Our North Street correspondent gives a view of developments.

After years of inaction there are now signs of hasty life on North Street. Demolition has begun on phase one, demolition of the less important historic buildings of the Phoenix Works. There seems to have been something of a slip up on the supervision of this process and historic cranes, made by Every for the works were  at risk of loss. They are now, it seems, safe.  These are the ones intended to adorn the ‘Foundry’ Heath Hub, or maybe not, apparently.  It is not at all clear who is driving this but NSQ  may  be in charge of the process. It is even less clear who is supervising them.

Phase two and three of the planning application was only in outline but now  there is a rush to get it complete including 173 dwellings and the kind of stepped flood defence the Pells residents have already rejected.  Your can find the application here  You have till 4th February to reply.  We will try to add some hints about what you could say before the deadline

No paper versions apparently. After all the performance about phase one why so low key on the details of this part?  Are they not proud of it?

Presumably all this is to facilitate selling the site, or ‘the development opportunity’  to the third party developer now to be appointed, since MASrei’s in house developer Artisan decided they didn’t fancy doing it after all.*  Will it be more attractive to a developer to have 173 house all drawn out in, to be fair, illegible detail?  It couldn’t be that MAS rei want to continue to landbank it  and to make sure it stays undeliverable now could it?

AVOIDING THE PLANNERS?

Or is it that the  South Downs National Park (SDNPA) Local Plan, due to be made in April has that very interesting policy on North Street which specifically refers to the possibility of alternative plans for North Street thus:  ‘Policy SD57 has been designed to be sufficiently flexible to allow other proposals to come forward to achieve National Park objectives should the consented scheme ( or phases of the consented scheme) not proceed and /or other proposals come forward.’ (p.214)   The SDNPA’s recent flood report states, in relation to the Buckwell Court garage site, that ‘the North Street Quarter defences may never be built and cannot be relied upon‘( Appendix B p.77).

The Lewes Neighbourhood Plan to be voted on by us all on 7th March, whose policies on eco-system development and locally affordable housing wre so enthusiastically received by the SDNPA’s own planning committee may also soon be ‘made’.  Could it be that that this sudden haste is an attempt to secure a scheme with no locally affordable housing and nothing like an ecosystem approach, before those plans become statutory?  There is a cycle store with a green roof mind but the response from the flood risk consultant speaks only of surface water flood risk and landscaping, so where are the detailed engineering drawings for flood protection walls? The Environment Agency seem to expecting further details.  Any expert civil engineers out there who can check on this?

WHAT ABOUT THE COUNCIL?

It is still not clear if LDC are selling their land which, given the government are intending to allow councils to once again build housing would seem bad timing.  There is also funding already in place for community groups to be funded to build locally affordable housing but this does not seem to be the general plan for North Street. The definition of affordable used on the NSQ website is the governments 80%of market value https://northstreetqtr.co.uk/faq/  The Lewes Low Cost Housing policy in the Neighbourhood Plan was accepted as necessary by the SDNPA  precisely because 80% of Lewes market value is not affordable on local wages. These houses may be offered to those on the LDC waiting list but they are extremely unlikely to  be able to afford them. Still nice to asked perhaps? Perhaps not? Why is the SDNP not seeking housing that Lewes people can actually afford now the new policy is in force?

WE KNOW THE SITE WILL BE SOLD, BUT TO WHOM?

Maybe we need to get together and find a developer who wants to build a star eco-build with low cost  housing and is happy to allow a lot of community involvement. Even to retain the floor foundry aka the old Hammonds building and say the foundry workshops as a community/conference/ office space and a workspace respectively. A developer that understands the value not only of an industrial destination building on a modern site  in attracting visitors but the value of this particular industrial site in the history of this particular town.  Visitors and residents alike  admire the splendid cast iron in Brighton, the Marine Drive lamps and arches, the bandstand.  They admire Eastbourne pier. They were all made in Lewes. Would people not be glad to come and see the floor foundry where they were made?  The workshop where the steel structure of Eastbourne Pier was fabricated? Especially if there were people in it still making things?

*  Apparently Clive Wilding, who had left Santon, or was it NSQ? to join Artisan decided there was a conflict of interest if Artisan was the developer. In which case he could have saved to LDC  scrutiny committee the trouble of doing due diligence on Artisan. Alternatively the reason was they are too busy: busy, we may deduce from their website,  in eastern Europe building shopping malls.  Or it could be that, having done due diligence, the council found Artisan unacceptable.

picture below, equipment salvaged from the old foundry.

Published 25/1/19

EQUIPMENT FROM THE OLD FOUNDRY