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‘Dreadful’ design for former Auction Rooms in Garden Street, Lewes with no affordable homes

Our volunteer District Officers (DOs), Liz Thomas and Jennifer Chibnall, spoke at the National Park planning committee meeting earlier in March 2020 against a proposal to build large glass and timber clad tower houses on this site which was allocated in the Lewes Neighbourhood Plan to meet local housing need.  The National Park planning officers had recommended the proposal be accepted even though the development didn’t include any affordable housing. The expensive ‘novel’ design was offered as reason why none of the houses could be affordable.  Liz Thomas drew attention to the precedent set by a High Court case in London which rejected such building on sites that has been designated for affordable housing.






There was much criticism of the design, in particular from the chair of the Planning Committee, both for its unsuitability in this Lewes Conservation Area and it being so expensive in its construction that the applicant argued this precluded affordable housing.  As a result, the officer recommendation was rejected unanimously by the committee, and the application refused. Click the links below to see our DOs in action and the Chair’s excellent dissection of Conservation Area purposes.  He held that any development in a Conservation Area, must respect and reflect the original reasons for the designation saying –  it was not sufficient to argue a development was “good architecture” in isolation and it must be framed by the reasons originally set out for the area to be conserved.

Click on their namehere  to see Jennifer Chibnall and Liz Thomas in action

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Lack of support by the South Downs National Park for the local village communities near Lewes

South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) let down the local communities?  Iford Shoot Appeal Hearing:

Extract from the appellant’s submission showing the shooting plan: The South Downs Way runs through this area. (more details in our report) see also sketch map below.

The long and drawn out saga of the battle to protect the South Downs by local communities against the expansion of commercial shooting on the Downs near Lewes took another turn last month. Despite previous planning action by the local council, commercial shooting on the Downs near Lewes has continued over the last 10 years. Finally, the Lewes District Council (on behalf of the SDNPA) issued an enforcement notice on 14 August 2018. This then generated an appeal which was heard by the government’s planning inspector at a hearing on 10 March 2020 in Lewes. As you can see things take a hell of a long time in the planning world! However, the SDNPA Planning Dept seems to have approached this appeal and previous planning issues in this area in a somewhat halfhearted way. The SDNPA seemed to have made no efforts to support their case of enforcement against commercial game shooting on the South Downs near Lewes. Whilst the game shooting organisation had legal counsel (a barrister) and a planning consultant present, the National Park had no matching legal representative nor any senior planning officers present. Sadly, the SDNPA left the defence of their case up to the local Enforcement Officer from the Lewes District Council who said very little during the hearing and a South Downs National Park Officer who did put forward some points in favour of the enforcement case. Fortunately, the owners of Breaky Bottom Vineyard engaged a barrister who was a key figure in putting the alternative case to the inspector against the expansion of shooting beyond the 28 days legal limit.   The Friends of the South Downs (South Downs Society) were represented by one of their local volunteer District Officers, Brian Davies, who spoke at the hearing giving evidence against the expansion of commercial shooting.

Because this case raises a number of principle issues regarding planning, we have made a report on the public hearing (see link below). We are not only concerned with the matter of support by senior officers of the SDNPA to their frontline staff but we are also concerned with a number of other issues which this whole saga raises including, – the lack of fair and proper public notifications of the appeal hearing , the proximity of shooting activities to public rights of way, the noise of shooting echoing around the Downs, the effect on the flora and fauna of the area, the use of the National Parks Whole Estate Plans in making out a case for shooting and the impact which such intensive activities have on the nearby villages and their residents.


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What have Building Regulations got to do with climate change?

The average household in the UK emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 every year from heating their home. The Government’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has identified the need to reduce emissions from the UK’s buildings – which made up 19% of the UK’s overall total emissions (2017 data). The government has already declared that we will have to move away gas central heating in new homes constructed after 2025. However that’s not the whole story. The way a house is constructed is very important when it comes to reducing greenhouse gases. The UK was very close to achieving the design of new homes to a ‘net zero carbon’ output in 2016 but the Government backed away withdrawing the regulations. However, since then new evidence has persuaded Parliament to legally commit to the UK achieving ‘carbon net zero’ by 2050. To achieve net zero action will be needed on many fronts including how houses are built.

In the latter part of 2019 the Government consulted on new standards for building regulations (to come into operation from 2025). Our Society took a look at these proposed regulations and found they were only aimed at making a 31% improvement! We decided to make a robust submission to the government asking them to go over ‘carbon net zero by 2025, in just under 5 years. A bold request you might ask?  Our Policy Officer Vic Ient studied reports from a number of organisations including the Passivhaus Trust  and found that the technology and design capabilities are already available to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions. Click below to see our report and submission:

SDS Comments on The Future Homes Standard 2019 Consultation dated 07-02-20

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Threat to the Landscape Setting of Historic Buildings

Society DOs from R to L: Brian Davies, Derek Read, Chris Baines-Holmes, Liz Thomas and Rosalyn St Pierre. Policy Officer Vic Ient is on the left.

In November last year our East Sussex district officer team visited Swanborough Manor in East Sussex. We all agreed it was very interesting to look around and inside this unique historical building which started life in the 11thC as the grange to the nearby Cluniac  (St Pancras) Priory in Lewes. But that wasn’t our main purpose. We were reviewing the threat to the landscape setting of such historic building caused by nearby developments.


The team take stock of the adjacent building works

Our Society believe the area around a listed building should be treated with special regard especially when it comes to constructing anything nearby. Anybody applying for planning permission to alter or construct a new building in the vicinity of a listed building should demonstrate how they are protecting the ‘setting’ of a listed building. This applies to Grade II listed buildings and moreover to Grade I buildings.


Please read on….


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Planning Appeal at Greatham in the National Park turned down!

The Granary
The Manor

Development have been underway for some time in the conservation area at Greatham near Pulborough in West Sussex. Last year the developer made a planning appeal against a refusal relating to the Granary in Greatham (West Sussex), adjacent to the Grade II Greatham Manor  listed building. The Friends of the South Downs District Officer David Coldwell & Policy Officer Vic Ient made a  visit to the neighbouring property, Greatham Manor to investigate planning issues raised with our Society by the residents. We were concerned at what we saw,  and subsequently we submitted the Society’s objection to the planning inspector.  Much of the case hinged on the impact that the proposed development would have on the listed buildings adjacent to the Manor (Grade II) and the Grade 1 listed church nearby. We were very pleased to learn recently that the inspector agreed with all the objections he had received, and roundly rejected the appeal. A small success in the protection of the setting of listed buildings!

Click here to see our objections: SDNP_19_00024_REF-3P_SOUTHDOWNS_SOCIETY-1198956




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Consultation & Climate Change are key issues at National Park’s planning meeting on housing development in Petersfield

At the South Downs National Park’s planning committee meeting on 8th August, the Friends of the South Downs (South Downs Society) challenged the National Park in five key areas over a planning application for a large commercial and housing development North of Buckmore Farm, Beckham Lane, Petersfield consisting of a just under a 5,000sqm  business site and a residential site for up to 85 residential houses*.

This is what the Society’s Policy Officer, Vic Ient, said to the committee on Thurs 8th August: Click here to see the SDNPA Video recording   Also using this link you will be able to see the full debate and presentation.


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Consultation response to further quarrying in the National Park

The Friends of the South Downs believe that there is not a rising demand for ‘soft sand’ and that we see no reason why further sites should be allocated in West Sussex; especially those in the National Park.

What’s at stake? The review shortlisted 9 sites. 7 inside the National Park and 2 just outside (starred *)  the Park:

  1. Buncton Manor Farm (new site), Washington
  2. Chantry Lane (Extension), Storrington and Sullington*
  3. Coopers Moor (Extension) Duncton
  4. Duncton Common (Extension) Duncton and Petworth
  5. East of West Heath Common (Extension) Harting and Rogate
  6. Ham Farm (new  site) Steyning and Wiston*
  7. Minsted West (Extension) Stedham with Iping
  8. Severals East (new site) Woolbeding with Redford
  9. Severals West (new site) Woolbeding with Redford

These, as well as those soft sand sites previously considered during the preparation of the Joint Minerals Local Plan, will be assessed for their suitability for potential allocation. The ‘soft sand review’ sets out three main issues for consideration which are:

  1. the need for soft sand;
  2. the strategy for soft sand supply; and
  3. potential sites and site selection.

The review relies solely upon the ‘Local Aggregates Assessments’ (LAA) to predict ‘needs’ from 2019 to 2033 (14 years). This LAA also relied up historical sales of the material to assess annual demand alongside the usage and to extrapolate future demand.


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Greater renewable energy focus needed in development for 226 homes at Old Malling Farm Lewes

Re: SDNP/18/06103/OUT, Old Malling Farm, Old Malling Way, Lewes, BN7 2DY: Outline approval for residential development comprising up to 226 dwellings with associated landscaping and parking, with access from Monks Way (All Matters Reserved except Access and Layout).

The Society objects to the development in its present form. We believe that the current plan should be referred back to the developer so that the road layout and access arrangements can be reviewed along with the submission of a revised sustainability assessment. Accordingly, the application should be deferred so that improvements to the application can be made.


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Consultation Response to Fracking as Permitted Development

Response from the South Downs Society (Friends of the South Downs).

The ‘Friends of the South Downs‘ is the membership charity, working to campaign, protect and conserve the landscape of the National Park.

These are the views of the District Officers – who respond to planning consultations and Local Planning Issues on behalf of the Society.

We do not consider that the scope of drilling exploration fits within the definition of permitted development.  It has landscape impact and restoration consequences; archaeological implications; aquifer implications; earth tremor implications for historic structures; and traffic implications on rural roads that may need Grampian conditions to alleviate.  This is well beyond the scope of permitted development even if the permission is time limited.


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Major development between Lancing College and Shoreham airport

The Friends of the South Downs not only responds to planning applications within the National Park, we also look out for development proposals on or beyond the park boundary which might have a significant effect on the park’s special qualities. Below is our response to a current application alongside the A27 near Shoreham airport:

Pl app AWDM/0961/17: Demolition of existing buildings, erection of 600 new dwellings, non-food retail store, creation of country park, relocation of travellers’ site, new access to A27, community hub, primary school, landscaping: land west of New Monks Farm, Mash Barn Lane, Lancing

These are the comments of the South Downs Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park: