MAGICAL THINKING MAKES THE BUS STATION DISAPPEAR

In a new consultation launched today (20/10/21) the agents for owners of the Lewes bus station have made it magically disappear

In a document which you can find here  they say that “Despite popular belief, the site has not housed a bus station since Southdown Motor Services/Stagecoach sold it off in 2006, when it  was  deemed  no  longer  operationally  necessary  and  ceased  being used as a bus station, office and bus garaging.”

Let’s unpick that statement.  It is certainly true that Stagecoach Bus Company  found that they bus station was no longer necessary for them.  That was because they were pulling out of running buses in Lewes.  They handed over their routes to Brighton and Hove Buses and other operators.  That does not, of course, mean that the bus station was no longer necessary  for the public and those continuing to run bus services.

Cynical minded people might say that it is likely that Stagecoach saw more profit in selling the bus station to a developer than to the new operators or the county council.

It is also true that the bus garage next to the bus station was not needed any more and no one thinks that that it should be kept.

They say that there is no bus station because it is only rented.  This is a bit like saying “Your home is not a house because you rent it from the council”.

AMENITIES AND THE (DISAPPEARED) BUS STATION

Just to remind you the non-existent bus station provides:

  • shelter for a large number of people.waiting for buses
  • space for buses to wait over between journeys, which is pretty much essential
  • facilities for crew to go to the toilet and get refreshments. (although the developer has currently prohibited their use)
  • all the buses together in one place so that there can be easy connections.
  • a café and waiting area where people can wait in the warm and dry and take refreshment.
  • proximity to the main shopping area.

Alternatives should provide the same facilities

The developers allege that only two of the four bus stopping points are used to any degree.  It is the case that one on the north side is not used  much since the buses to Ringmer and Uckfield started stopping at Waitrose, but the other stop on the north side is heavily used and, when two Brighton buses pull in at once both north side stops are used.  The southern 2 stops are used by Compass Travel.  Boarding is normally at the stop next to Eastgate Street, but buses commonly wait at the stop behind for some time whilst waiting for the bus in front to depart.

SO WHERE DO THEY SAY THE BUSES SHOULD STOP?

There is more magical thinking The following alternatives are suggested:

  • The bus stop outside Waitrose is proposed. This is not an alternative. It is an existing stop and only has capacity for one bus at a time, although chaos sometimes results when two buses try to pull in at the same time.  There is no shelter at this stop for the many people who use it.  Brighton buses ceased using this bus stop for Brighton bound buses because it was necessary for  some of these buses to stand over for some time before returning to Brighton.
  • A bus stop in East Street is proposed. You may remember that Brighton buses erected a stop there when the bus station changed hands. Chaos ensued. The pavement is very narrow so was often blocked and there was no room to erect a bus shelter.
  • A bus stop at the bottom of School Hill is proposed. You may remember that there was formerly as stop there but it had to be removed because the traffic got blocked.  The existing stop at the top of School Hill is also proposed.  Quite what this would do for traffic if more than one bus pulled up at a time is an interesting question.  This stop is not near the main precinct and would involve eastbound buses doing a tour of the town centre.
  • This option places a bus station in the Phoenix Car Park. There is certainly space for a bus station, but at the cost of a lot of parking. The owners appear to be Lewes District Council, which is opposed to moving the bus station and is probably opposed to losing the car park revenue.
  • Option 5 is the Phoenix Causeway bus stop which can only take one bus at a time, is not particularly near anywhere and is of no use for buses heading westbound which currently start at the bus station.
  • Option 6 is on the proposed North Street development, which may be news to the developers of that site who, so far as Travelman can remember, did not envisage any bus parking on the site.
  • This option is the bus stop at Tesco, which is handy for Asda and Tesco and it not a new bus stop. It is useless for buses starting in Lewes and heading west.
  • This option is the old Wenban Smith site. This would involve all the buses going down the little road next to Waitrose.  To get enough space for a bus station it would be necessary to use the next door car park. The views of Waitrose who (according to the Land Registry) bought the two sites for just short of £10 million in 2014 have not been recorded.  Presumably they have plans of their own.
  • The last option is what is termed the “Friars Walk Car Park”. This mystical entity does not appear to exist.  This may be a reference to the car park behind the Premier Inn.  There are the same issues as for option 4.

Of all these options only options 4, 8 and 9 offer anything like the facilities of the current bus station, and those sites are probably intended by their owners for other purposes.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

You can certainly reply to the developer’s consultation which asks only a few substantive questions:

What do you want on the ground floor of the development?  (a bus station)

Which of the alternatives for the bus station do you prefer (none)

Being the main ones.

But you should also send your views to the South Downs National Park.  Send them to planning@southdowns.gov.uk    and quote the reference SDNP/21/03284/PRE

If the developer cannot get planning permission they are likely to permit continued use in the short term since they recieve payments from East Sussex Council for use as a bus station, and to sell the site in the long term.