Lewes Forum thread

Go on, tell 'em what you think

Lewes Forum New message

PHOENIX, what do you want there ?

On 29 Dec 2012 at 6:43am Townie wrote:
Ok, here's a chance to put what you'd actually like to see. Unfortunately, we can't actually dictate the names of businesses because we don't know who'll want to use the units
So go for it.....maybe we can pick the bones out of what gets put on here and do something useful with them.
Oh...no bickering, everyone will have a different view but it'll be interesting to see what we can come up with.
My dream would be to have 1/3 residential, 1/3 industrial and 1/3 commercial but no one would be able to dictate what business went into those commercial and industrial units. Not forgetting, you don't really want to take people out of the high street so maybe more specialised commercial would have to go in there (a bit like the equine feed shop in the north st car park)
Among the above, we'd also need some kind of recreational fascility....i know a cinema has been mentioned but we don't want white elephants.....although i know the one in Uckfield is very popular.
I'd love to see a river side cafe and even some sort of foot bridge that is between wileys and causeway.
So, get thinking. Im off to buy the original Simcity and build my empire !!!
On 29 Dec 2012 at 9:00am myself wrote:
Novatech. Great PC company, The 2 closest stores are Portsmouth/Rochester
On 29 Dec 2012 at 9:08am SJEP76 wrote:
I would like to see a nice little cinema like Uckfield not a multiplex, some shops that I can afford to shop in, a nice affordable dare I say it normal cafe/restaurant. With a household income of under £20,000 a year it is actually cheaper for me to get the bus to Uckfield or Brighton to buy clothes, shoes etc as I can't afford to buy my childrens clothes and shoes from Clarkes or M & CO for every day wear. I'm not saying I would like a massive industrial estate full of discount stores but 1 shop like Matalan or Peacocks would be nice.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 9:10am bastian wrote:
very simillar to what you want but with the spaces for comercial to range in size and price as start up businesses, like the small spaces opposite the station, and work shops for artists, who add agreat deal to the towns tourism appeal and the big warehouses need to accomodate the exhisting businesses that are on the estate so local people don't have to relocate or travel far to work.
According to the National Park Authority, employment is a big part of the parks ruling on building, we need a hostel for ramblers, not a hotel, and we need a centre for information.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 9:13am Townie wrote:
@ "Myself" As i said, we can't actually say what actual stores or business we can have.....they build the units and then fill them with whoever wants them, but many shops or trades might not want to come to Lewes for whatever reason.
A decent multi-storey car park would be nice. Maybe some sort of Tram system would be nice to link the high street with the Phoenix
On 29 Dec 2012 at 10:18am jrsussex wrote:
Townie, you speak much sense. Whatever the final decision is it must include ample parking, both design and usage should reflect the town of Lewes. State of the art modernistic architecture is not right, much better to retain the "old worldliness" of the town. I accept the comments of SJEP 76 with regard to the affordability of products/goods from smaller outlets to families on restricted incomes. There has to be some middle-ground for the likes of Matalans/Peacocks etc to build stores that are not so large that they ruin the retail industry in a town such as Lewes. A example is the change in Hailsham since they allowed the super-stores to develop in their town, the change in their High Street with regard the smaller retailers is certainly not good.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 10:31am John Stockdale wrote:
Townie is quite right. You can't pick the businesses that take space on the Phoenix - or the individuals who go to live there. But you can help shape the development that goes on the North Street and Eastgate sites by taking part in the developer's consultation on 19 January 10am-3pm at the Town Hall and 29 January 3-8pm Southover Grange (see link for more info).
I'm interested to see this thread is headed 'Phoenix' rather than 'North Street' which is the dull but rather more precise label the Council seems to prefer. What do you think? Maybe we should also suggest they look for a new name as well?

Check it out here »
On 29 Dec 2012 at 11:04am Lewes Cinema wrote:
Blowing our own trumpet I know but.. The comment we have heard from many customers is that our new venue at Lewes Little Theatre compares favourably with Uckfield in terms of experience.
When thinking about cinemas as part of a new-build you have to consider the economics. Uckfield exists as a building from 1911 which has been modified to keep pace with modern requirements - but if it had to be built from scratch now it would probably not be viable - there simply isn't enough income from an independent cinema to fund a new-build. Uckfield is busy as is Lewes Cinema (at theatre) but neither makes a fortune.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 11:12am Matt Kent wrote:
@ John. Its a real shame that there isn't a Neighbourhood Plan for Lewes at the moment. I believe this is something Lewes Town Council Planning Committee have been discussing recently. Maybe the 'Phoenix' is where the Neighbourhood Plan focuses its energy. Personally I would like to see a mix of affordable homes for local 1st time buyers, local businesses (for new technologies and skills), some retail, and maybe a new surgery to support the community. Maybe an opportunity for a new infant school given the pressures on existing ones throughout the District. Maybe the whole site can be made energy sufficient with an anaerobic digester to generate electricity from local food waste? I look forward to the 'consultation'.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 11:17am Southover Queen wrote:
I'd like to see a multi-use theatrical space - one which can be used as a cinema but also a performance space for music and drama. Lewes has a remarkable number of groups, from chamber music groups made up of internationally famous players through excellent amateur opera all the way to a dazzling number of choirs. At the moment all the performance spaces are compromises or adaptations which are either inadequate, uncomfortable or far too small. We also have an enthusiastic local audience: somewhere that is adaptable and affordable that seats perhaps 400 would be a really excellent addition to our amenities. Add a foyer with hanging space and you have an art gallery; site this in a small commercial square with affordable shops etc and I think you'd have a very attractive centre around which to build a variety of housing. I think a smallish multi-storey is an excellent idea as well.

I'd be wary of pastiche architecture - something which is trying to be "olde worldy", but there are ways of using the vernacular building styles of the area - lots of timber, weather boarding, flint and cobbles, for instance - in a modern way which would not conflict at all with the rest of town. As much as anything it's a question of scale and approachability I think - somewhere which feels like it's actually for people on foot, where they're not dodging speeding traffic and which doesn't feel windswept and inhospitable on a winter's evening either.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 11:33am Lewes Cinema wrote:
Southover Queen - nice idea in theory but the reality is that most performance spaces in Lewes are not fully utilised at the moment. 400 seater? I don't think so. Purely on cinema terms admittedly - we took the space at Lewes Little Theatre knowing that it would only seat around 150, and also knowing that (with a VERY few exceptions) this would be more than big enough.
Yes I know if a music event is promoted it would attract 100's but looking at the year round use would a 400 seat venue for anything really be sustainable?
I mean take a look around Lewes yesterday - it's deserted, like a ghost town with about a quarter of the shops closed. We don't open the cinema again until 5-Jan for good reason.
Although it would be great to have a commercial/retail/arts quarter I can't see any commercial developer funding an arts centre in the way you say - and personally I think it could be a white elephant.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 12:47pm brixtonbelle wrote:
LC - the town was deserted yesterday because of post christmas lull - you can't really judge how successful a 400-seat venue would be on that basis.
I think that there could be a qualification put on shop and business use - ie - rent controls making them accessible to start-ups and not just chain stores and would also like to see small business units for workshops for anyone - not just artists. The point is getting variety into the area. Vibrancy can't be created by naming somewhere a 'quarter', which is why I used 'phoenix' in the title of previous thread - that is how much of the town knows the area and also refers back to its past usage - eg foundry.

SQ - it might be an idea to contact the community land trust who went through this very same process of consulting people about their ideas for the phoenix space a couple of years ago and also raised a significant amount of money. Many of the ideas mooted here were also mooted then.

Personally I'd like to see lots of green space/ landscaping/ tree planting built into the new area and riverside walk, some affordable independent cafes and an arts space.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 1:28pm Southover Queen wrote:
I wouldn't want to fall out because of size: 300 would probably be fine. I don't know about the numbers of cinema goers, but I do know that the existing venues in town are, for one reason or another, really inadequate for music performance, particularly with some kind of orchestra. I'm a member of one of the choirs: we usually perform with a small professional band (of internationally famous players who happen to live in our little town). Acoustically the best venue is St John sub Castro, but unfortunately it's in poor repair and only seats - maximum - 270 ish. Most of the time we could sell considerably more seats than there are available, and the truth is that in most cases it costs more to mount the concert than we can ever earn in sales. I'm not sure what the capacity of the Town Hall is, but I doubt that it's all that much more. It's recently had a raked seating system installed and apparently the acoustics are now much better than they were. Nonetheless it's not ideal.

All Saints is no good for us - too small and lousy acoustics, unfortunately. West Gate chapel is lovely, but only seats 90 (and that's cramming them in!)

Of course I'm speaking from a very particular perspective because that's the one I know, but I've hunch that other users would come out of the woodwork - there's a lot of talent in this town. For instance, Priory School might enjoy doing their end of term shows there. Or invite some of the young singers working or understudying at Glyndebourne to come and do some recitals - believe me there'd be an audience for that!

There are plenty of examples around the country of towns of our size (and smaller!) who have really buzzing community arts centres. I think you'd be surprised how much use it would get - and generate, too.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 2:14pm bastian wrote:
John Stockdale, what is going on in eastgate? that is new to me,what is proposed for that area of town? we are talking about the Webham Smith site I presume. If so, can we have an open discussion, with the people of Lewes about all the proposed new building that the council is aware of but we are not. It is time for the board to be in plain view, not fragments of information at a time. We elect our council but if they are going to play their cards so close to their chests that we don't know what is going on then we may have to vote for someone who makes themselves more available for information than the current councillors. Votes are supposed to be based on trust...I think trust is lacking because people don't know what is going on.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 2:56pm Follower wrote:
Bastian - Santon has in mind an integrated development that includes the old Wenban and existing Waitrose sites as well as the North St site. Look at the rather sylized map in their flyer, and the arrows on it. From their perspective, key to a successful development is improved pedestrian access and flow to/from the current "town centre": the Causeway rather cuts off North St, so they're contemplating a remodelling that would make it more open to foot traffic. And therein lies the core issue for Lewes - how to achieve a financially viable development (ie one with well patronised retail, restaurants etc as well as residential, arts and industrial) without taking a crippling volume of trade away from our current establishments and reducing the High Streets to a wilderness of boarded up windows, pound shops and charity shops. Drawing in trade from surrounding areas is one possibility, but that could be the final nail in Newhaven's coffin and wouldn't do Uckfield any favours either.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 4:00pm bastian wrote:
and this explains why the Lewes chamber of commerce is asking for a volunteer who has a knowlege of architecture and retail to go to the meetings held by the council so they know what's going on. Could we just have all of it, in initial detail, written out and distributed to everyone in Lewes..a town referendom if you like, it is our town, not Santons, so we should know exaclty what is going no rather than bits and pieces. until this happens no one will trust a desisn made on our behalf by developers and the council. This is no small change to the town, this is huge. It could benefit sme people and ruin others. We must get it right.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 4:24pm Southover Queen wrote:
I've found a link to the leaflet on the Friends of Lewes site. Not all that forthcoming is it...?

Check it out here »
On 29 Dec 2012 at 4:37pm bastian wrote:
that's the one tucked inside your Viva Lewes.
The National Park authority need to be clear about what is and what is not acceptable change here. This is to big to be decided on a workshop used as a box ticking exercise.
It is not clear from the leaflet that the Eastgate area is involved at all.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 6:22pm Townie wrote:
Right, so we're talking.
Now one thing Lewes lacks is something for families to do in the evenings. Now it's not my thing but would a small bowling unit coupled with a small cinema and maybe a fast food outlet be welcomed ?. Again, i know many of the 2.4 children population of Lewes who'd love this sort of thing but the vocal majority would completely destroy the idea.
It would be so nice to get Lewes alive in the evenings...cafes and restaurants staying open, families bowling then off for a McD's or KFC or whatever, kids in the cinema....that sort of thing.
Im pretty certain again that this will be screamed at but it's worth thinking about
On 29 Dec 2012 at 6:28pm Southover Queen wrote:
I heartily agree, bastian. Either I didn't get Viva Lewes this month or it didn't have a leaflet in it, but looking at it online the information it offers is very sketchy indeed (literally, in this case!). I can read a map well enough, but honestly struggle to figure out what the splodges and arrows mean!

BB, thanks for that - I've checked out the Community Land Trust. It does look disturbingly as if LDC are, as usual, ignoring the townsfolk's wishes. As Bastian (and others) have said, this is too big a development for it to be allowed to sail through without protest, and frankly that is precisely what I now expect from LDC who have elevated ignoring their constituents to a whole new art form.

If I have time tomorrow, I'll set up a page using the domain name which links all this stuff. I do think a forum would be useful: even if Cllr Page et al decide to ignore us perhaps the national park will think twice if we make enough (sensible) fuss. Not being part of any of the established groups (Cllr Page's "voices who shout loudest") might actually be a help rather than a hindrance as no-one can say we've got any other agendas.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 6:42pm Lewes lady wrote:
Forget about consultation and the amateur architects on here, the biggest single current factor IMHO that will determine whether this development is a long-term success is whether Santon will be holding a genuine architectural competition, structured in a way that the best medium-size practices will be able to afford to take part, rather than the nonsensical path adopted in Hastings a few years back when the likes of Fosters pitched up to ridiculously propose their usual house-style for a hotel on the beach. I know of at least one perfect, highly-intelligent and sensitive boutique practice, but I fear that Santon will have already appointed their own favourite 'grunts' to churn out some third-rate rubbish studded with a few flints.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 6:45pm Southover Queen wrote:
To Townie: not, not shouting at all. I think the key to what would work for everyone is a space which is traffic free and probably more or less enclosed, so a small square with some shops and cafes or affordable restaurants. If you're clever enough with a multi use arts space you can easily have an excellent cinema with decent screen and permanent sound system in a space which can also be used for plays and music performances. In the foyer of such a space you could have photographic exhibitions or children's art competitions, with cafe tables and food outlets all of which tumbles into the square when the weather's good.

Perhaps the way forward is, rather than being too specific about what exactly each individual would want (which will inevitably be their own hobby horse and so rejected by others), to think about what the town is missing at the moment. Just as you've done, in fact - you think the town needs more communal space where families can enjoy time together. I agree: I'd add to the list somewhere that the many creative groups in town can call their own and put on shows and exhibitions. Then you'd have creative things happening in the same spaces that families are enjoying their leisure time, and the barriers start to fall, perhaps.

Anyway, maybe I'm rambling. I'll put up a link to a webpage once I've cobbled something together.
On 29 Dec 2012 at 8:07pm bastian wrote:
Santon and LDC are you reading all this?
because if you want a debate here it is.
If you are not then we, as a forum need to take our words to the council in whatever way is needed. we must work together and not allow our differences to tear this apart. If that means going to a workshop, do it. If that means putting a petition together and sending it to The National Park, the council and Central Government, let's do it. Something on paper, not cyber.
A screen shot of this debate should be included.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 1:02pm bastian wrote:
The National Park Authority has already thrown out the plans for the Malling developement that Matt Kent was banging no about...thesussex express put a front page picture of the architects design for all to see several weeks ago. It was ugly and unimaginative, built from what is a cheap material fro throwing houses up in order to make a profit (see St Nicholas lane). the NPA pointed out that the designs were poor quality and that the project did not support local employment. What does this mean? it menas that the developers have already dipped their toe into the water and got short shrift. How much power does the National Park Authority have? would they allow this kind of developemnet in Dartmoor, say, at Ashburton or Oakhampton? because if the answer is no then why should we have it. It has to be sympathetic and of use to the people of the town.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 1:14pm Sjep76 wrote:
I agree with Townie about the bowling, cinema and fast food outlet. It wouldn't have to be massive like Brighton Marina but something alot smaller, but along those lines. Hailsham Leisure Centre bowling alley always seemed to be well used (don't know if it still is though!). With 3 children that would be an enjoyable, affordable Saturday afternoon evening without having to go to a different town.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 1:33pm brixtonbelle wrote:
Absolutely bastian. Any development has to provide local employment, use local architects and builders, plasterers and electricians, and be of a good quality, not just design-wise, but in terms of materials used etc. Design wise, I do think there needs to be some recognition of the industrial past of the site - maybe in terms of rooflines, using t&g timber for frontages etc.
Re the Santon map - I think it's just a notional map and not reflective of any sort of design at all. Firstly they don't own the wenban smith site - waitrose does, and I haven't heard of any sort of plans for that yet.
Interestingly the Santon leaflet says the workshops are to be held 'in light of the ...core strategy for the town'. SQ, I don't know where to find the information on this - but maybe if you or anyone else has it, it could be linked to the website you are constrcuting ?
On 30 Dec 2012 at 1:40pm not from around here wrote:
Bastion - I wouldn't promote what is said on this forum as 'debate'. Only a relatively small number of the Lewes population actually post comments on here and most of those have deeply entrenched views and prejudices that are not really representative of the population as a whole. Most would think that anything would be better than what is currently in the Phoenix area.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 2:00pm Follower wrote:
The Core Strategy info is available from this page on the LDC website, though the links seem to be suffering a Xmas hangover at the moment.

Check it out here »
On 30 Dec 2012 at 2:02pm bob wrote:
I'd like to see enough space for the existing business to remain there, multi storey car park instead of the current one and loads of actually affordable housing.
It would be nice to have a cinema, mixed purpose arts facilities, cafes, footbridges and river walks but our country as a whole needs lots of affordable housing.
We already have empty shops and industrial units. They may not be 100% ideal but I feel that we should be making more efficient use of what we have rather than starting again.
As much as our personal lives may improve with more amenities maybe we could look at wider issues.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 2:17pm Southover Queen wrote:
Thank you for that, Not from round here. If you talk to people locally you'd be amazed how many actually read the forum even if they don't post. And in fact it's not terribly surprising given the mauling people get for venturing an opinion.

BB: the main purpose of the webpage (I wouldn't dignify it with the name of site!) will be to link all the available information from all the different sources so that it's a simple matter to find it all. I'd also hope that a different forum which is moderated so that visitors don't get flamed and abused and which encourages constructive debate might garner a wider range of opinions. The first requirement for a sensible debate has to be solid information though, so that will be my first priority.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 3:06pm bastian wrote:
Well done SQ, you are making it feel like something may actaully come out of the ramblings on here. People do look at this forum from all over town, they don't all like what they read and many feel intimidated by the verbal abuse so don't post, but it is where you go to find out what is happening here. SQ, when you are done get soemthing in the local paper about the site.
BB, we do indeed need the builders to be loval or how does it benefit the local economy.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 4:03pm Local wrote:
Santon need to use the best architects, not necessarily local ones. Or do you similarly want local architects to be prevented from undertaking work outside East Sussex?
On 30 Dec 2012 at 5:40pm Matt Kent wrote:
From listening to the SDNPA Planning Committee after the 3 objection statements I was pleasantly surprised by some of the comments that were made by the committee. One comment being 'Is this all the architect has to offer Lewes and the National Park...the standard can be far better and far more imaginative'. And I had to agree. It pains me to speak against fellow architects, but the proposal for Malling that I've 'been banging on about' is of poor design, has no context to Malling and has a totally inappropriate scale within Lewes and the National Park. SDNPA hired a Design Officer specifically for that particular application and their comments pretty much reinforced the concerns of local residents and heritage groups. The scheme was deferred and not objected to, and the design must be revised. I believe the SDNPA are a credible committee, and given the size and importance of the Phoenix, will definitely go through the National Park and not Lewes District Council, which I am more comfortable about. The National Park have listened, and have deferred the Malling scheme accordingly. I hope the Phoenix scheme is developed by architects that have comprehensive local knowledge of the site and are exceptionally sympathetic to the comments of Lewes residents. Not an easy task, if I were they, given their remit from a developer (to maximise profit). But the proof will be in the pudding.
On 30 Dec 2012 at 9:14pm Southover Queen wrote:
That's encouraging, Matt, at least the bit about the SDNPA is!

While risking Lewes Lady's disdain, I'd observe that an exciting and left-field thinking architect is exactly what this town and this location needs. We don't need pastiche nonsense either - I'd say that a big part of the architectural impact of Lewes is that the buildings are of every style and genre going back many centuries. The Georgians stuck mathematical tiles on top of Tudor frontages; perhaps there was a huge outcry about "ruining our heritage" but I doubt it. The worst mistakes we've made as a species, I think, is to be frightened of ambition. In my opinion, modern uncompromising architecture can look wonderful alongside ancient buildings (Prince Charles wouldn't agree).

I feel that many developers are nowhere near imaginative enough. They just go on building what has sold before, with a different panel stuck on top so that it fits in. There are plenty of those about Lewes. The spaces are mean, with awful daylight levels and gimcrack finishes. I'd love to see something which is of this century yet complements the great variety of buildings in our town. Is it a risk? No, actually I don't think so. Well designed spaces will sell, and I don't believe they're any more expensive to construct than Barrett boxes.

Isn't it ironic that the ugliest building, by a very long way, is the monstrosity housing the county council. No imagination or ambition: just terminally dull (and soon to be demolished, it seems).
On 30 Dec 2012 at 10:20pm Lewes lady wrote:
I think you'll find that the County Council building - along with the rest of it's ilk - was originally described / justified / hailed as 'modern uncompromising architecture'. That was my point. Be careful what you wish for.
(I make no apology for being disdainful towards amateur architects. But then I also am towards crass professional ones too.)
On 30 Dec 2012 at 10:47pm Southover Queen wrote:
Except that you have no idea what my expertise is. Or that of anyone else offering opinions.

I doubt very much that the ESCC building was ever described in those terms by the way. It's just nasty cheap rentabox. Mies van der Rose is "uncompromising architecture" of a similar period, and it stands up just fine. (And no, I'm not suggesting that Lewes should be building sky-scrapers, just making a point)
On 30 Dec 2012 at 11:48pm Lewes lady wrote:
I don't wish to sound bitchy, but I feel pretty sure that you're not an architect, or you would likely know that his surname is spelt 'Rohe'. Nor that the various other postings on here suggesting random design ideas for incorporation are coming from architects or master-planners, as people 'in the trade' are massively, hugely unlikely to do just that!
(I say 'his' surname - there's an amusing insight into the egotistical mind of a so-called genius who so espoused Modernism and the strict adherence to design principles of pared-down functionality. His name was actually Ludwig Mies, but he didn't think it sounded grand enough and so willfully embellished it with the van der Rohe bit. I suspect many people wish he'd embellished his buildings with a little something extra, rather than leaving the planting of vines as the only effective way of trying to disguise his frequently horribly brutish work!)
By the way, I would wager a fair amount of money that the Council were more likely to have been encouraged to buy into their striking new HQ via terms such as 'a striking and important Miesian landmark' rather than 'a cheap nasty rentabox'. I'm not saying the words were true, just that architect-speak should never be left un-interrogated.
As a footnote, there is a large well-known practice here in Europe which, to this day, remain constrained by pure Modernism to the extent that said Miesian principles take precedence over their clients' briefing wishes! That is the sort of architect that Santon must avoid for the good of Lewes.

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