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Town's publicans unite to fight off Premier Inn development

08 August 2013
Town's publicans unite to fight off Premier Inn development

A total of 15 independent pubs in Lewes, East Sussex, have protested against plans to develop a 62-bedroom Premier Inn in the town.

The plans have met with widespread opposition from local businesses and residents, in a town which prides itself on its independence.

There is concern that the development, which is expected to incorporate a pub or restaurant and retail units on the site of the former magistrates' court, is out of keeping with the area's heritage and will damage existing businesses.

In an open letter to the licensing authority, South Downs National Park Authority, 15 pubs in Lewes claim that the Premier Inn development will "seriously endanger our independently run pubs and therefore harm the local economy and the social well-being of our town".

While the campaigners recognise a need for more hotel accommodation in the town, there is also concern that the size of the proposed Premier Inn is excessive and will undermine the trade of local bed and breakfast operators.

Both Whitbread, the operator of Premier Inn, and Quora, the developer of the site, declined to comment on which brand of pub or restaurant will be included within the development. "We are currently considering the options," said a spokesperson for Whitbread.

Pub chain The objectors to the scheme believe that it is most likely that one of Whitbread's pub chains such as Beefeater, Taybarns, Brewers Fayre or Table Table will be selected to operate alongside the Premier Inn.

A previous attempt by Whitbread to open a chain pub in Lewes under its former Hogshead brand in 1997 failed to go ahead as a result of local opposition.

Lewes has long been at the forefront of campaigning against the influx of chain operators on to the UK's high streets, even introducing its own local currency in 2008 to encourage the flourishing number of independent operators which dominate the town.

As well as sending the open letter, campaigners against the Premier Inn development have also set up a website, organised public meetings and published posters for display around the town.

"If the first thing tourists see when they arrive in the town is the hugely unsympathetic building being planned, it will harm their perception of Lewes. We also believe it will be a disaster for what is a uniquely independent pub culture and local suppliers.

"Despite our higher rate of pub survival than the national average, we are still under enormous pressure and it will not take much to push many of us over the edge."

The South Downs National Park Authority is expected to consider the planning application on 12 September.

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