Disappearing Lewes - The phantom flyover

It’s good to know in the crazy crazy world of planning that sometimes things do turn out alright after all. Or at least not quite so bad as they might have been. The 1960’s plans for the Lewes Inner Relief road are a good case in point. Had the road gone ahead today’s Lewes would comprise Lewes South and Lewes North, with the two parts divided by the A27. Unbelievable as it might seem now, this major trunk road would have run from the Prison Crossroads through The Paddock, skirting Lewes Castle and so on to Phoenix Causeway.

The concept of a road that would have cut Lewes in two was, however, born out a genuine desire on the part of the planners to resolve the traffic problems of the town and protect the historic core of the town. “As it was they nearly crucified me” remembers Leslie Jay, County Planning Officer, recalling those heady days during the 1960’s when his face was on wanted posters in houses and shops throughout the town. In the end, the County Council had to bow to public pressure and abandon the road but not before many buildings had been compulsorily purchased under the scheme. In that pre-property boom era, many of these properties were left empty for years, which led to another important contributor to Lewes’ historic and cultural legacy, the Malling Street Squats. More on that next week: if you have any memories or pictures of Lewes’ very own ghetto we’d love to hear from you. SC

Viva Lewes! Thank god it wasn't split in two