Local MP Norman Baker has urged Lewes District Council to protect the former Newlands School site in Seaford.
He said the council should use the planning system to bolster the case for the retention of green fields and sporting facilities for use by members of the local community.
The MP raised the matter with the council. It wrote in reply: “From initial discussions that LDC Regeneration and Investment team has had with the landowner, the site is … potentially available for alternative use(s).
“As such the Strategic Policy team will be assessing the site in the next update of the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA), which will be commencing shortly. The SHLAA is only an assessment tool, not a statement of LDC policy. If the SHLAA finds the site to be potentially suitable for housing development (as a whole or in part) we would then consider it as an option for allocation in the Local Plan Part.
“Alternatively the allocation of the site might be considered by Seaford Town Council should it commence a Neighbourhood Plan including the site area.
“As part of the process, LDC would consider the need for the retention/improvement of some/all of the sports facilities, informed by an assessment of such needs in Seaford. This work has not been concluded yet, but an initial opinion is that a shortfall is likely to be identified in the town, which would suggest we would seek the retention of some/all of the sports facilities.
“It should be noted that the site has not, as yet, been formally submitted for consideration through the SHLAA and at this time we have no clear indication of the landowner’s intentions regarding the future of the site for housing or other uses.”
Since Newlands School closed last year, many community groups have been unable to hire the school out, leaving several sports clubs homeless because there are not enough sporting facilities in the area to accommodate them. The school has swimming, football, boxing, netball, dancing, karate and gymnastics facilities.
Local residents are concerned about the uncertainty of the future of the site, fearing that this important green space in town will be lost.
Mr Baker said, “We have lost too many green spaces in Seaford. I recall when I was district council leader back in the 1990s offering the county council more than half a million pounds for the Hartfield Road site, but the Tory council insisted on selling it off for housing.
“We cannot go on piling more and more housing into Seaford without the necessary infrastructure being provided alongside – such as education, health and sporting facilities. It is essential we do not lose the green fields and sporting facilities at Newlands and I have written to the council accordingly.
“I would like the council to take action now ahead of any sell-off to ensure that there is some protection in place to preserve the site’s sporting facilities, which play an important role serving the local community.”