The picture showns the Phoenix Iron Works, North Street, when operational

By one of our North Street Correspondents

You may need to pay attention to follow this saga- the story of international finance is seldom simple.

Let us start in November last year when Jonathan Knight director of MAS rei (real estate investments), the company who are actually responsible for developing North Street,  appeared before the Lewes District Council Scrutiny committee who were doing their obligatory checking on MAS rei, as owner of NSQ , (once known to us as Santon- the company who were originally promoted as doing the development).

MAS rei owns NSQ via two offshore holding companies in the British Virgin Islands and the Isle of Man.

At that time MAS rei said they wanted to develop the site via their in house company Artisan where Clive Wilding, once known in Lewes as the visible face of Santon , was now employed.

This was a change of plan, originally a third party developer was to be chosen by MAS rei and the council.

The Chief Executive of Artisan at the time was Lukas Nakos who was being investigated for financial irregularity in the Isle of Man. https://www.fin24.com/Companies/Property/mas-real-estate-appoints-new-ceo-20180104 Councillor Joanna Carter expressed some concern about that. She was assured that in fact he had been a whistle-blower but would in any case have nothing to do with Artisan as it developed North Street.

MOVING AROUND

There seems to be a tendency here to shift the same people around different named companies, which may be perfectly regular in the Isle of Man and other places. So we might hope that Mr Nakos is still working with his old colleagues, because Mr Nakos is not just in real estate investment he is a leader in the Church of the Living Hope. http://www.iomtoday.co.im/article.cfm?id=38995&headline=Third%20Louis%20Group% 

There have been some questions about this church  http://www.manxforums.com/forums/index.php?/topic/61630-more-dodgy-dealings-from-living-hope/ but Mr Nakos tweets some thoughts that might give some living hope to those of us hoping to see a proper development on North Street serving the real interests of our town. https://twitter.com/saltyguy?lang=en

In January Mr Nakos indeed moved to MAS rei estates, but Artisan decided anyway they they were too busy to bother with Lewes after all and now Lewes District Council and MAS rei are looking for a third party developer after all to take on the whole site. https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/companies/property/2018-05-02-mas-out-to-consolidate-in-europe/Or more exactly, as Andy Smith said in the last Cabinet meeting, they are taking advice on how to market it to a developer. Maybe we can help.

The conditions set by the National Park when granting planning permission require that a provider for the ‘affordable’ housing be found before any development can take place. However it not at all clear how this is to be achieved in a site mainly dedicated to profits for investors. What developer will take this on?

AFFORDABLE HOUSING?

Both Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority are increasingly aware of the need for properly affordable housing in our area and the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan, with its ambitions for housing provision for those on local incomes, has just been accepted by the National Park.  It included a number of Lewes District Council sites intended to supply local housing need.  We might say not before time, but also better late than never.

As Mr Nakos re-tweeted, ‘ If you see anger look for the pain behind it. It is easier to deal with pain and will bring peace’. We say to him we are angry in Lewes that this site has, according to the 2016 annual report of MAS rei, been land-banked and not developed, when we need homes for the people of this town. http://www.masrei.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Integrated-Annual-Report-2016.pdf  (see p.14)

We also need them at a price they can afford on local pay, and the present plans seem unlikely to offer this, even if they were built. As MAS rei are too busy making more money than they expected building shopping malls in eastern Europe to build here, why not get themselves out of North Street, deal with our pain and have peace? http://www.masrei.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/MAS-REI-Investor-Presentation-February-2018.pdf

Lewes eye readers will no doubt have their own suggestions here. If a housing provider such as Rowntree  or Peabody could, in these times so hostile to social housing,  take on the whole site the‘affordable’ housing might be at least assured by cross subsidy?  Or let local community builders, supported by the new Community Housing Hub, build flood resilient housing above ground level parking.

Let us keep our historic foundry buildings, re-used as workspace, housing and public space, respecting the history of the skill of the workers of this town who made the railway stations and piers and promenades serving the seaside towns that replaced us as the main economic centres of Sussex. These buildings, especially the nineteenth century foundry building with its timer and cast iron roof, could become ‘destination’ buildings for the town and its visitors.

MALLING BROOKS

For himself Nakos tweets ‘Nothing will ever enter your experience that, by God’s sovereign grace, will not benefit you’. Maybe we can help these rich men get through the eye of the needle but at the moment their handling of Malling Brooks and the residents concerns that the planting and landscaping promised will not be delivered does not seem very respectful. https://northstreetqtr.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Malling-residents-newsletter-June-2018.pdf

The bird/bat boxes offered as part of the flood wall designs might in that light seem horribly like a bad joke, merely ticking the boxes to discharge planning preconditions to make the site ready to market. Let them know it should at least be to a developer that has some respect for real needs of the town and its history.