Lewes Town Council is delighted that the planning application for the former Bus Station site in central Lewes has been refused by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA)’s Planning Committee.

The SDNPA planning committee met at 10am on Thursday 8 September to discuss the application and was attended by several Lewes Town Council councillors and members of the public who joined a bus hired by Lewes Town Council specifically to transport everybody to the meeting. The bus left the Bus Station area at 8.15am with a spirited group, ready to make their voices heard.

Lewes Mayor Councillor Shirley Sains says: “The SDNPA has this morning refused the application from the Generator Group to redevelop the bus station site. The main reason cited was the lack of affordable housing amongst many others.

“Your Town Councillors and local residents travelled to Midhurst to show the support of Lewes in refusing this application. The coach was provided by Lewes Town Council after public opinion agreed that attendance in person was important.”

“This will probably be the first step of a continued dialogue. The Generator Group will now have to resubmit plans for the site which comply more closely with our Neighbourhood Plan. Congratulations go to the people of Lewes for their sustained fight and making their voices heard. We wunt be druv!”

Lewes Town Council’s Planning Committee, which offers local comment on planning applications within the town as a statutory consultee, had strongly objected to the application, submitting a very detailed response to the SDNPA. The council is pleased that there was also the option to watch this meeting online, particularly given how much work the people of Lewes have put into making their voices heard about this application.

Councillors had worked hard alongside local residents to stress the importance of preserving the sense of place and community that the bus station provides both as a building and as a bus terminal.

This work included challenging the decision of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that the former Lewes Bus Station site is given a Certificate of Immunity from listing, as well as successfully nominating the building as an Asset of Community Value, and joining other local authorities to call on the developers to offer a fair solution to the ongoing question of where the buses will stop.

At the meeting, discussion reflected the sensitivity of the changes Lewes is going through, as well as its position in the beautiful South Downs National Park. Comments during the debate over the application mentioned that Lewes “deserves something exemplary” in a design for the site, as well as an “operationally satisfactory and accessible bus interchange” and concerns about the lack of affordable housing and impact on the conservation area were raised. The committee “look forward to a more appropriate application coming forward in the future”.

The future of the site is still unclear but the voices of the people of Lewes have been heard.