Building Houses at Astley House, also known as the old police garage in Spital Road. A  Chance this time to support one of the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning decisions that the developer has appealed against!

This time they have made a very good decision in rejecting a planning application,  SDNP/21/04044/FUL, for proposing an overbearing development on this site that fails to comply with policy and provide affordable housing as required by both the SDNPA’s Local Plan and the Lewes Town Council’s Neighbourhood Plan. But it has gone to appeal. You may have seen the notice in the Sussex Express.

We have a chance to comment on the appeal website
at www.gov.uk/appeal-planning-inspectoratecomments must be in by 1st July The appeal reference is APP/Y9507/W/22/3295783. You do have to register on the site to do this and the inspector can invite members of the public to speak.

But the appeal is to be held in Lewes at the King’s Church at 10 am on July 19th and is open to the public so you can also just turn up to show support. And you can also email  the inspectorate  at; elizabeth.humphrey@planninginspectorate.gov.ukor write to; FAO Elizabeth Humphrey 3/J Kite Wing, The Planning Inspectorate, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol , BS1 6PN

The important thing to point out is that the application does not conform to policy on housing because it offers NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING of any sort and the houses are also too big and  that you support the SDNP decision to reject it on those grounds.

The actions of the South Downs National Park, have not always met with approval in our town!

Their planning policy people gave great support in the production of our Neighbourhood Plan. However, although their planning committee rejected the plan for large glass houses with no affordable houses on one of the sites allocated in that plan on Garden Street, the development management people at the Park had supported it on the grounds of its design. They did not seem to take account of the fact that the SDNP has, in its own Local Plan,  a policy requiring housing in the Park to be 50% affordable to serve the needs of local communities.

This application did not even offer any housing on the government model of 80% market price, still less the Lewes Low Cost Housing our town’s plan requires. The developer appealed, the SDNP made something of a muddle of defending its planning committee’s decision and it was passed on appeal at the height of the covid epidemic without most people even realising an appeal had occurred..

However, they do seem to be doing much better now and we should celebrate that.

Development management have now very properly rejected, before it even went to the planning committee, a plan for yet more too large houses,  which again ignores policy by offering no sort of affordable housing, on the old police garage site on Spital Road. The developers want to call this Astley Heights.  This application was rejected for all the right policy reasons, in particular the lack of any sort of affordable housing and the houses being too large and overbearing in the neighbourhood which is of modest terraced houses.

The site too is allocated for housing in the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan but the application offers no affordable housing, even at the 80% of market price which is quite unaffordable here on average salaries, still less any affordable on local incomes that the Neighbourhood Plan Lewes Low Cost Housing policy requires. Nor does it offer the smaller homes that the Neighbourhood Plan also requires.

The developers viability study even argues, among other things, that they need to offer 3 bedrooms and a study, as this is what the market of those movingto Lewes require.

So now the National Park is standing up for housing policy as well as for design that respects its surroundings we need to support the SDNP at this appeal.



NB 1. The application has a slightly complicated history.  The developer seems to like confusing us!

There are two appeals.  It was application first delegated to Lewes District under its delegated planning powers.  The officers were attempting to get the developer to conform to policy and this application is being appealed against for non-determination.  Then the SDNP called in the application for its own consideration, in the light we may suppose of these difficulties, and their case officer also rejected it as not conforming to policy. The developer is appealing both the non-determination and the subsequently revised scheme.  There is also the a complication that  there are some new drawings the inspector has allowed on the appeal website but this does open a space for comment on whether they show any important difference that should affect the decision against the proposal. These were not part of the planning application.  The houses are a little smaller but still not the size required and there is still no kind of affordable housing still less any that is affordable to most local people. The SDNPA in their Statement of Case on the website do not think these new drawings should be considered as they are too late for the statutory consultees to comment on and you might just like to support that. You can find the appeal documents site on the SDNPA page for planning applications https://www.southdowns.gov.uk/planning-applications/find-an-application/  just search for Astley House and click on documents.

NB 2. On Allocated sites and housing need

A site in a plan, allocated to meet local housing need gets an uplift in value as soon as it is allocated for housing and this should allow for affordable housing to be included in any scheme. This site is also in public ownership; it still belongs to the police. Surrounded by a protected landscape, Lewes has little land suitable and available for housing and a great need for smaller family houses with outdoor space for young families.  If all available housing sites continue to be built up with the large luxury houses we have seen on developed Falcon Wharf and Styles Field  (which anyway sell very slowly but it seems can sit as an asset on developer’s books until they get the high price they are after) we will never get the Lewes Low Cost Housing which has been agreed by the Local Plan Inspector to be necessary for our town.