Premier Inn plan for Lewes Magistrates' Court rejected for being out of character with town (From The Argus)
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Premier Inn plan for Lewes Magistrates' Court rejected for being out of character with town
A Lewes court building will not be turned into a 62- bedroom hotel – because the plans from a national chain are not in keeping with the “jewel of the South Downs”.
Premier Inn wants to take over the building, which would also be used for shops.
But the South Downs National Park Authority planning committee rejected plans to convert the Lewes Magistrates’ Court yesterday afternoon, despite officers recommending the plans be given the go-ahead.
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The authority’s committee agreed unanimously that the design of the building was not in keeping with the character of the town.
Campaigners who had opposed the plans said the decision was a victory for people power and that the proposal failed to do justice to the “jewel of the South Downs”.
Property developers Quora had hoped the committee meeting in Midhurst yesterday would rubber-stamp its plans to convert the magistrates’ court site into a 62-bed hotel above a promenade of shop fronts.
It was revealed earlier this year that the disused building is costing taxpayers £10,000 a month on security and maintenance.
A vociferous campaign raised fears that one of the ground-floor units could be used to house a chain pub and threaten the livelihood of the town’s thriving pub industry.
Margaret Paren, chairman of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “The decision was unanimous and was based entirely on the building’s design.
“We believe the design of the building could have gone further to match the distinctive character of the historic town of Lewes and the extensive conservation area.”
Tony Leonard, landlord of the Snowdrop Inn, who joined other pub owners in the town to oppose the plans, was celebrating the decision last night.
He said: “The decision was unanimous and the feeling among the committee was that the design needs to be better, that it really wasn’t good enough.
“Amore sympathetic design would be acceptable although any chain pub would not be.
“Twenty-six pubs are closing nationally a week but in Lewes we have been really fortunate that we have lost just one in five years, but bringing in a chain pub could change all that.
“The committee listened to the people of Lewes. That came out very strongly in the meeting.”
A spokesman for Premier Inn said the firm was considering its position following the decision.
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