Plans have been approved for more than 400 homes to replace an industrial site in Lewes.

Developer Santon in partnership with Lewes District Council (LDC) will build 416 homes, workshops and a health centre built on the Phoenix Industrial Estate in North Street.

The decision was made by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) at County Hall in Lewes at 2.25pm today.

Its committee voted unanimously in favour of the plans.

Here is a run-down of the meeting.

Neville Harrison, of the SDNPA and chairman of today's meeting, said: "We know this planning application has raised a great deal of interest and passion.

"We will be giving very careful attention to the views of the speakers."

He said a considerable amount of time had been spent studying the application.

Before the meeting began a short time ago (as of 10am) protesters against the plan stood outside the entrance of County Hall (pictured) to lobby decision-makers as they arrived.

Those against the scheme are concerned it will quash the artistic businesses currently residing on the industrial site, which has brick and iron buildings going back to the early 1900s.

Lewes Phoenix Rising, an arts group using the units at the moment, is a key opposition factor. It says the scheme will change the character of Lewes and drive out artistic talent.

Another group, Lewes Stop The Cuts, previously told The Argus the works would result in the "social cleansing" of the town as local people would not be able to afford to live there.

Santon and LDC have said the scheme will provide much-needed housing, with 40 per cent affordable.

They also say it will bolster flood defences for the River Ouse, along which it runs. About 15 years ago Lewes was severely flooded in a similar way to how Cumbria is being affected at the moment.

This slide at the meeting (above) showed the extent of flood devastation in 2000 - somewhat topical at present.

Aside from flood defences, the developers have obligations to cough up money for the surrounding area.

An investment in the roads would see a developed highway into the site, including a right-turn from Waitrose so that traffic can avoid the gyratory system into town.

There would also be a £640,000 creative subsidy to offer arts buildings at up to 60 per cent below the market rate. A £79,000 figure for community heritage was also aired.

In addition, more than £800,000 would be spent on education with another £1.1 million going towards the Malling playing fields, which would be linked by footbridge over the river.

Stephen Cantwell of the SDNPA, after running through a presentation of the scheme, said there were "quite a comprehensive set of measures to mitigate the housing".

Public speakers have been speaking out against the plan.

Councillor Merlin Milner objects to the scheme on the basis of not enough jobs.

He said: "There has to be a commensurate increase in employment to go with the population increase of eight per cent."

He also warned against the "gentrification" of Lewes due to high rents.

Chelsea Renton of Lewes Phoenix Rising told the meeting: "This application will wipe out a thriving economic community. We are getting a bland, off-the-shelf development.

"Lewes will become a town of consumers and commuters, not a town where people can make, live and create.

"We have done a huge amount of work on this plan ... and you have refused to discuss any aspect of it with us. You have not bothered even to consult any businesses on site and we would argue that the consultation process has been grossly inadequate."

Others are speaking in support of the scheme.

Clive Wilding of Santon said: "Listening to local people has helped evolve the scheme.

"For us now it's about delivering to secure the future of a project that has been debated for 17 years. We can't wait any longer."

Andy Smith, leader of LDC, said: "There's no other viable proposal for this scheme on the table and no other scheme has the land ownership and finances to deliver now.

"If it's not approved it will call into question the ability of both LDC and the SDNPA to deliver a scheme that befits this setting."

The debate stage has been discussing the idea that artistic groups tend to spring up in underdeveloped areas.

Chairman Mr Harrison said a lot of the artists in the quarter are "totally fantastic" but said at least some of them should be able to take advantage of the reduce-rate space onsite that is being offered.

Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre, who spoke at the meeting in support of the scheme, has told The Argus that, as the population of Lewes increases, she believes one in three of the town will be over 65. She said the scheme may release family housing for downsizing and much-needed elderly care, adding that current doctors' surgeries are not suitable.

The debate also touched on the phases of the project, which would be built in three waves.

This image (above) submitted as part of the application shows how the site (outlined in fine red) would be built progressively over several years.

Phase one would see the construction of flood defences as well as some of the highway work.

Phase two would follow to provide more housing and phase three would be predominantly residential.

A small ringed site (in fine red) almost dead-centre in the illustration is not included. It is the plot of the old fire station for the town, which is being preserved.

The current fire station is another matter as it is part of the development site. East Sussex Fire and Rescue had previously told The Argus that it remains committed to keeping a fire station in Lewes, whatever the outcome of this meeting. Its plot is included in a later phase of the development, meaning, if approved, the service would not have to relocate for a few years.

The meeting has also heard that broadband is set to be provided as part of the development.

At just gone 2pm, the planning committee is now looking through some of the conditions attached to the scheme.

A concern raised was the future of Compass Travel on the site, which is said to be unable to afford to move.

At a district council meeting yesterday, a councillor said Compass was quoted about £74,000 a year in rent, up from about £14,000 at the moment.

Today, chairman Mr Harrison asked if there was a way to allow the bus company to remain on the site at an "affordable rent".

Claire Warwick of East Sussex County Council, which maintains the highways, said provision would be made for some coach parking in the Malling Brooks estate, but that this was different from the bus company.