A POLITICAL leader has weighed into the debate over the future of a town centre.

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, visited Newhaven as her local colleagues raised concerns over a council plan.

Ms Bennett, who first visited Newhaven in August of last year, looked around the site of CTEC Energy, a clean-tech company in the town.

Ms Bennett toured the facility with Lewes District Green councillor Joanna Carter, who drew attention to the loss of Newhaven's last town-centre supermarket.

The Argus reported in January that the Co-op was uprooting from the town centre and moving to the outskirts.

Cllr Carter said: "The plan talks a lot about the Enterprise Zone in Newhaven, and rightly so - dynamic companies like CTEC Energy need to be supported. But meanwhile, Newhaven town centre is dying a slow death.

"The loss of the Co-op in the town centre is another blow. What is the council going to do to reverse this decline?"

Cllr Carter also criticised the draft Lewes District Council Plan, which was set up to shape how services are delivered over the next four years.

Echoing Cllr Carter’s comments on the visit on February 4, Ms Bennett added: "Given CTEC’s pioneering work, it is all the more ironic that the plan has so little to say about cutting the area’s carbon footprint.

"It makes all the right noises about recycling and flood defence, but what about climate change itself?"

Conservative Andy Smith, leader of Lewes District Council, has said he will listen and work with all political groups on the plan.

On a positive note, Ms Bennett praised CTEC.

She said: "Britain has the potential to be a world leader in green technologies, not just in renewable energy but in energy efficiency.

"Small innovative companies like CTEC are where the ideas, solutions and sustainable skilled jobs of our low-carbon future are going to come from."

Councillor Susan Murray, who also visited CTEC, said: "What's really exciting for Newhaven is that businesses like this are setting up and expanding in the renewable energy market.

"There really is a lot of potential for them to expand."

Lewes District Council has said Newhaven and its town centre remain an "extremely high priority for regeneration" and said that between now and 2020 more than £80 million is being invested in the town.

Newhaven has been designated an Enterprise Zone, a Government scheme to create jobs and boost businesses. Unusually, the town centre, which is seeing shops closing, will form part of the Enterprise Zone.