed designs of the buildings that will be proposed or the materials with which they will be built, but these aspects, as well as sustainability and flood resilience issues, will be most important in influencing whether the Society can support the development or not. In a recent planning decision on another nearby site the Inspector dismissed an appeal as the proposed development there did not complement the historic character of the town and this consideration will be more important in the North Street Quarter site as it is closer to the town centre and contains industrial heritage that needs to be respected. The Society therefore reserves judgement on detailed design issues until it has seen a Design Code for the site.
- As regards the layout of the site the Society supports the main pedestrian routes through the site. It agrees that the main vehicular entrance should be from Phoenix Causeway and that the new road through the site should also be used by traffic from the east wishing to access Lancaster Street so that East Street can be closed to through traffic. It has some reservations about the concept of shared space on Phoenix Causeway as it believes this could lead to increased congestion and air pollution in the town and the roads leading to it on the eastern side. However the objective of trying to reduce traffic in the town is supported, as is the possibility that buses travelling east would not need in future to first travel up School Hill. The Society also supports allowing traffic from Waitrose to turn immediately to the east, although it has some reservations about three new ‘roundabouts’ being close to one another on Phoenix Causeway, as they too could lead to increased congestion on what is the only vehicular entrance into the town centre from the east.
- The provision of a medical centre and its proposed siting adjacent to Phoenix Causeway with facilities for stopping off and picking up is welcomed. Similarly the provision of pay on exit car parking on the site is supported, although the number of places should exceed the number currently there. Provision should also be made for a larger coach park than currently exists.
- Largely using the site for housing is agreed, although it is important that the percentage of this that is affordable should be 40%, particularly as some of the affordable dwellings are intended for those with special needs. The mix of sizes of housing provided needs to be in line with what the District Council considers necessary for Lewes. There needs to be sufficient play space for children and community facilities, as well as public realm areas with trees and other green facilities in the development. Responsibility for their future maintenance needs to be clear. Adequate infrastructure in the form of additional school places, medical facilities, water and drainage also needs to be provided to support the larger population the development will bring about.
- Provision of suitable accommodation in Lewes for the creative industries currently on site needs to be addressed.
- The Society welcomes the flood protection measures proposed, and the fact they these will encompass the Pells area. They should be designed so that they could be raised, if necessary, in the future. Clarity is also needed as to who will have ongoing responsibility for maintaining them.
- For many years the Society has promoted the concept of a riverside path and it is therefore pleased that a two level path and a footbridge to Tesco are being proposed. However access to the lower path should be by ramp rather than steps and as soon as possible this lower path should be extended under Phoenix Causeway and through to Cliffe Bridge so as to reduce the number of pedestrians crossing this busy road on the higher level.
- The provision of a District heating system is to be welcomed and the plant installed should be large enough for extension to neighbouring properties to be provided in due course.
- The proposed phasing of the development is accepted and the fact that the two years estimated to build phase 1 will provide an opportunity to further consider traffic issues is welcome. However assurances need to be sought regarding the later phases of the development so that its eventual completion takes place. A firm plan also needs to be in place for the future maintenance of the public parts of the whole development.
Friends of Lewes Society April 2014