In these troubled times here is a hopeful story. Some of you may remember a plan awhile ago to build some glass tower houses on the old Julian Dawson site in Garden St, an allocated site for housing in the Neighbourhood Plan, with a couple of  ‘affordable’ flats.  The general response at the time was they were trying it on. The’ concept’ was fallen leaves, the houses had curved side walls and  massive sheets of, inevitably expensive,  glazing. It was pointed out that it was not  suited to the conservation area and that another oversized high priced market development was exactly what Lewes did not want.

Things apparently went quiet after these resounding local objections and just as we had supposed that some other lucky town had been offered it, it turned up in the SDNPA list of planning applications as to be considered at the planning meeting on 12 March and the officer’s report recommended approval. It was modified, the towers had horns, to break up the mass of the glazing (still leaves though could so well have been cows, to evoke the cattle market?) but now no affordable housing, because as the applicant acknowledged, his lovely high quality architecture was too expensive to accommodate it.

It is not often that the National Park rejects officers recommendations, so those concerned for the fate of the Low Cost Housing policy in the Neighbourhood Plan did not tune into the webcast with much hope. If they really meant to defend these reviled buildings as so fine as to override both the affordable housing policies of the National Park’s own Local Plan (which asks for  50% affordable)  and the Neighbourhood Plan’s Lewes Low Cost Housing policy, it opened the way for any developer on any allocated housing site in Lewes to offer a grand design that, would not permit any housing to be included that was affordable for local families on local incomes.

However not only was the case made for rejecting this plan on these grounds by objectors, the committee were reminded of the Camden case in which the courts decided that affordable housing must be provided on sites that had been allocated in order to meet housing needs,* the planning committee wholeheartedly supported the objections. They said the site was ideal for affordable housing being so accessible, that affordable housing was vital and grand designs that designed out the possibility of affordability were not on.

So policy is to be upheld, we will not dwell on the past applications accepted by the Park for, just for example, North St but rejoice that they have a new Local plan, a new Chair of their planning committee and if, as it appears may be the case, a new plan may be necessary for North St better things may ensue. The new Chair is a lawyer and those of you fond of a courtroom drama may enjoy his pursuit of the question of the suitability of the applicant’s plan for this site as well as the committee’s unanimous rejection of it.  Lewes has been listened too.  A precedent has been set. Watch this space!

You can see the web cast of the planning commitee discussion at

https://southdowns.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/480328  It is item 8. The refernce is SDNP/18/05444/FUL

*The High Court held that if the developers had paid too much for the site, on the assumption that they could reduce or argue down affordable housing that was their problem. http://camdennewjournal.com/article/landmark-planning-case-sees-holloway-development-halted

Article date 18/3/20