Those of us who have following the long sad story of North St and Santon/NSQ/MAS rei now at last it seems have something to celebrate. LDC and Jonathan Smales in the Sussex Express announced that a new, local developer is to buy the site This gives us hope at a time we need it. This is a chance to do something really different and we can surely hope that the local investors can take more satisfaction in doing something for the future of their town than the mere making of profit which reduces the ambitions of real estate investors like the previous owners.
While the Neighbourhood Plan was being prepared a lot of people in this town gave a lot of thought to what the town really needed, and what they said, and voted for, was the kind of ecologically sound and sustainable development that Jonathan Smales seems committed to. People also wanted housing affordable on local incomes. This led to the Lewes Low Cost Housing policy. Both the National Park and the planning inspector, agreed this policy was necessary in a town like ours, where local people have to compete with those on London salaries. We need something other than those bloated luxury houses, Chandler’s Wharf, Falcon Wharf , standing empty for months, sometimes years. The National park now have a policy for 50% affordable housing, though still at the government’s and not our local rates, and have therefore rejected already a similar plan for Garden Street. Let us have modest sensible homes for people to live in not invest in. Let us find ways to provide homes at locally affordable rents.
So we know what we need and also that there will be constraints providing it here but Human + Nature will perhaps, before they settle their plans, let us first think what might be and how it might be achieved before we needlessly narrow our ambitions. Let us not think outside the box but take the assumptions in that box out and question them against the real issues facing our planet. For example, do we not need a flood resilient scheme, rather than one with a necessarily expensive flood wall? The economy, we should remember, is just the system of organising our material needs, and we are now, though only in the life times of many of us, seeing that we need to think beyond the market as it is and acknowledge the demands of the natural world, or as some put it the natural capital, on which we depend as well as to address the effects of the inequality the market perpetuates. The present pandemic has underlined this need.
This new proposal will take time to plan before the consultation promised in the Spring so we can hope that Human+Nature in that process will be open to listening to the ideas of the town so that we can all contribute to getting the best possible solution here. ‘Meanwhile housing’ on development sites appears to have quite a record now and some ‘meanwhile’ use of the empty buildings could surely be achieved. Some ‘meanwhile’ housing might even give a chance for some of the innovatory modular eco-house builders to try out their ideas.
NSQ perhaps rather tired us of consultations but this promises to be very different. If we want to survive on this planet, and we have no other, we know we need to act local as we think global. This site can offer a model for how development should be done, modestly, using what is there as best may be and building for need. Our Neighbourhood Plan and the National Park’s Local Plan are devised within an ecosystem approach, to which all development must conform. Human+ Nature have here a chance to really show how well this can might be done to the benefit of us all and a lot of people will be ready to help them. This is a chance to really build for the future.