Lewes Neighbourhood Plan: Meeting the needs of today, while preserving heritage and encompassing the future
|Client:||Lewes Town Council|
|Location:||Lewes, East Sussex|
How do you preserve the character of a town, its historic features, and green spaces, while finding space to build at least 260 new homes that can meet the needs of the community today? On behalf of Lewes Town Council, we prepared a neighbourhood plan that involved a significant level of input from the local community throughout the process, met the requirements and the timelines as set by the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) and was in conformity with the national regulations.
To come to consensus over the plan content, we made sure to involve the public from the outset, inviting a steering group to a visioning event before a three day design forum at which participants forged new alliances and helped pinpoint suitable locations for the new homes.
With a wealth of information at hand from the design forum, we were able to prepare an interim report and host an exhibition of the outcomes and proposals. With further feedback from exhibitions and drop-in events and discussions, a refined plan was created by our team ready for consultation and then submission.
Creating policies around the delivery of affordable homes was a critical issue for local people. In response, we developed the “Lewes Low Cost Housing” policy, based on the maximum cost affordable on the average Lewes salary whether for sale or rent. This was because the Government’s definition of 80% of market value is not “affordable” on the average Lewes income of £23,000 or household income of less than £30,000, and for that reason will not address the community’s housing need. A further key component of the preparation phase was developing planning policies around Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services.
The Lewes Neighbourhood Plan was assessed by an independent examiner. He commended the plan for its quality, innovation, and distinctive approach in several areas. The SDNPA committee was very complimentary about the particularly “Lewesian” character of the plan and commended all the hard work and careful thought that has gone into it.
The Lewes Neighbourhood Plan won an RTPI award. It was shortlisted in the category for Excellence in Planning for the Natural Environment. The judges admired the “… ambition of the steering group, the thorough, long-term and extensive engagement with the community and stakeholders and the innovative ecosystem services approach to plan making – a first for a neighbourhood plan anywhere in the UK”. The plan was approved at referendum in March 2019 with a 92% yes vote.