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King Alfred: lessons from the Karis years – 1

Planning began in the new millenium to have another go at getting King Alfred redeveloped after Citygrove got planning consent, but then failed and disappeared. A planning brief (SPGBH10) was adopted in 2002.  The commissioned Gillespie Tall Building Study identified nodes and corridors and encoded the King Alfred site as a tall building node in planning policy SPGBH15 in January 2004
Karis were ratified and announced as competition winners, using the four maidens design from Frank Gehry (see post below), in July 2003.  Here is a link to the 24th July 2003 Report on that meeting.
There followed a two year period during which extensive design revision took place.  There was no public involvement invited during that time to inform it. 
In June 2004 Policy & Resources agreed to 590 units of housing and you can follow the design revision agreement process through P&R documents like this one from that date.  All considerations were “in house” with only officers and councillors having a say.
The summer 2005 P&R meeting agreed to the final designs going forward to submission of a planning application – which took place in Septembeer 2005, more than 2 years after Karis won the bid.
This time, from the announcement of the winning bid, Rob Starr is openly inviting public ideas and constructive criticism towards design development.  Grab the opportunity you did not have last time!  A planning application is scheduled to go in next January, 2017.

I’ll put some more links into this article later, when I have more time!

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King Alfred: scheme details released by BHCC today

2.2.16…..In grey text, cut and pasted below, is the Brighton & Hove Council website press release material uploaded today.  The design isn’t perfect.  In fact, the comments behind the Argus article roast the designs comprehensively – comparing the inspiration for them to New England House, The Brighton Centre, Kings West Odeon, Milton Keynes and Croydon.  All fair comment. The appearance of the Community/Leisure/Sports Centre does not look substantial or durable.

It really must be recalled and taken on board that the Frank Gehry concept drawing that won Karis its chance at redevelopment was nothing like the scheme that went forward as a planning application gaining consent, and neither will this one be the same in a year’s time when it has been revised for its planning application.  Here is a reminder of what the Gehry competition drawing for Karis looked like; and unlike the other shortlisted schemes, a drawing is all that was shown at the public exhibition in the King Alfred itself.

Frank Gehry 2003_1

And this is what the two different versions that went through planning looked like: profoundly different, what?

First planning application scheme

First planning application scheme

Second application scheme

Second planning application scheme

Here is the text from the council website with the CURRENT designs.

We are redeveloping the King Alfred site to create a modern new sports centre. The current centre no longer meets modern expectations and it is expensive to operate and maintain. The site will also include 560 apartments.

Crest Nicholson chosen as the preferred bidder

The council began a procurement process to select a development partner in October 2014. Bouygues Development and Crest Nicholson were shortlisted in December 2014.

Both bidders submitted final tenders and these were evaluated by specialist council officers and Deloitte Real Estate consultants.

On 21 January 2016, the Policy & Resources committee chose Crest Nicholson in partnership with the Starr Trust as the preferred bidder.

  • Sports centre architects: LA Architects
  • Master plan and wider development architects: Haworth Tompkins (winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2014 for the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool)
  • Construction: Crest Nicholson are planning to engage Willmott Dixon to deliver the sports facility.

The Council website is careful to indicate that these are “Indicative” illustrations. These images are the initial designs for the site.

Detailed plans will be developed as part of the public consultation.  It is incredibly important to note this particular comment and take it to heart.  THESE ARE NOT THE FINAL PLANS FOR WHAT WOULD BE BUILT!

saveHOVE_King Alfred_road view

saveHOVE_King Alfred - Public space and gym

Plans for the site


The sports centre will cost around £40 million. This will be largely paid for by the development of 560 flats on the site.

The council will contribute around £8 million towards the sports centre. This will be funded by the improved financial performance of the new centre compared to the old centre.


We expect the planning consultation to start in the second half of 2016.

Sports centre

The sports centre is proposed to include:

  • 25 metre, eight lane swimming pool with moveable floor and 352 spectator seats
  • 20m by 10m teaching pool with moveable floor and a 400sqm leisure pool
  • Sports hall, the size of eight badminton courts and multi-purpose hall
  • 120 station gym, bike spinning room, workout studio, quiet activity studio and a sauna suite
  • Gymnastics centre
  • 3 rink indoor bowls hall
  • Martial arts dojo
  • Café
  • Crèche and soft play room
  • 200 space car park for sports centre users.


  • Around 560 flats in four main blocks
  • The highest block would be 18 storeys
  • 20% of flats will be affordable homes – for rent or shared ownership.
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King Alfred: From today the redevelopment information begins to flow into the public domain

2.2.16…..The great veil of secrecy is about to be lifted.
The ten days of “standing still” have now elapsed since Policy & Resources ratified the Project Board advice and selected the Starr Trust/Crest Nicholson bid to redeveleop the combined 1938 King Alfred Community/Leisure/Sports Centre and RNR site.  No challenge is therefore now expected from Bouygues to the Brighton & Hove City Council decision.
Council Leader, Cllr Warren Morgan tells me that “material is being put out by the Comms team, and I’m scheduled to do a few interviews over the next day or so“.
Yesterday, ITV rang to request a saveHOVE interview for this morning….more on this anon.  Maybe something on both ITV and BBC later today.  Make sure to get the Argus tomorrow!  Hopefully for some pictures!

11:45 update…..

David Jewell and Valerie Paynter fending off attempts by the BBC to make us say something confrontational and nasty before ANY viewing of plans even!

David Jewell and Valerie Paynter fending off attempts by the BBC to make us say something confrontational and nasty before ANY viewing of plans even! Photo Bill Murray

David Jewell and Valerie Paynter met with both ITV and BBC local TV news teams outside King Alfred this morning to answer their questions, give circumspect views and disappoint them that we are not gearing up to go to war with the Starr Trust and Crest Nicholson.  The time for that is the planning stage, as necessary.  Having not yet seen the designs no sensible judgment could be made!  Also present to begin with were Starr Trust and Crest Nicholson representatives which was nice.  We were formally introduced to them.  And we are offering to bring our extensive experience of the previous, Karis, redevelopment attempt to the table to try to bring as constructive an influence as possible into this very early stage of plans development.
They were gobsmacked actually.  Instead of getting outrage, they were told that residents hope to work with the developers over coming months to get the best we can from what is not a great situation for Hove, impact-wise.  The precedent consent given to Karis for 751 flats in up to 26 storey towers in 2007  created a precedent constraint within which we now have to function.  As we have yet to be shown designs, it was not prudent to give any judgment on what is planned.  We are corralled with that upper end possibility.  At the moment the plan is 560 flats in up to 18 storeys, this tallest building going in the far southwest corner to minimise impact to the greatest extent.  And it cascades from there.
It is important that the public is given realistic and responsible feedback from saveHOVE.  Instead of just having a registered planning application to just react to, this time we have a whole year ahead of us during which it is hoped that resident input can temper and help reduce the problems (that will inevitably go into the planning application) to an absolute minimum.  And it is clear, from the positioning of the 18 storey tower in the extreme south-west corner of the development site, that the developers and Brighton & Hove City Council have also ALREADY worked on how to minimise impact too.  Further, the council is putting £8m towards the cost this time.
Let’s travel hopefully in this first year of possibility before change and development of the scheme reaches the planning stage.  The schedule anticipates submission of a planning application at the start of 2017.

Lunchtime BBC sees the first of our interviews aired.  ITV may not broadcast till this evening.

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The now-registered Sackville Hotel site application BH2015/04414: first things first

29.1.16…..This application, submitted on 7th December 2015 and given a planning number to give it a place on the planning register the next day, was finally validated on the 25th of January, with registration on the 27th of January.  See previous posts here for the issues that caused delay in validation.  Documents had to be amended, replaced.  Allsorts, to comply with submission requirements.  The application itself was never withdrawn during all that.  There were just anomalies, blunders, missing information issues, etc. from Hyde which you would not expect and which delayed registration for two months.  Two months….tsk, tsk. tsk.
It is important to now scrutinise the documentation we are finally able to look at on the planning register.  Input the planning number to get to them.
There is a set and correct order for tackling what you see there.  Do not be daunted.  Your job is to take in what is proposed and then hunt out the mistakes and misinformation and to see how it all stacks up against Govt and council planning policies.  For the rank beginner just look for the blunders.  Every planning application has a few.  Local knowledge compared to the applicant’s claims can often conflict and if provided to the planning officer in consultation responses, can inspire questions he/she will take to the applicant for clarification.  The Hove Seafront RA has engaged planning consultant Tezel Bahcheli to do the depth work, but even she cannot replace local knowledge.  Things like windows you have that don’t somehow find their way onto applicant drawings of what you have….!
So.  Scroll down to the Planning Statement and begin there.  Read it.  Even print it off for reference.  It is the core document along with the Design & Access Statement (which you read next) from which all else flows.  It is your starting point and will give you the orientation you need to then tackle anything else.
Look after that for CGI images.  These are the computer depictions of how it will all look in the streetscape and is ALWAYS about reducing appearance of impact and bamboozling people into being steered into thinking what the developer wants you to think.  Views are typically from the point of view of passing seagulls somewhere many metres up in the sky or even from out to sea.  In this case, the CGI’s you need to DEMAND should be from the ground-level point of view of residents in their gardens between Walsingham Road and Sackville Gardens, first and foremost.  Impact here will be extreme, mainly on overlooking grounds.
Look at the overshadowing documents but be careful of overweighting attention here, compared to other issues.  The 17 storey tower will act like a sundial with sun shadows falling in a fairly quick moving manner as the sun moves through the southern sky over the sea.
There is one other little thing that residents can do.  Click on Consultees within the planning register details for this application and just scrutinise the addresses you see there.  The council chooses a chunk of space and up comes all the addresses on their 30-40 year old gazetteer which they cannot afford to update.  They WILL take corrections for it though so if you know that some of the addresses no longer exist or if a single dwelling is now split up into several flats, do give the planning officer this information.  Hopefully an analysis will be undertaken by the Hove Seafront RA for their own records as well as to provide what information they can to the planning dept.  So tell them too.  Why don’t they use council tax/other records?  Don’t ask.  They don’t.
This is the basic, simple stuff every resident can handle.  I’ll write again about further work residents can undertake.  But first things first.

You must have a look at the documents so you have a proper sense of what you are dealing with and so you can spot your opportunities for making killer points others may not have thought of.  Do not underestimate your own ability and power if you take your time over this.  Please don’t just seek out a form letter to sign or copy and submit points you are given!  They don’t impress the planning officers or win refusals because, like teachers, they can spot when you didn’t do your homework and copied someone else’s!  Reading case files is interesting.  Real power comes from hearing different voices (inevitably) saying similar things but always with something of their own.  The file of responses should reflect sincere involvement and not just fence-rushing or cynical and thought-free, flag-waving. Or worse: bluffing, using someone else’s ideas and none of your own.


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King Alfred: Council secrecy plan blown to smithereens (ish)

21.1.16…..At the start of Policy & Resources this aft, the Chair, Cllr Warren Morgan, announced that the King Alfred item, last on the Agenda, would be taken first after petitions.  A brief presentation by officer, Nick Hibberd, was followed by just one councillor wanting to ask a question in the public part of the meeting dealing with item 110 – King Alfred.  Cllr Phelim MacCafferty wanted to know what would happen to the redevelopment given the growing crisis in world financial markets and the likelihood of another global financial problem.  He was smoothly reassured.  He also expressed concern, as a Hove councillor, that there would be no leisure centre facilities for fully 3 years and an officer just referred to making other centres available for blah, blah…same as for the Karis era proposals I reckon.
And then we were all turfed out for the Part 2 session which lasted for over an hour.  I had noticed that reporter Frank le Duc was looking oddly glazed over, tense, not himself.  I even asked if he was OK.  He seemed to be only half there.  Well I wasn’t wrong!!
When we all went back inside and sat down to hear that a press release would go out Friday and a letter to the developers, we all then settled into a return to other agenda items.  Then I thought to look at the Brighton & Hove News site, just for drill and wallop.  Neil Vowles from the Argus did the same.  Frank was by now, no longer in the chamber…..  As one, Neil and I bolted out of the room because this is what we saw!
No wonder, I said to Frank.  He’d taken a risk, gone out on a limb and had to “get it right“.  You can read some of the detail of what the Starr/Crest Nicholson bid has proposed in his article.  It is my understanding that the 18 storey bit is in the far southwest corner and that the scheme slopes down from there to minimise overshadowing of the adjacent areas.  I also understand that the internal leisure centre spaces are very flexible and that there is a sprung dance floor among whatever else is in their proposal.  Now it begins. Indeed, as Item 110 was introduced, Cllr Gill Mitchell – who was part of that ill-fated Labour Administration back in the 2004-7 Karis period – rather emotionally – felt the need to recognise this as being a milestone moment of note.  Cllrs Theobald and MacCafferty echoed her sentiment.
It is a collossus on a tall building node that has precedent consent for 26 storeys and 751 flats.  That is the backdrop against which we have to consider and judge this time.  There will be a 10 day period of nothing now (maybe!) and then let’s see what happens and where we go from here.  However much a massive development is not wanted on that site, it is hard not to be pleased that it was the eminently worthwhile Starr Trust charity that got the gig….with Crest Nicholson, of course (!)
Will we get a development that residents can live with?  One that does not wreck the seafront?  Will horrendous transport issues we resolveable?  None of us wants a repeat of the nightmare Karis/Gehry years.  And the council doesn’t want a repeat of that either.  Time will tell….as they say.
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