Lewes Community Land Trust Statement re. the North Street Quarter planning application, March 2015.
The planning application which has now been submitted is for a joint venture of Santon and Lewes District Council for a mixed development of the 16 acre site at North Street, Lewes.
Lewes Community Land Trust has been involved through the Sounding Group in the pre-planning consultation process for the planning application to redevelop North Street. The Sounding Group, meeting under the leadership of Lewes Town Partnership, comprises Friends of Lewes and Lewes Chamber of Commerce as well as ourselves. We have always and will continue to focus on the potential of development proposals to maximise the delivery of wider community benefit, primarily through provision of affordable housing and workspace for local people.
We believe that the proposed plans would deliver development that would be environmentally sensitive in terms of architecture and streetscape, at a realistic density, and that it would provide the necessary infrastructure – flood defences for The Pells as well as North Street, parking space, road development – to support existing town facilities and the more dense use of the North Steet site that the development will bring about.
We are further reassured by the presence of the District Council in the joint venture as owners of a substantial part of the site that the development will be delivered to the specification and quality of the planning application.
The North Street Quarter proposal includes the provision of 40% affordable housing as part of its mixed use development, in line with the target in the draft Local Plan Part 1. We believe that this proposal represents a reasonable and acceptable offer on this site, given the constraint of local and national government affordable housing policies. Additionally, we believe that the joint venture’s commitment to provide market housing at levels affordable by middle income families, and its proposal to offer these properties for an eight week period exclusively to potential buyers with local connections, will also maximise the potential to prioritise local people in the allocation of new-build housing. Importantly also, the new housing will provide an opportunity for older residents to move to smaller property near to the town centre, freeing up family housing.
Santon as lead partner in the joint venture has offered Lewes Community Land Trust the opportunity to take on development of around 15 homes on the site. We are actively exploring the potential to build these homes for rent at significantly lower than market rents, and which will remain accessible to local people in perpetuity. We have the support of the National Community Land Trust organisation in developing this proposal, as well as the local expertise and support of Action in Rural Sussex.
Santon’s proposal is to retain flexible workspace units on the site in new buildings, and to preserve and sustain businesses already flourishing on the site. We welcome this commitment. The creative space element of mixed use provision will provide an element of subsidy particularly in rents for start-up businesses. Lewes Community Land Trust has been in discussion with Santon about legacy management of such provision. We would like to work with Santon and other interested parties in supporting the transfer of businesses from their current to new buildings, and to set up a legacy management vehicle for the future.
We are aware that there is an alternative planning proposal for the site, which seeks to retain current commercial buildings and to offer a different, higher density model for the provision of affordable housing and workspace on the site. Lewes Community Land Trust is not connected with this proposal.
Our position is that the role of a community land trust is to provide a vehicle for wider community benefit including affordable housing and workspace schemes. We are willing to work with any developer in a position to deliver a viable scheme. It is for this reason that our discussions to date have been confined to Santon, the owners of the majority of the site, who are working in formal partnership with Lewes District Council to develop affordable housing, commercial development, flood defence and infrastructure provision in line with the draft Local Plan.
Should there be any changes in land ownership, partnership agreements or local planning guidance for the site we remain willing to work with relevant organisations to maximise wider community benefit on the site.
We welcome the continued support of our members.
As we move to develop this exciting opportunity we would be very interested to hear from anyone willing to offer relevant experience and professional skills as we hope to move from discussion to implementation stages in connection with the North Street Development.