Lewes Bus Station is at risk of being demolished, reports Susan Murray
A “pre” planning application has been submitted to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) to redevelop Lewes Bus Station but contains no apparent replacement bus drop off and waiting area.
Proposals for the site include demolition of existing buildings and construction of a mixed-use, six-storey development...
As some people may be aware there are currently plans to permanently close Lewes Bus Station and convert it in to flats. The plans are proposing that both the bus station and the neighbouring old Southdown bus depot (which seems is now used as a storage shed for some company) will be knocked down and flats will be built where the bus station and old Southdown bus depot currently are.
This will cause massive problems and congestion in Lewes as the only alternative nearby bus stop is the one that is just outside of Waitrose which only has room for one bus to stop there at a time. If more than one bus needs to stop there than they end up blocking the very busy one way road. The whole town of Lewes is full of narrow busy one way roads with very little space for bus stops.
However the town of Lewes is served by six B&H 28/29 an hour (every ten minutes) in each direction so that is twelve B&H 28/29 buses an hour when you include both directions. Plus there are a bunch of Compass Bus services (both local town services and services to surrounding towns and villages) which serve the bus station. At busy times in the peak there can be up to twelve Compass Bus services an hour. So that means there can be up to twentyfour buses an hour that are all forced to use one bus stop that can only fit one bus at a time. It will be chaos.
The second problem is that Compass Bus vehicles lay over at the bus station while the driver has his break there. There are often up to six buses at a time laying over here for periods between trips. With the bus station closing there will be nowhere to lay over in the town centre (which is full of narrow roads) so the only thing i can think of is the drivers will have to drive back to the depot on the outskirts of Lewes to layover. Or they will have to change the timetables so that the drivers will have their break at the opposite end of the routes so in Lewes they can just arrive and drop off and pick up passengers and immediately set off again.
The only alternative stops for buses to use (as there is no way up to twentyfour buses an hour can use the one stop outside Waitrose without causing chaos) are at the top of the steep hill near the old post office at the end of the High Street or at the Phoenix Causeway on the other side of the river. Both of these are much too far from the main town centre where all the shops are to be used as alternatives. Passengers will not want to walk all this way from the town centre. So i really have no idea what will happen.
Lewes Bus Station is a shadow of what it used to be. I remember there used to be a Southdown office there (which then became the Stagecoach office when they took over) and had public toilets and bus staff to help passengers. The bus depot used to be next door which is no longer a bus depot. So all of that is now gone. But there is still a cafe which keeps changing owners.
Originally it was a greasy spoon cafe. Then it changed to a pizza restaurant which was actually very high quality and won lots of awards. Then it changed to a second pizza restaurant which was very cheap and much poorer quality. Now it is back to being a cafe but this time it is a posh expensive cafe.
It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with the bus station. It will be chaos if it goes ahead. From what i have heard they are currently waiting for planning permission and if they get that they will knock it down at some point next year.
There is currently a petition to scrap the plans to build flats and save the bus station so it will be interesting to see if this has any effect.
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