King Alfred….coffee with Rob Starr to straighten out a few facts

14.3.18…..It had been some time since I sat down with Rob Starr and Bill Murray over lunch to look at plans and talk about his King Alfred scheme which I  wrote up here at the time.  The Development Agreement is set to be signed “June or July” but there seems not to be clear understanding in the public mind (or that of one Argus journalist) about the Starr Trust/Crest Nicholson arrangement or just whose development this REALLY is.
A couple of King Alfred details of significance emerged at the Tourism, Development & Culture Committee meeting last Thursday but in speaking with an Argus journalist about it on Friday, I began to see that there is little or no real understanding of where Rob Starr or the Starr Trust fit in.  Explanations I gave him were scoffed at – information I had been given years ago by Rob Starr himself.  Never mind what was said in the council meeting.
At Tourism, Development & Culture it was said that the developers would be exempted from paying the new Community Infrastructure Levy on viability grounds and that the sole signatory on the Development Agreement would be Crest Nicholson which woke everyone up and startled.  It was then said that the Starr Trust were with Crest.  And that was the end of that.  It was not hard to guess what the arrangement might be but today I learned the extent of it.  I did not discuss the CIL exemption.
When Brighton & Hove City Council opened the bidding process Rob Starr had already been looking at doing a scheme on the King Alfred site for awhile – an arts complex with a new leisure centre – and done a presentation at KA in front of a few hundred of us.  At that stage BHCC was not looking to get into another redevelopment attempt.  But eventually, under the Green Administration it happened.  The rejigged Planning Brief from BHCC required a lot of housing and a very specific content for the new leisure centre to be delivered.  So the arts centre dream was not going to fly.  And a housing delivery partner was needed.
What Starr did then was very, very, very brave.  He took out a loan using his large family home for security in order to finance putting a King Alfre bid together.  Furthermore, along the way, he got people contributing their work “on spec” in hopes of being paid if the bid was successful and the scheme delivered.  And he brought in Crest Nicholson and cut a deal with them too.  Crest agreed to come in on the basis that if Starr got the bid to a shortlist of three they would then kick in to cover costs.  Rob Starr personally paid for and organised the entire process and basically won the bid – even though he had never done a development before.  He is an established Hove businessman who needs a permanent base for the Starr Trust.  He was not without personal skills and resources in buying in, or getting ‘on spec’ involvements.  But it was no mean feat. The job of a developer is identical to that of a film producer.  It is organisational.  Money, talent, contracts, legal, architecture, all sorts.
The bid contract was formally awarded by Brighton & Hove City Council to the Starr Trust/Crest Nicholson 50/50 partnership.  So what about the Development Agreement?  Crest are large-scale housebuilders and their name alone will be on the Development Agreement with BHCC (and Crest carries all the final risk).  The Agreement “is centred around the leisure centre” Rob tells me.  A “side agreement” sits alongside it between Crest, Starr and BHCC.  This arrangement protects the bid status.  Without the Starr Trust/Rob Starr, the bid risks being challenged.  But Rob Starr is not in a position to take on the risk from here – hence the final way of organising it.  But Crest would not have got the gig at all but for the work Starr did putting the bid together and winning it.  They remain 50/50 partners.
The day the Development Agreement gets signed, Crest reimburses Starr for the bid expenses.  Surprised?  I know from one architect that Sirus Taghan got architects producing schemes for Medina House ‘on spec’ and it is probably quite a common practice across the construction industry.
Even BEFORE the Development Agreement is signed this summer, from April, Crest will be risking £1m on ground conditions site work.  This was something only vaguely performed by Karis in 2005-7 and critiqued to devastating effect by PhD level environmental engineer, John Davys, when he spoke as part of  the saveHOVE team at that fateful Planning Committee meeting that got the Gehry/Karis scheme its consent.  The room listened in stunned awe and Josh Arghiros and his team memorably began to slide down in their seats and under their table.
Over our coffee today, once the contractual arrangement was clarified, Rob was keen to tell me more about what is coming forward.  A single basement would be laid end to end across the entire King Alfred/RNR site with buildings rising from there all at once.  Every one of the 660 flats would have a sea view and they are STICKING with delivering 660 flats because they are “intent on delivering the bid to prevent a challenge”.  Starr tells me that rumours about adding 100 flats to that figure is wrong. Much of the build cost will go into that watertight basement.
I did complain about the fact that the seafront side of the scheme lacked serious hospitality space.  Starr insists it is there, just not on the esplanade and that the coffee shop I sneer at is on two floors and is much bigger.
We talked about the public disquiet over the leisure centre pool;  In a straight line there will be a children’s pool, then a training pool, then the 25 metre, 8 lane pool.  Dividing walls that go up or close will be available to separate them, and, over and above the Planning Brief requirement, moveable floors are proposed.  It means while parents and kids can swim in their own pool, parents can access the children’s area too.  People really need to understand once and for all that the content of the leisure centre is totally dictatated by the City council’s Planning Brief which formed the basis of the bidding process and so talk of 50m pools there is futile at this point.
The Starr Trust will take 12,000 sq. feet of seafront-facing space and creating bookable rooms which he sees asa “creative hive”.  Starr says he wants a public meeting to discuss where his walls should go (what size the various spaces should be, including the roughly 300 capacity space which is the only proposed space that comes close to replacing the current ballroom.  A CIC (Corporate Interest Company) will be set up to take that 12,000 sq. ft.  A CIC is a non-profit, which requires any profits to be donated out.
The total build cost for the whole scheme is currently calculated to be about £180m with the Gross Development Value coming in at about £250m.  The calculated deal for Brighton & Hove City Council is this: “In exchange for the land, Housing Infrastructure Fund £15m, the Council’s £8m input, the city gets £65m worth of value” .
We now attend agreement by Cllrs of the final bits and bobs and then a public consultation before the planning stage…..
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Preston Barracks/Lewes Road Masterplan is shortlisted for 3 awards

09.03.18…..The Planning Awards 2018 event takes place in London on June 6th and the awards short-list has been announced.
U+I’s Preston Barracks and the University of Brighton Lewes Road Masterplan have been shortlisted in three of its several categories.  They are: Planning Permission of the Year,  Award for Partnership Working and Award for Regeneration.  We will no doubt hear more about this.
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Psst! Greater Brighton Economic Board, Network Rail: A word in your shell-like!

07.02.18…..With news today that the Greater Brighton Economic Board, Network Rail, Coast to Capital, et al have agreement about investing to solve problems in the Brighton to London railway line comes disappointment that it is so far “up-country”.  The need to address local branch deficiencies and absences that would make a big difference to future prospects are not noticed or even acknowledged by these people.  Given the HUGE amount of housing capacity and economic contribution central Govt demands of Brighton and Hove, this matters for infrastructure and future sustainability of the city….bigly.


Currently, a new development is planned for the Bingo Hall site up on Edward Street/Eastern Road over in Brighton. Beneath the Freshfield Industrial Estate  is a terminus from the long-extinct Kemptown railway station with tracks in a tunnel, used these days for legal archive storage. Having a railway station THERE once again would open up transport links to the centre of the city and the residential eastern areas and free up the roads a bit. Underground re-engineering for a shuttle stop seems like sensible foresight to me – housing can go on top of it instead of instead of!


Over here in Hove, an attempt is in the pipeline to put a few thousand new residents between both sides of the Hove Station rail lines and Old Shoreham Road. But the streets and road network cannot in any way sustain that hit. The existing planning consent (already renewed once) is not going to be used for the Sackville Trading Estate (more’s the pity cause the architecture is nice and the scale of the plans reasonable). Instead, now that Coal Pensions owns all the land down to the railway lines, a massive 600 flats plan is set to go to pre-planning advice shortly. A 188 flats plan for Ellen Street below the lines was refused ONLY because of affordable housing shortfall numbers (extra reasons for refusal were lost because the Chair took the vote prematurely making it illegal to then add to Conditions). The local access/egress cannot cope with EITHER of these plans or the others waiting in the wings.

At the 600 flats exhibition I attended some while ago I suggested to people there that a Hove Station extension of platforms over to Sackville Road with a passenger access point there was essential to allow all the proposed plans to be sustainable and to take pressure off the Goldstone Villas access point to the Hove Station ticket office, machines and platforms. Hove Station is already mostly automated so a ticket machine access point in Sackville Road is by no means unreasonable.

The plans in hand call for housing right down to trackside. This is a mistake. Extended platforms over to Sackville Road with shops and offices on the north trackside would benefit both the railways and the area if the hell-bent intention to cram a few thousand people into the small and access-poor DA6 Hove Station area goes forward to actual builds along with eventual restructuring of the area north of the station, fronting Old Shoreham Road.

Hove Station is not currently fit for purpose where future plans for filling up Hove with many, many thousands of new residents (London commuters) is concerned. From King Alfred to DA6 and beyond Hove is a target now for a massive influx of people – because Brighton is already too full up and Hove is seen as roomy enough to take it. Hove Station MUST be enlarged, extended to Sackville Road, etc. to TAKE the hit.

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Public money is to be thrown at the Starr Trust/Crest Nicholson King Alfred scheme

01.02.18…..Today Brighton & Hove News has been first up to announce that the application for £10m towards funding the affordable housing element of the Starr Trust/Crest Nicholson scheme has been not only successful, but increased to £15m.  This grant is from the Housing Infrastructure Fund and is meant to defray costs of the affordable housing element (20%).  The £8m BHCC is contributing is to defray costs of building the leisure centre.  That makes £23m of public money so far agreed to and being thrown at the redevelopment. That is quite some blessing on its prospects.  Time to admit, I put it to you, that this is not about getting a new leisure centre.  It is about creating a revenue stream for Brighton & Hove City Council in the form of mountainous levels of council tax from a mountain of flats that will overwhelm the seafront, the Esplanade colony, Hove, and just visually roar its vastness over the nearby Listed buildings and genteel ambience.
The article from Frank le Duc hints at significant changes to the scale of the scheme as compared with the scheme that won the gig.   Read what I wrote in 2016 after lunching with Rob Starr and his then PR Bill Murray.  I was allowed to say just a few things and not provide photos.  Though I took photos of a few details.  Then the tallest element was 18 storeys, and planned to go in the far westernmost corner on the seafront, behind the leisure centre.  Now, this news today suggests “up to 20 storeys”.  And 560 flats is now “between 580 and 660 flats”.
Let nobody forget that the Karis planning consent in February 2007 set a precedent.  I don’t suppose they’ll stop at 660 flats, do you?  And they get £23m towards building costs.  Joke’s on all you Londoners who have recently invested in your move to genteel Hove.  It is now set fair for changes that will put a level of congestion and overactivity, competition for access to vital bits of infrastructure and strain on resources into the area to make you blench.
The scheme has NOTHING for visitors along the prom, facing the sea.  We need something like a transplanted Pavilion Gardens sweep of dozens of tables with conservatory doors round it for winter to provide a place  to wine, dine, take tea and watch the sea do its thing.  Some still hanker after an Olympic size swimming pool and Olympic level events there (but where would parking go?).

Here is the announcement from the Brighton & Hove City Council.

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How BHCC fails to organise highways access/egress for Medina House redevelopment work

29.1.18…..It beggars belief that Brighton & Hove City Council highways people so totally fail to understand seafront access and egress issues – including emergency access needs.   They have suspended parking bays in Medina Terrace to FORCE ability to access by builders servicing the Medina House site.   Parking bays on the Esplanade and beside Medina House are also suspended.  Even so.  There is already spillover into Sussex Road.   How is this even safe and how will it impact ability of the public to access Marrocco and move through the seafront from King Alfred over to the esplanade beyond all this?    It already looks unsafe, cluttered and will soon become a no-go prospect.  Apparently vehicles in Medina Terrace were towed away today to enable all this …oops!  Just one thing.  Don’t blame the Gilmours.  The people they pay to do this work are responsible.
Within the CMP that is currently undergoing endless revisions there are some names.  Try Matt Richardson of SizeBreed whose company name is on it.  07887 635578 or Project Manager Noah Faiers 07872 456118 or Sean Cox 07872 455805.  Out of hours 020 7036 9650  –  These details are in the paperwork  Appendix g!

NB:  Until Conditions 11 and 12 are agreed and the CMP details are AGREED (they are not yet), it is not appropriate to suspend ANY bays for builder vehicle access until it IS AGREED.  All those who got towed away today should bloody well sue BHCC for the cost and damages.

Residents need to pay attention to what is happening there and look at the as yet unagreed Construction Environment Management Plan within the planning register in this application’s documents section and put in suggestions for how best to make this work.  Send objections and observations concerning discharge of Conditions 11/12 to quoting BH2017/03160

The men supervising access down Medina Terrace are telling residents they are THEMSELVES unhappy with this arrangement.  Lou Stack, who took this photo today, has put in a formal suggestion to use Courtney Gate instead – as the police and refuse collection vehicles do and it seems sensible.  But Lou also observes that BHCC is charging Polly Samson and David Gilmour for each and every suspended parking bay.  Is this about getting a bit of money in for BHCC parking revenue instead of doing the right thing????
Sussex Road is a tiny little remnant of a bygone pre-cars and trucks era which struggles to cope with  resident access and parking needs.  But hey, look at this!  A builder’s vehicle is somehow free to park in Sussex Road over and above use of the suspended parking bays BESIDE Medina House.  It is NOT ON.
On the Esplanade itself a massive long loader – far bigger than residents have been given to believe was agreed to, was sprawled over the entire area of disabled parking bays today.  Surely the place to unload all these vehicles should be at the foot of Medina Lawn on the Esplanade where there is no parking but a wide expanse of tarmac that could easily take the bulk without inconveniencing use of the seafront prom.  THIS, is unacceptable….
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