Copy of Councillor Steve Saunders, (deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the Lewes District Council) comments to the press on the proposed 'regeneration portfolio' programme (more commonly called the '49' sites):
"Having attended the consultation event 'organised' by LDC at the Hillcrest Centre in Newhaven last Thursday, I find myself left even more angry about the proposals put forward by the Tory Administration than ever.
As a serving District Councillor on LDC representing Newhaven Valley, I have been left as much in the dark about the detail of plans hatched between the developer and the Conservatives, as anyone else. Now they have been revealed in all their glory, it is clear that every town and parish in the District are furious at the proposals. In Seaford public do not want to lose a valuable seafront car park, Lewes are up in arms about losing a well utilised public toilet and Peacehaven are raging about the loss of their parking facilities too.
Hundreds of residents turned up to express their anger at plans, despite the fact that the event was not (as suggested) advertised through doorstep leafleting.
Newhaven face the loss of several sites which include: an recreational area of special scientific importance and a valuable open space; areas adjacent to a nature reserve and; a car park facility to support the development of the Council Depot, along with the potential loss of nearby existing businesses. The Newhaven sites too, have been identified as taking most, if not all the affordable/social housing for all the District sites.
As a long-serving Councillor, I am well aware of the need for affordable housing throughout the District, but the centralisation of all of it in Newhaven will do nothing for the regeneration of the Town and not help those in need across the District. Our road infrastructure is at breaking point and in an ironic twist of fate, many visitors to the event were delayed by 2 consecutive bridge openings either side of 5pm, causing the associated tailbacks in every direction. Schools and health services are also in desperate need, not helped by the County Council's preposterous decision to close the Grays School at Western Road.
The Town needs a mix of private and social housing, giving it a balance of residents to encourage spending and growth, as well as much needed affordable units.
How an administration elected by the people can chose to sign a contract with a developer, without fully consulting with not only the Councillors involved, but the very people affected, is beyond comprehension. The loss of valuable open space involved in Newhaven, together with equally valuable commercial land is at best short-sighted and at worst a belligerent act by an out of touch administration. With every corner of the District up in arms at the proposals, this has to be withdrawn and a sensible approach adopted, which include full consultation with all interested parties and proper account taken of Neighbourhood Plans that are currently being drawn up.
I and my colleagues will be fighting the Newhaven proposals as they stand and will be looking for a cohesive approach with like-minded people in other Towns and Parishes that are equally angered by yet another decision forced upon us.
Lewes District Councillor