Lindsay Frost Esq
Director of Planning and Environmental Services
Lewes District Council
12 April 2006
My electronic letter of 30 March indicated that we would let you have our detailed paragraph by paragraph critique of this appraisal before Easter, This critique is now attached as an appendix to this letter, and I trust that you, and if appropriate the consultants used to draft the appraisal, find it helpful.
As the civic society for Lewes with an objective of conserving the historic townscape of the town, we are anxious that the outcome of this exercise should be a Management Plan which is clearly focussed on the issues that need to be addressed in the conservation area. Whilst we welcome the proposal to increase its area, and have already suggested some further additions to it, it is important that this should not be seen as the only outcome. Equally as important is the need to have a firm plan for dealing with the following issues:-
- The streetscape, including the state of pavements, removal of unnecessary wires and signs, and having consistent street lighting furniture. (By separate cover we are sending a partially completed survey of wires in the conservation area which shows the extent of this problem.)
- Ensuring that shop fronts are sympathetically designed, and dealing with those that are not of an acceptable standard.
- Enforcing the existing policy of banning internally illuminated signs.
- Providing more trees particularly in the public car parks.
- Improving the clearance of litter including that which blocks drain covers.
- Having a public list of buildings of townscape merit, in addition to those listed by English Heritage, together with notes as to how the appearance of both categories of buildings might be enhanced.
- Taking appropriate action to ensure that buildings at risk are conserved. (We provided a list on 22 November 2004 but could update this if required)
- Extending the article 4 direction beyond houses to other buildings.
- Requiring all new developments to use locally distinctive materials and be consistent with maintaining the texture of the town.
As stated previously, we would be happy to attend any meeting to consider either the appraisal or the subsequent draft Management Plan as we want to ensure that both documents provide a sound template against which future decisions on conservation area issues will be made.
Detailed comments by the Friends of Lewes Society to be read in conjunction with the Society’s letter of 30 March to Lewes District Council.
- The paragraphs about the English Heritage guidelines and the Council’s intentions should be separate from the introduction to Lewes. The wording of the last sentence of the intentions paragraph should be changed to “These proposals should build on the Issues and Recommendations within this appraisal and provide an agreed plan for the long term management and enhancement of the Conservation area”.
- In the first paragraph we consider it would be better to refer to the High Weald rather than Ashdown Forest.
- In the first sentence of the second paragraph the reference to a collection of houses is misleading and needs deleting, as the existing houses have no historical connection with the castle.
- In the last sentence of the second paragraph we consider that Cliffe should be referred to as the “once” separate settlement.
- It is not true to say in the third paragraph that Cliffe Hill is more wooded. We would also prefer the first sentence to read “Almost surrounding the town to the north and west are the treeless, smooth sheep grazed chalk hills of the eastern Downs with the flat valley of the curving River Ouse and its water meadows below providing a complete contrast”.
Section 1. Introduction
- The last sentence of the last paragraph of section 1.1.should be amended to say “It therefore provides an interim basis on which all new applications for development within, or on the edge of, the Lewes conservation area can be assessed until the more detailed Management Plan is produced and implemented.
- Please see point 1 of the Society’s letter of 30 March regarding consultation. In addition the dates quoted as to when this took place are wrong.
Section 2. Summary of the special interest
- In section 2.1 we would prefer the reference to local sandstone to be changed to “regional sandstone” and local stone kerbs to “traditional stone kerbs”.
- Activities in section 2.1 could be expanded to refer to auction houses and offices of the police and various quangos. Antiques and books might be given as examples of local specialist shops.
- In section 2.2 the last sentence implies more than one pre-Norman church when we thought there was only one.
- Section 2.3 might refer to the few remaining large gardens.
Section 3. Historical development
- In Section 3.1 Roman roads should be qualified by “Route of” whilst Juggs Lane should be Juggs Road. The Roman crossing below Cliffe Bridge was a ford.
- The reference in section 3.2 to Malling should be correctly referred to as South Malling and expanded to mention the separate conservation area there.
- In the third paragraph of 3.2 we do not like the term “suburbs” whilst any such list of what were essentially separate settlements should include South Malling. A similar repetitive reference is made in the next paragraph.
- In the fifth paragraph of 3.2 “Mise” is spelt incorrectly.
- In the sixth paragraph of 3.2 we believe some of the ditches described as drainage ditches were first provided for boatbuilding; i.e. wharves at right angles to the river.
- In the seventh paragraph of 3.2 the word “Southover” before “Priory” should be deleted as the building is known as Lewes Priory. In addition reference should be made to the dissolution of the monasteries and the deliberate destruction of the Priory.
- In the tenth paragraph of 3.2 the reference to the 17th century should be changed to “Civil War”.
- The reference in the 11th paragraph of 3.2 to the North Street prison should be extended to say that it subsequently became a naval prison.
- The 12th paragraph of 3.2 needs amending to explain that both Cliffe and Southover were quite separate parishes.
- The 13th paragraph of 3.2 gives the inaccurate impression that the markets only came into being in the later part of the 18th century.
- The railway history given in the 14th paragraph of 3.2 is wrong. The railway at Offham was an industrial funicular rather than a railway in the conventional sense. The first conventional railway into Lewes was from Brighton in 1846 with a terminus in Friars Walk where Court Road starts now. The railway line that crossed the High Street was not opened until 1868 after the Friars Walk station had been closed and converted into a goods yard, and a new station opened on the site of the present one. (Source – History of the Southern Railway by Dendy Marshall first published in 1937)
- A reference to Baxter being responsible for the development of colour printing could be added to the 15th paragraph of 3.2 whilst we would prefer a reference to Gideon Mantell rather than Charles Dawson.
- The 16th paragraph of 3.2 needs amending as we consider that Lewes started declining after Brighton began to grow in the early part of the 19th century. It might also refer to the canalisation of the river whilst the reference to the North Street prison is essentially repetition.
- The reference in the 19th paragraph of 3.2 to the war needs the prefix “First World” before it, whilst the construction of the Nevill estate was started in the 1920’s and Landport in the 1930’s. The latter estate was essentially conceived as a result of the clearance programme of some fine rows of houses in the town centre which were regarded as “slums” and this should be mentioned too.
- The 20th paragraph of 3.2 is incorrect in implying that the county office building in St Anne’s Crescent was constructed after Phoenix Causeway. In fact it pre-dated it by a year.
- The main part of the original Malling estate was started in the 1950’s and paragraph 22 of 3.2 needs amending. The reference in the second sentence implies that the principal streets in Malling retain historic frontages when it should refer to the town centre. A reference to Brighton and Hove’s unitary status would be more meaningful than their city status.
- In the 23rd paragraph of 3.2 the reference to the new library is out of context but tourism should be included as an economic generator. The reference to “still” in relation to commuting needs deleting. The reference to the proposed National Park needs amending as it has been designated but simply awaits confirmation by the Secretary of State following the Inspector’s report.
- In the 24th paragraph of 3.2 credits should be given to the Council and the bonfire societies for the clearance operation they undertake after each Bonfire Night.
- Section 3.3 refers to six scheduled Ancient Monuments yet only lists 5 of them. May we know what the sixth is please?
Section 4. Location and landscape Setting
- The link to the ferry port at Newhaven is worth mentioning in 4.1
- Much of the first paragraph of 4.2 is repetition; we disagree that Cliffe Hill has heavily wooded hillsides.
- In the second paragraph of 4.2 we understand that it is now disputed whether the Downs were originally entirely wooded. The river used to be navigable well beyond Barcombe; for example the Ouse Valley viaduct at Balcombe was constructed out of bricks taken there on the river.
- In section 4.3 we query whether the local chalk was used for clunch as we thought it was too soft. Flints were generally picked from the fields. There is not a fault line running through the villages mentioned; it is simply a change of geological strata.
Section 5. Spatial analysis
- In 5.1 we do not consider that the Paddock forms part of the Wallands estate. It is a character area in its own right. Reference should however be made to Hangman’s Acre whilst the reference to horse grazing is of a past activity.
- The Castle grounds are not solely owned by the SAS as there are private houses within them. We question whether there are many mature trees there.
- The Winterbourne stream sometimes runs in the winter but is always dry in the summer.
- Lewes Priory is not owned by the SAS but part owned by a private individual and part owned by Lewes Town Council with management devolved to Lewes Priory Trust.
- Reference should be made in 5.1 to large private gardens, some listed as of local historic importance; school playing fields and recreation grounds; and the Malling Downs Nature Reserve.
- The reference in the first paragraph of 5.2 to being able to see the Cuckmere Valley from Lewes is wrong.
- We question whether the list of focal points mentioned in the third paragraph of 5.2 is complete.
Section 6. Definition of the special interest
- In 6.1 we suggest that the first sentence should say that housing is rather expensive. In addition the only significant manufacturing in the conservation area is Harvey’s brewery and the Tofu factory in Castle Ditch Lane. Chandlers is not an industrial activity. In the main features list we do not regard the Town Council as a principal employer but we consider that the Police and NHS Trusts might be added. Auction houses and antique shops might be added to the examples of specialist shops.
- We do not agree with the statement in the first paragraph of 6.2 that historic plots and boundaries have been retained.
- The second paragraph of 6.2 does not refer to earlier surveys of listed buildings; these were included in the 1970 Conservation Area plan.
- Paragraph 4 of 6.2 should mention the grid street layout in the town centre and the poor state of repair of flint and brick walls. The stone imported for the Priory was from France whereas the flint was local. Why is Fairhall not included in the list of early timber-framed houses?
- What is the basis for the statement in the second paragraph of 6.3 that no evidence has been found of a Saxon settlement in Lewes?
- Diagrams of the types of windows described in the fifth paragraph of 6.3 and the types of flint mentioned in the eighth paragraph would be helpful.
- The seventh paragraph of 6.3 is incorrect in saying that cobbled flint work was not used for higher quality buildings as the old rectory at South Malling is an example.
- We question the accuracy of the statement in the tenth paragraph of 6.3 that the High Street level was once much lower. If indeed it was, what is the significance of this?
- The Freemason’s Hall mentioned in the fifteenth paragraph of 6.3 is not an example of red or blue brick; it is a creamy/yellow brick.
- The reference in paragraph 19 of 6.3 to triangular shaped clay copings should be to pentagonal shaped. These copings were often used, rather than sometimes. The other local design is a dome shaped coping. The difficulty in sourcing replacement copings, if they are lost or stolen, might also be mentioned.
- The technical terms in 6.5 need to be defined. Whilst we know what HERS stands for it should be spelt out the first time it is used.
- We question whether commercial advertising and signage referred to in the third paragraph of 6.5 has been well controlled in the past. The lost tradition of three dimensional hanging signs might be mentioned; there are examples of these in Anne of Cleve’s House Museum.
- The reference in the first paragraph of 6.6 to repaving the town centre with modern materials needs qualifying with the word “inappropriate”.
- Paragraph 3 of 6.6 should mention that the Keere Street cobbles were set in tar.
- The various items mentioned in the fourth paragraph of 6.6 are not only isolated geographically but are often surrounded by a sea of black top or concrete.
- The sections on street lighting should mention the current colour mix of the lights and the different shapes of lanterns used as a result of the County Council’s current policy not to make special provision in a conservation area.
- The reference in paragraph 7 of 6.6 to litter bins should bring out the fact that the most expensive are the best design and that the plastic bins, which suffer from vandalism (particularly fire), are not replaced quickly. The untidy effect on the street scene that litter causes could be brought out.
- The Headstrong Club mentioned in the second paragraph of 6.7 is still functioning.
Section 7 – Identification of Character Areas
- We consider that the Paddock, including New Road and Paddock Road, has little in common with the Wallands and should be treated as a separate character area.
- In general the negative features in each area have been given insufficient emphasis. Since the Management Plan should set out ways in which improvements can be made to these negative features it is important that they are comprehensively listed. e.g. wirescapes
- The features mentioned in para 8 of the Society’s letter of 30 March 2006 should be included in the commentaries on each area as appropriate. These features were :- World War II -effects of bomb damage, loss of iron railings and remains of air raid shelters; Flooding; Overhead wires; Litter and street cleanliness; Trees; By-Pass noise; and the poor state of many pavements and boundary walls. In addition the effects of the 1987 hurricane and Dutch Elm disease should also be mentioned.
- The sub-titles of each history section should be consistent.
7.1 Area 1 Cliffe
- In principal features whilst we accept that there are good views along the River Ouse at high tide, the rubbish and inappropriate materials of the river walls which are visible at low tide should also be mentioned.
- Under history, we suggest:-
- that the canalisation of the river together with the establishment of wharves and boat building yards deserves a mention.
- the 1960 floods also affected the Cliffe and other parts of Lewes and should be mentioned.
- if the HERS scheme warrants a mention should not the CAPS scheme also be given one bearing in mind that the largest grant made from it went to a building in the Cliffe area.
- the pedestrianisation plans mentioned would only partly pedestrianise Cliffe High Street. It is worth noting that this was suggested in the 1970 Town Centre Plan.
- the 9th point is not clear as to which period is being referred to.
- Under uses, we suggest:-
- the word “public” is added before “car park” in line 4.
- the former gas works should be mentioned as an industrial activity whilst Chandlers Yard, which is on “contaminated land”, should be described as a commercial activity.
- Under townscape, we query:-
- whether Pastorale Antiques was once a warehouse as we thought it was originally a coaching inn.
- was the chalk block mentioned as a building material especially hard? If so, this should be stated and its origin given.
- Under local features the fact that the public water pump does not currently work should be noted.
- We suggest adding to the list of negative features – the electricity sub-station next to the river; rubbish in the river; inappropriate river walls; the lack of a riverbank path; almost no trees in the area and the ugly industrial style buildings occupied by Chandlers.
7.2 Area 2 Lower High Street
- Under principal features we suggest that the Clifford Dann and Sussex Express offices should be quoted as examples of bad modern development.
- Under brief history:-
- the pedestrian precinct was opened in 1990.
- the former local Building Society initiated the office development in Friars Walk which is now occupied by two NHS trusts.
- the Turkish Baths should be mentioned.
- the sale of the Safeway building to Waitrose could be mentioned.
- Under uses :-
- we would like the adjective “ugly” included in the description of the timber merchants building.
- the new local library referred to has been built and is now open.
- Under townscape:-
- No 204 High Street is no longer the office of the local MP.
- the blocked up early wine cellars at the rear of Steamer Trading should be mentioned.
- the former art school in Albion Street is no longer a public library.
- Under local features the fact that the drinking fountain in Friars Walk is not working, which sourced water from the Pinwell, should be mentioned.
- Under negative features we do not consider that the Magistrates Court should be included in the list but both the NHS Trust offices rather than just one of them should be mentioned. We also consider that the Baptist Church Hall should be included in this list.
7.3 Lewes Castle and middle High Street
- Under principal features we would describe much of the 20th century development in hidden gardens as poor.
- Under location the reference to mediaeval town walls should be qualified by “but in poor repair”.
- Under uses:-
- the fact that Reeves photographers hold a superb collection of old Lewes photographs should be mentioned.
- the reference that many buildings surrounding the Law Courts contain lawyers’ office etc should be amended to “some”.
- the unused roundels of the Maltings should be mentioned as they are unique. They contain the rusting remains of the malting bins. Regrettably their cowls have gone but could be replaced. The roundels could be used as a gallery or interpretation centre containing, for example, a selection of Reeves’ photographs.
- Under topography the date that the County Offices in St Anne’s Crescent were opened is 1968. They should be described as “very ugly”.
- Under townscape:-
- the Gun garden is only used occasionally for open-air theatre’
- the vandalised interpretative panel of the Battle of Lewes in Castle Precincts should be mentioned.
- the medieval pattern of the lanes between the High Street and Southover Road should be mentioned.
- the three deep wells under the former Star Brewery could be mentioned.
- the need for restoration of the Town Clock should be mentioned.
- we understand that St Swithun’s Terrace was built in the late 19th century, possibly on the site of a former marble mine which accounts for subsidence there today.
7.4 Area 4 Upper High Street and Western Road
- Under principal features the reference to relatively unobtrusive modern infill in Rotten Row should be changed as it has changed the character of the area from one of large houses with large gardens. We also consider much of this new development to be unfortunate.
- Under summary history:-
- the building of St Anne’s Crescent started in 1850.
- the County Offices were opened in 1968 but the demolition of half of a large house to make room for an access road should be mentioned.
- the demolition of temporary County offices in recent years to make way for more car parking should be mentioned.
- Under townscape:-
- the reference to Church Lane needs to be extended to say that it has lost its flint wall on the western side and that it is frequently litter strewn.
- Keere Street is in a very poor state of repair and is often incorrectly patched.
- we do not consider the infill in Rotten Row is of little visual impact; had locally distinctive materials been used it might not have had such a deleterious effect.
- a mass grave from the Battle of Lewes time was recently found at the site of the St Nicholas Day Centre. Whilst the original school building may be early 20th century the recent addition is certainly not.
- Under negative features we would include the poor management of publicly owned land at the junction of St Pancras Road and Rotten Row and also at the junction of Keere Street and Grange Road, together with the increased traffic that the County offices brings to the St Anne’s Crescent area.
7.5 Area 5 the Pells and West Street
- Under principal features, the workshops to the rear of the Elephant and Castle, whilst formerly the base for Commercial Square Bonfire Society, have now been demolished for re-development into houses.
- Under summary history:-
- the location of the former paper mill needs to be described more precisely.
- the swimming pool was the first in the country to be municipally run; it is also fed by natural springs. These facts should be mentioned.
- reference should be made to the former suspension bridge leading towards St Michael’s church in South Malling and to the opening of Willey’s bridge in 1965.
- Under townscape:-
- the wirescape in this area is particularly ugly and has not been helped by BT recently erecting a pole opposite St John’s Church.
- the last sentence of the second paragraph is confusing. There is no longer a hall in St John Street although there is a block of flats. The ambulance station and the little theatre are in Lancaster Street whilst Springman House is in North Street.
- the site of the town gallows in Abinger Place should be mentioned.
- the remains of old iron fencing near the river could be mentioned.
- Under local features we would include the recently closed gents’ public toilet in Paddock Road, the remains of the naval prison wall and the rookery adjoining St John’s church but qualify the reference to the churchyard as being in a poor state.
7.6 The Wallands (Most of this section concerns the Paddock area which should be treated separately from the Wallands; information on the latter needs expanding.)
- Under summary history :-
- the use of the Paddock as a route from the Battle of Lewes could be mentioned.
- New Road was so named as it was created from a bridleway by Mr Langridge who built the houses there. The rebuilding of its retaining wall by ESCC in the 1970’s when it also ceased to be a through road is worthy of mention.
- the housing development on the site of the former workhouse, although not in the conservation area, is very ugly when viewed from it.
- Under uses:-
- we do not think that horses have been grazed in the Paddock for some years.
- the allotments in Paddock Road are public.
- the reference to larger houses applies to the Wallands area.
- The reference to Ashdown Forest in the topography section should be changed to High Weald.
- Under townscape:-
- the modesty of the New Road houses might be mentioned as well as the fact that all the older houses in the named streets were constructed by different builders to essentially the same design.
- the fact that the Paddock is tree lined should be mentioned.
- Under local features we would include the stone plaque in the wall of the paddock allotments recording Hangman’s Acre.
- Under negative features we would mention the poor state of the half moon section of the retaining wall for New Road, the unkempt state of the land, as well as its walls and railings, which adjoins the footpath linking New Road and Paddock Road.
Area 7.7 Southover
- Under principal features we would include other locally important private heritage gardens.
- Under summary history:-
- the destruction of the Priory should be mentioned.
- we question whether the Verrall family utilised water from the Winterbourne stream for brewing; we think it more likely that they had a well.
- the demolition of the Cattle Market and its replacement by Tanners Brook should be mentioned.
- the ugly flats in Priory Street should be mentioned.
- the current railway station is the third in Lewes. The first was in Friars Walk as stated; the second was built on the present site in 1857 but was replaced by the present building, with the railway lines having been radically altered, in 1889.
- the change of use of the former Southover Primary school buildings for which the Pest House from the former Priory remains could be noted.
- Under uses, the Priory is a scheduled ancient monument partly owned by Lewes Town Council and partly privately owned. The recent demolition of the glasshouses and water tower on the northern part of the Priory site was welcome.
- Under topography:-
- the Winterbourne stream never flows in the summer whilst in the winter it has been dry for the past two years despite the superb water source underground in its valley. We understand that it was tidal prior to a tidal flap being installed where it meets the river.
- the reference to the Ham Lane wall should read “much repaired” rather than “more modern”.
- Under townscape :-
- the garden of Fairhall is on the opposite side of the street to Fairhall and that is where the new house, which we consider badly designed, was built.
- the Priory Great Gate should be described as “much reduced” rather than “almost lost”.
- the recent restoration of the railway station might be mentioned.
- the gardens of houses on the southern side of Grange Road were originally part of the Grange orchard and not downland.
- Under local features we would mention the iron works and coal holes in Grange Road; the loss of locally distinctive houses to St Pancras flats and the Boehringer factory.
- Under negative features we would mention that there is no exit/entrance to the Grange Gardens in the south-east corner; the empty top floor on one wing of the Grange building; the school bell on the Grange is in a poor state or repair; the chain link fencing around the school playing fields and the loss of iron railings along the Grange Road frontages.
Section 8 Issues
As this is essentially a summary of the negative features found in section 7 we are not repeating our comments.
Section 9 Recommendations
Area 1 Cliffe
- We consider that when an opportunity occurs Chandlers yard should be re-developed bearing in mind that it is on the site of the former gasworks and therefore contaminated land.
- We agree that more trees should be planted in the public car parks but they need to be properly cared for.
- The small public car parks should only be re-developed if replacement parking facilities are provided nearby.
- The materials used for flood walls or to support the riverbank should be locally distinctive.
Area 2 Lower High Street
- The section about the Lewes House garden site needs expanding to differentiate between the library site and the remainder.
- We are confused by the reference to a house in the back garden of Albion House being turned down on appeal. What was the planning reference number for his development?
- The point made about street surfaces applies to the whole conservation area and not just this part.
- We agree that a survey showing buildings eligible for listing should be produced and acted upon.
Area 3 Lewes Castle and middle High Street
We agree that the details of the buildings facing the High Street should be surveyed and the details recorded in a revised list so that their character can be protected in the future.
Area 4 Upper High Street and Western Road
The spacious character of the Rotten Row area should not only be retained but enhanced by demolishing infill of a dubious nature.
Area 5 The Pells and West Street
We agree that the Council should prepare a Development Brief when large sites come up for re-development.
Area 6 The Wallands
- The word “area” needs to be added after “conservation” in line 2.
- Buildings or structures identified as of Townscape merit should be listed.
Area 7 Southover
Small sites in this area that could be re-developed should include the former water tank opposite the railway station. This would be an enhancement as would the removal of the unsightly advertising hoardings.
Article 4 Direction
- This should be extended to buildings other than houses.
- We do not think it necessary to require planning permission to be obtained for sheds, temporary buildings and antenna that are not fronting the street.
Conservation area Boundary changes
- Please see para 4 of our letter of 30 March.
- The fact that St Anne’s School is now closed should be mentioned.
Local list review
We consider that other features such as walls and gardens should be included in any survey undertaken.
Appendix 2 Useful Information
We suggest adding Lewes Town Council and explaining what SPAB means.
Appendix 3 Guidance on New development
Introduction – Grange Road should be added to the list of noticeable building lines.
Contextual design – materials should be locally distinctive.
Urban grain – We would delete the Magistrates Court, which is opposite the 2 NHS Trust offices, from this list but add the St Anne’s Crescent County Offices. We question why new development has always to be secondary in character to primary buildings on a site.
Scale and Density – Elevations (and all drawings) should not just be accurate but sufficiently detailed with the provision of necessary dimensions.. The last sentence needs a continuation.
Height and massing – Backland sites should have generally lower heights.
Appearance, materials and detailing – All new developments should use locally distinctive materials and be consistent with maintaining the texture of the town.
We disagree that dormers should be avoided; they are a characteristic in many Victorian houses and it is a matter of getting the detailing right. The window/wall ratio is another point that should be mentioned in this section whilst only thick glazing bars are what need to be avoided.
Extensions – We suggest the word “Generally” is added at the beginning of the last sentence.
Boundary treatments – There is a need for better training of operatives in the use of flint, lime putty etc if traditional materials are used, as we would like.
Street surfaces – Brick or stone paving should be considered for the whole of the conservation area. Kerbs should be granite, hard limestone or other locally distinctive materials.
Friends of Lewes