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Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group

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About Lewes

Lewes Castle BarbicanLewes is the county town of East Sussex, England, a civil parish and is the centre of the Lewes local government district. The settlement has a history as a bridging point and as a market town, and today as a communications hub and tourist-oriented town. At the 2001 census it had a population of 15,988.

The town is situated on the Greenwich Meridian, in a gap in the South Downs, cut through by the River Ouse, and near its confluence with the Winterbourne Stream. It is approximately seven miles north of Newhaven, and an equal distance north-east of Brighton. The Greenwich Meridian runs through the western part of Lewes, where a pub (now demolished) was named after it.

The South Downs rise above the river on both banks. The High Street, and earliest settlement, occupies the west bank, climbing steeply up from the bridge taking its ancient route along the ridge; the summit on that side, 2.5 miles (4 km) distant is known as Mount Harry. On the east bank there is a large chalk cliff Cliffe Hill that can be seen for many miles, part of the group of hills including Mount Caburn, Malling Down (where there are a few houses in a wooded area on the hillside, in a development known as Cuilfail) and Golf Hill (home to the Lewes Golf Club). The two banks of the river are joined by Willey's Bridge (a footbridge), the Phoenix Causeway (a recent concrete road bridge, named after the old Phoenix Ironworks) and Cliffe Bridge (an eighteenth-century replacement of the mediaeval crossing, widened in the 1930s and now pedestrianised).

BonfireThe High Street runs from Eastgate to Westout, forming the spine of the ancient town. Cliffe Hill gives its name to the one-time village of Cliffe, now part of the town. The southern part of the town, Southover, came into being as a village adjacent to the Priory, south of the Winterbourne Stream. At the north of the town's original wall boundary is the St. John's or Pells area, home to several nineteenth-century streets and the Pells Pond. The Pells Pool, built in 1860, is the oldest freshwater lido in England. The Phoenix Industrial Estate lies along the west bank of the river. This area is home to the old fire station and subject of a potential regeneration project.

Malling lies to the east of the river and had eighteenth and nineteenth-century houses and two notable breweries. Road engineering and local planning policy in the 1970s cleared many older buildings here to allow the flow of traffic; it now goes along Little East Street, across the Phoenix Bridge and through the Cuilfail Tunnel to join the A27.

Lewes PoundThe town boundaries were enlarged twice (from the original town walls), in 1881 and 1934. They now include the more modern housing estates of Wallands, South Malling (the west part of which is a previously separate village with a church dedicated to St. Michael), Neville, Lansdown, and Cranedown on the Kingston Road.

Countryside walks can be taken starting from several points in Lewes. One can walk over Mount Caburn to the village of Glynde starting in Cliffe, traverse the Lewes Brooks (an RSPB reserve) from Southover, walk to Kingston near Lewes also from Southover, or wander up along the Ouse to Hamsey Place from the Pells. The South Downs Way rises just below Lewes and hikers often stop off at the town.

South Downs National Park

Now, in one particular way, Lewes is making history again. It is the largest town to be part of a national park. With a population today of over 16,000, it dwarfs towns like Keswick, Brecon and Lyndhurst. The new South Downs National Park is significantly different to those in the Lakes, the Peak District and elsewhere in the UK. It is a unique landscape because it is farmed, because it has some very large settlements within it such as Lewes and Midhurst, and has a lot of people living within the park and a lot of people living just outside it such as in Haywards Heath, Uckfield and Brighton. So it is a different landscape completely. It may not look that way, but over 107,000 people live in the new National Park. This high population means that planners across the South Downs area receive around 4,000 planning applications every year. One of the first tasks of the new park authority will be to decide whether it makes those decisions in future or if it asks local councils to decide on its behalf. The Friends of Lewes, the town's civic society, is hoping that the Park will mean "better design, better conservation" and more money to repair buildings in need of improvement.

It is in this context that the Lewes Conservation Area Advisory Group operates.

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