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Lewes CAAG and the Magistrates Court

On 6 Jan 2015 at 2:05pm A Dicks wrote:
Lewes CAAG and the Magistrates Court
Several Forum respondents have not unreasonably questioned my competence to pass judgement on the recent Planning Application to demolish the Magistrates Court and replace it with a budget hotel.
So here goes:
I Chair the Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group which was founded in 2009 to continue the tradition of the people of Lewes in their fight to preserve the historic townscape.
While I freely acknowledge that my past career university lecturer - has given me little specific experience in urban conservation, it does qualify me to chair a group of talented hard-working individuals drawn from many relevant fields. In the Lewes CAAG you will find architects, archaeologists, surveyors, town planners, town and district Councillors, historic buildings specialists, historians and other dedicated professionals as well as representatives from the Civic and South Downs Societies. All giving their time freely for the benefit of the town of Lewes.
Lewes CAAG has financial and administrative support from Lewes Town Council, although it must be emphasised that we are completely independent.
Our job is to help conserve and protect the streets and buildings in the Conservation Area; to advise the South Downs National Park Authority and prospective developers on Planning Applications; to act as a watch dog looking out for problems as they emerge, rather than waiting for them to become obvious.
The Magistrates Court:
Just like the many very different views shown by Forum contributors, CAAG members had a variety of opinions on the merits of the existing building ranging from adequate to poor. However there was universal agreement that the initial design for the hotel would represent a step backwards. Our recommendation to the SNDPA was to reject.
We offered at that time to consult with the developer and architect and had several meetings.
It is now our majority opinion that the most recent design shows sufficient improvement to be seen as a better alternative than the existing building. Not all CAAG members share this view. It was however by a clear majority that we felt able to recommend approval so long as the applicant continues to seek to improve aspects of the design.
We are prepared to continue to help to make this valuable site worthy of its position at the heart of the Conservation Area.
We are also on record as saying that we would have no objection to a plan to retain the existing building, but advice given to us is that the present owners the Dept. of Justice, have committed to sell the site to the proposed hotel developer.
CAAG Members currently represent the following organisations:

Arboricultural Association
East Sussex County Council
Friends of Lewes
Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation
Lewes Access Group
Lewes Coalition
Lewes District Council
Lewes Town Council
Living Streets, Lewes
Royal Institution of British Architects
Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
Royal Town Planning Institute
South Downs Society
Sussex Archaeological Society

Anthony Dicks M.A., Chair Lewes CAAG
On 6 Jan 2015 at 6:24pm SHS wrote:
Regardless of whether we agree with the outcome, I congratulate you on the clarity of your message above and for taking the trouble to inform a wider audience. Well done Sir.
On 6 Jan 2015 at 7:12pm Zebedee 2 wrote:
Yes, thanks very much for that Mr A Dicks. I was at the planning meeting and noted the appliicants removal of the drawing that illustrated the dominant size of the development. I am disappointed that CAAG did not object to the sheer scale of the thing, but the proof will be in the building.
On 7 Jan 2015 at 2:29am Interested wrote:
I am interested to know how more improvements to this poor design can be ensured.
On 7 Jan 2015 at 5:48am the kronic wrote:
I think the proposed design is absolutely fine and should go ahead as planned....the sooner, the better.
On 7 Jan 2015 at 11:33am taxpayer wrote:
In Mr Dicks post there is no mention of Conservation Policies or actual Conservation issues relating to the proposal. Just unqualified opinion. Where can we find a list of names of actual members of this group? Does CAAG really represent the list of organisations as claimed? If I contact the RTPI, and the RIBA are they going to tell me that this group chaired by Mr Dicks is representing their professional view on planning applications in the South Downs National Park? Did other CAAG members endorse Mr Dicks' claims before he posted them?
On 7 Jan 2015 at 12:24pm DerekCheese wrote:
Hello Mr Dicks. Wondered if you have any say in the dilapidated Canon O'Donnell Centre in Western Road. It is an absolute eyesore. Planning for houses there keeps being turned down. Why! Those horrible houses opposite have been built with the ghastly giant windows.
What else is going to be put on this site. A car park or community garden would be nice but who's going to pay for this? It will obviously end up being houses so let's get this stone clad carbuncle, positioned where many people see Lewes for the first time, pulled down & get building. Just make the houses better looking this time.
On 7 Jan 2015 at 4:46pm No Pot Pourri wrote:
A bit off topic Derek. And Canon O'Donnell got consent for a residential scheme last April. Keep up at the back there!
On 7 Jan 2015 at 5:40pm Anthony Dicks wrote:
Derek - Again, as CAAG spokesman, rather than any personal view, when the current owner of the O'Donnell Hall applied for consent to demolish, our Group unanimously opposed demolition on the basis that the replacement building proposed was poorer in design quality that the existing Arts & Crafts building.
To be fair to your point of view, many CAAG members shared your poor opinion of the Hall. Others felt that the original architect did well with an incredibly complex site - triangular, with the two long sides rising at very different levels. We recognise that this is an landmark site, especially when leaving the town centre. The CAAG would dearly like to see an exciting development here, but until this is proposed, we are pleased that the now defunct planning law - that stated that no application to demolish a building in a conservation area should ever be approved unless and until the proposer has demonstrated a design that will be an improvement - is being upheld by the South Downs NP Planning Authority. So the existing exterior stays for the time being.
And just to show that we're not always on the side of the nay-sayers, the CAAG voted to recommend approval for the exciting Cor-ten steel house now being built at the extreme end of South St., despite determined opposition from the Friends of Lewes and the Town Council. Let's hope that time will prove us right.
Anthony Dicks
On 7 Jan 2015 at 9:49pm Spring fellow wrote:
Let's hope. :-)
On 8 Jan 2015 at 12:16am Belladonna wrote:
My Gawd - A Cor ten steel house ? Really ? Or maybe you mean the cladding ? I hope it's got decent sound insulation because that site is bloody noisy, and not mitigated by the lovely view.
I hope it's better than the 'green wheelie bin' house redevelopment just behind south st facing onto the river which is a real carbuncle. And I speak as one very much in favour of modern design
On 8 Jan 2015 at 5:56pm Stringfellow wrote:
Now`t wrong with Corten Steel - reminds me of the Phoenix works as seen from the Uckfield line - good old days

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