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Commercial property developers Santon own approximately 60% of the site. Lewes District Council owns 40% – mostly west of North Street. There are also two privately-owned plots.
Santon’s plans include 400+ residences, a large underground car park, a health centre and a 20,000-40,000sq foot commercial hub to include retail premises, offices and workshops. See Santon’s website for latest developments – http://northstreetqtr.co.uk/
We are concerned with what we have seen of Santon’s proposals in two key areas:
i. Housing – We are concerned that Santon’s proposals for affordable housing are neither adequate nor genuinely affordable. We understand that they are proposing 40% of affordable housing, an improvement (forced on them by local pressure) from the previous 32%. Plus the definition of ‘affordable’ is likely to be 80% of market rent, which is far beyond the reach of the people in Lewes who most need help with housing.
ii. Employment – The proposals make very little provision to retain any of the 50 businesses and 450 jobs currently supported by the Phoenix Industrial Estate. In addition, we believe the limited workshop space in Santon’s proposed commercial hub is likely to be offered at a rate of £15 per square foot which would be unaffordable to many businesses and community enterprises. We want to explore alternative solutions that could enable existing enterprises to remain on the site and allow future makers, artists and small businesses to work there.
Affordable housing is made available at 80% of of local market rents. Social rents are based on a formula that combines local wages and local property values, which in Lewes can result in rents which are as low as 43% of market rents because of lower average earnings and very high property prices. Our proposal intends to offer social-rented property, which we believe is much fairer to those people who most urgently need housing in Lewes.
Our proposals involve the triangle of land and buildings by the river that include the old Phoenix Ironworks and other warehouses along Phoenix Place. For the purposes of our proposals we are calling this area ‘Phoenix Place’. This represents about 25% of the total development site owned by Santon and Lewes District Council (3.5 acres out of a total development area of 14 acres).
To be able to tackle the urgent need for genuinely affordable housing and space for employment in Lewes, our proposal for Phoenix Place focuses on social-rented residence and workspaces only.
No. Our plans include 48 one- and two-bedroom apartments and work-live homes at social rents. These are intended for people on Lewes District Council’s priority housing list as well as for people who wish to both live and work on Phoenix Place.
That would be nice – but we don’t expect that to happen! Instead we are putting forward a number of solutions to enable us to acquire the land for Phoenix Place:
- Lewes Phoenix Rising buys land from Santon – ideally at a reduced rate as part of the developer’s contribution to community benefit (Section 106 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act requires developers to provide contributions to offset the negative impacts on a community caused by construction and development).
- As the site is potentially an asset of community value, Santon and Lewes District Council (LDC) negotiate a land swap using LDC’s landholding within the Phoenix Estate. LDC would then be in a position to transfer the asset to LPR, at little or no cost, within its powers to generate community value from its assets. LPR, or another community body, could then own and operate the site as a community asset.
- LPR is granted a long lease on the site from Santon, at a peppercorn rent, as part of the section 106 developer contribution. This subsidy should take into account that enlivening the centre of the development will add commercial value to the surrounding houses.
We certainly expect that some of LDC’s land could be made available for community benefit under the developer’s Section 106 contribution – particularly given the pressure on LDC to deliver more affordable housing. But we also fully appreciate the financial pressures our councils face and the need to generate a good return on their assets. This means land cannot simply be handed over, no matter how beneficial our proposals in terms of providing housing and retaining employment. Nonetheless, we look forward to working with LDC and Santon to see how land can best be allocated for community benefit.
A joint planning application has now been submitted by Santon on behalf of themselves and LDC. This can be seen on the South Downs National Park planning portal at http://southdowns.gov.uk/planning/planning-applications/north-street-quarter-lewes/ Ref. SDNP/15/01146/FUL. Register as a user via the log-in button.
LDC’s planning policy for the area is contained in the Joint Core Strategy of the Lewes District Local Plan under Spatial Policy 3, which covers North Street and Eastgate. You can see a recent version of the Local Plan, here.
Affordable housing research [http://www.lewes.gov.uk/Files/plan_LHNA.pdf] has shown the greatest housing need in Lewes is for one- and two-bedroom property. We would love to be able to meeting all housing needs in Lewes on Phoenix Place. But given the limits on resources and land, we have chosen to focus on a solution that will particularly help young people live and work in our town. However we would be delighted to work with Santon and LDC to see how the wider Phoenix Estate could be used to provide additional socially-rented housing for families.
As far as we understand, Santon intends to demolish the whole site apart from Corporation Villas. This will destroy buildings which have historical and industrial heritage significance to Lewes, such as the Phoenix Ironworks.
Given the flooding in 2000 and many subsequent changes in ownership, the Phoenix/North Street Industrial Estate has been in limbo for many years. This has meant there has been no long-term maintenance of the fabric of the estate. In addition, many residents are on very short-term leases, making it hard for them to invest in their premises.
However, we recognise that some buildings such as the Victorian-built Phoenix Ironworks are of real architectural value. By renovating and refurbishing these buildings, we hope to revitalise Phoenix Place as a visually exciting area worthy of Lewes and the South Downs National Park.
As a brownfield site that has been used for industry for over 200 years, the North Street site is a valuable resource for development, which does not encroach on the greenfield areas surrounding Lewes. The urgent need in our town for more housing makes it imperative that the area be used effectively. However, any development must fully recognise the vulnerability of the site to flooding. That’s why our proposals recommend flood resilience for the site itself and flood defence for surrounding areas such as the Pells neighbourhood.
Given that the site is liable to flooding, we do not consider it appropriate to build a flood wall which would disperse water to other parts of the town. Flood resilience allows the site to flood but minimises its impact by, for example, keeping residential space of buildings to the first floor and above, and also ensuring that services like electricity, water and gas are kept above flood levels.
However, we fully support flood defence for adjacent neighbourhoods such as The Pells. We also believe resources need to be spent on flood management at the source of the Ouse river.
No. Our proposals include 6,800+ metres square of basic workshop space for manufacturing, light industrial, artisan, community and social/educational enterprises and cultural venues – reflecting the rich and varied industry currently on the site.
Why can’t businesses simply relocate to the new industrial estate on Malling that Santon are developing?
Some of the larger businesses on North Street such as Wenban Smith, the timber merchants, are relocating to the new Malling Industrial Estate. But for the majority of businesses on North Street, the Malling estate simply isn’t affordable. More than this, we believe it is essential – both in terms of economic and social benefit – to keep social/community enterprise and business at the heart of our town and not isolate it on the periphery. Enabling people to walk to where they work will also reduce car usage on our already congested roads.
First, the fact that we are choosing to renovate rather than demolish the buildings on Phoenix Place will help to prevent a large amount of embodied carbon from being released. In addition, our proposals intend to include a range of sustainable features:
We hope to include renewable energy for heating delivered in partnership with Lewes’s community energy company Ovesco; highly energy-efficient pre-fabricated building systems using local, sustainable timber and other building materials.
We want to encourage sustainable transport solutions including car clubs and park & ride/walk services. We want torevitalise the River Ouse for use as an amenity with a new working quay and slipway for transport and tourism and provide an Ouse Valley Cycle Network connection along the Phoenix Estate river bank
We are also keen to restore natural ecosystems to create interesting riverside access. We recommend that a green ecological corridor runs the length of the site, connected by roof top gardens and open spaces, incorporate permaculture gardens, allotments and green roofs into residential areas; introduce reed beds and water purification services for both grey and black water from houses and businesses; and increase tree cover throughout the estate as appropriate.
All our plans are intended to work fully in line with the South Downs National Park’s draft policy on integrated landscape.
In line with our policy for genuinely affordable housing solutions, we will be providing a small berthing area and hook-ups for a limited number of live-in vehicles for people renting workshop space on Phoenix Place.
By increasing densities, we can release land for workshops and community/social enterprises without any loss of housing numbers. Higher-density housing will better reflect the vibrant character of our medieval town centre and encourage greater residential interaction and pedestrian movement – whereas less dense housing runs the risk of creating a ‘suburban cul-de-sac’ .
Another reason is environmental sustainability. Leading sustainable consultants Bio Regional, which works with housing developers around the world, recommends that sustainable eco-urban design in the south-east of England requires housing densities of 100 dwellings per hectare. Santon’s most recent plans recommended 45 dwellings per hectare.
Alongside over 1,300 signatories, we have substantial support among town and district councillors. Our plans are also well aligned with the emergent policies of the South Downs National Park (the planning authority for Lewes) and the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan.
By incorporating our proposals for Phoenix Place, we believe Santon and Lewes District Council will be able to demonstrate substantial community benefit in terms of delivering genuinely affordable housing and workspace, and retaining established businesses and community enterprises. This will help secure them support across the town and allow them to be part of a landmark development in the south-east of England that is genuinely ground-breaking in its approach to housing and employment.
It also important to remember that future development in Lewes is subject to various new policies and frameworks including Lewes District Council’s Joint Core Policy, the South Downs National Park Local Plan and the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan. We have tried to make our plans as reflective as possible of these emerging policies, which also increases the viability of Santon’s application.
Finally, by increasing housing densities we have shown that Santon can retain much of the for-profit element of their plans, while still meeting our town’s need for affordable housing and space for employment and community enterprise in a way that does justice to the unique character of Lewes and the South Downs National Park.
Lewes Phoenix Rising is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company number 9100954. Its four directors are fully accountable to the LPR management team for all strategic decisions Regular updates on our activities and forthcoming plans are emailed to our 1,370+ signatories. Our highly experienced business manager is responsible for bookkeeping, signing off financial decisions and produces a monthly financial report on expenditure and outgoings. We will be publishing our first set of accounts at the end of our financial year.