This development is potentially an exciting ‘place-making’ opportunity for Lewes. It is really important that we embrace every means by which we can influence what is to be built on North Street and possibly Eastgate, and that we approach Santon’s consultation process with evidence-based and realistic suggestions.
We need to encourage our politicians to ensure that the real needs of the people of Lewes are kept at the forefront of discussion, that the Local Plan is followed, and that maximising affordable housing and supporting/developing local business is a priority.
We need to ensure that the planning authorities – Lewes District Council and South Downs National Park Authority – are robust in enforcing their powers to insist that the development is in keeping with the townscape and not an ugly annex.
People of Lewes are rightly cautious, based on past experiences, that The Democratic Society consultation process commissioned by Santon could prove to be just an elaborate PR exercise. We do, however believe that it should be approached positively with the belief that it is possible to arrive at development solutions that deliver profit to the developers as well as enhancing the town centre of Lewes, improving flood defence and providing much needed affordable housing.
As long as the investment incentive of The Santon Group is balanced with the proposals set out in the Local Plan and planning regulations under the South Downs National Park Authority, this should be achievable. We strongly urge people to support Santon in trying to formulate and then to realise a vision for North Street/Eastgate that genuinely contributes to regenerating the town’s commercial core and offers affordable housing for local people. Santon's website is now up-and-running - take a look at www.northstreetqtr.co.uk by clicking on the image on the left.
It is our belief that we should support and contribute to the process and try to make it work for Lewes, whilst at the same time keeping our healthy scepticism alert if consultation appears to become tokenistic rather than integral to the emerging plans. We are being guided in our approach to North Street by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report, Urban extensions, planning and participation: Lessons from Derwenthorpe and other new communities.