29-31 New Church Road: Redeveloping the Hebrew Synagogue – Rather Bigly!

BH2018/02126

20.07.18…..In common with Christian churches, the Jewish faith is suffering falling numbers who attend and keep synagogues viable.  The Planning Statement at 4.1 tells us that the proposed redevelopment of the New Church Road synagogue site “is aimed at retaining and attracting young families to the area to secure the future of the Jewish community in the City”.  An over the odds number of 4 bed units are planned.  Read the Application form for good detail – 103 bedrooms in 45 dwellings.  The terrace at the back will contain all the 4 bed housing, with 1x 3 bed.  This is where the family housing will mostly be, backing onto Carmel House.
For this post, I will consider the silent ‘partner’ in all this – adjacent  St. Christopher’s school, which will be conjoined at the boundary with access – and take a brief look at the Planning Statement.  You should look at the Design & Access links on the council website next and then pick at details.  Click on app ID number above to access all documentation.
St. Christopher parents & local resident comments will be most important to planners – how will you be impacted?

The proposal – it’s a LOT!

The scheme has been reduced somewhat since it was first shown to a handful of residents from New Church Road, Pembroke Gardens and Westbourne Gardens at short notice before Christmas, 2017.  The applicants have had pre-application advice and feedback from planning committee cllrs before submitting this final proposal and there have been further public consultation exhibits; but only on June 25th were the parents of existing adjacent St. Christopher’s pupils shown anything AT ALL and then with only a few days’ notice to attend!!!   What do parents of new children starting in September know?  Anything?
St. Christopher’s is offered use of two spare capacity class rooms in the new development which the Head and Board of Governors are welcoming.  Only about a dozen parents made that meeting and they were alarmed.  They pay about £10,000 a year for their small children to attend this prep school.  They have a financial interest in what the school is doing by merging its interests with those of the synagogue developers next door and concerns about how the very long period of demolition and building will impact on their children’s education if this goes ahead.  Once built a HUGE level of activity will be introduced to the site.  Noise impact.
Over and above that, there is a party wall involved and St. Christopher’s would have a doorway entry into the synagogue site’s classrooms – effectively the development physically joins the two sites together.  Given that this is an orthodox Jewish synagogue, there are grave concerns about security.  One parent wonders if the school would become a target for anyone wanting to access the synagogue site through St. Christopher’s to make trouble for what is planned to be a substantial Jewish commune/compound of 45 homes, synagogue, meeting place, etc.
The aims are laudable and deliverable considering who the backer is.  But have they bitten off more than the area can chew?  The freeholders for St. Christopher’s are believed to have engaged a Planning Consultant to deal with their application response.  Have contracts been drawn up with agreed detail for how these two sites will operate in tandem so that schmoozy promises about sharing classrooms is a commitment?  Has the school Head really looked into likely impact and whether it could affect numbers sending their children to this prep school in future?  The character of the existing school WILL change!  It is a consideration.
The ambitious plans for the site are rather wonderful in some ways, but possibly for a bigger site to be at its best – a 300 capacity social hall, situated adjacent the new synagogue, was touted at the parents’ meeting as a place where concerts could be held which is a nice prospect…but in the middle of a strictly residential area?  Where do people park?  Presumably weddings would take place in it too….where do guests park?  A lot of commercial activity is built into plans – and not just nursery school and housing capacity.  There is no other commercial activity in this strictly residential corner of Hove.  How noisy would they be arriving or leaving after an event in the social hall?  People chatter….laugh….and shout. And neighbours would be disturbed to the same level as in a city centre!

BIG COUNCIL FAIL HERE CONCERNING NOTIFICATION

Brighton & Hove City Council are making it very hard for the public to know about planning applications.  NO NEIGHBOUR CONSULTATION LETTERS?  AGAIN?  The Planning Register does not even provide details of where site notices are posted for this!  Such things tend to get pulled down or go where people may not ever pass to see them.  They claim ward cllrs get notified and it is their responsibility to tell you.  That is news to most cllrs by the way!  They claim advertised applications are published in the Brighton & Hove Independent. so you can see them there. Problem is, they only put their print edition (with adverts) into Hove Library and in front of one Blatchington Road newsagent and nowhere else in Hove!!!!  It is essentially a Brighton distributed paper.  It is a major blow to resident rights that letters notifying and inviting comment are not being produced. To save money?  No explanation!
So any of you reading this must spread the word!  Here is who ARE consulted – 25 official consultees who are not residents, including counter terrorism police (never seen that before!):

page 2 of 3 on the planning register for consultee comments tab

Parking

At 5.38 of the Planning Statement it gives that there are just 57 car park spaces and 96 cycle spaces proposed for this redevelopment.  If 300 people come to a social hall event, are they expected to arrive on foot? Or will they hunt locally for parking spaces?  In theory, given this is an  orthodox synagogue, people attending synagogue on the Sabbath will be walking and not driving (prohibited).  But otherwise, for events?  To visit?  For the facilities? For deliveries?

Trees

At 5.43 the existence of a LOT of TPO protected trees is addressed.  Only “most” are to be saved.  This is a serious issue to look at and object to if it involves loss of any elms as St. Christopher was responsible for the area losing about 14 mature elms to disease after they were careless in storing wood that bred the killer beetles.  All the trees are needed.

Affordable Housing

The 40% requirement is not going to be met.  There is no firm commitment.  They say this is a philanthropic project that will not generate any profit and is instead “under water”.  But they want to provide SOME affordable housing and at 7.5 say they are in talks with the Jewish Housing Association to see what can be organised.  Vague!  They will have to provide the arithmetic and Planners may well require that the District Valuer decides – at the applicants’ expense. This is what policy is quoted as saying, at 5.20:  “Policy CP20 seeks a provision of 40% on site affordable housing provision on sites of 15 or more (net) dwellings. The policy notes that this affordable housing target is subject to the costs relating to the development, in particular the financial viability of developing the site”.

I cannot get into greater analysis here, but would warn you that all comments must be in by mid August to be considered.  Note how many bedrooms altogether this development will provide to judge the compound’s likely population (a lot more than 45!) and consider how many more people would be on site in the offices, work spaces, bookable hall, shul, cafe, etc. to judge how much activity is likely to be generated and for whose benefit.  This WILL be a more or less exclusive religious compound.

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Crest Nicholson at Lyon Close: the now-registered planning application

BH2018/01738

14.07.18  I plead my fast reducing physical capacity (with apologies to those emailing for help) for this late post!  And with little time left for responses to the application.  You have until Tuesday, 17th to comment!  But there are already a number of objections in to take it to committee.  And I would assume that Cllr O’Quinn has asked for committee decision too.

Please note that you must register and log in to make an online comment.  Although I got a reversal of the decision to stop allowing emailed comments, I have not tested planning.comments@brighton-hove.gov.uk to see if it has actually been reinstated!  It is useful to email if you have photographic evidence to give in support of your position.

The First thing is to read The Planning Statement (the front end).  Then the Design & Access Statement and then go from there. 

My comments are as follows:
Good stuff:  I am pleased the trackside block was scrapped.  I am pleased the density came down – though not far enough.  I am pleased that there is a good level of affordable housing offered without quibble and battles and need for the District Valuer to be called in to decide what they can and cannot afford (so far).
Bad stuff:  The heights still concern.  And there is the question of why they could not have put in terraced housing with new little streets and private garden space?
In addition, the loss of the Goodwood GP practice meant an extreme amount of loading onto the Charter Medical Centre (which took their 10,000 list).  Charter are maxed out!  A further GP surgery is to close by Hove Station (northside) and that will result in a huge increase to the new Trinity surgery. There are 163 flats planned along with a big office space, but there are a total of 265 bedrooms so that is a LOT of new people (minimum) who will need to sign on with a GP.  Where?  Planners and councillors do not CARE.  They ALWAYS just assume that they will be filtered off SOMEWHERE.  Well they won’t.
There are 13 x 3 bed flats in the development and 86 x 2 bed flats.  That means families.  WHERE will their children go to school?  St. Ann’s Well Gardens is nearby so that will be where they play.
Residents close by are alarmed by the intensified use of the area for dwellings and how that will impact on Davigdor Road and Cromwell Road.  There are NO food shops anywhere nearby – just convenience stores (noted in the application even!).  This will force people into cars and onto the roadways to get to food shops (or rely on internet food shopping and deliveries).  BHCC are against adding food shops even whilst wanting masses of new dwellings in tight spots.  They need to sort their heads out on that little issue of logic!  And instead of an office block on site, consider a food shop which would benefit the wider area as well!!
No older or disabled person would be wise to consider living in Lyon Close unless shopping online.  Direct bus transport to a supermarket is restricted to a number 5 bus to Blatchington Road and the Co-op or to the Denmark Villas Tesco Express.  The walk to Tesco from Blatchington Rd is not quick or easy if carrying bags.  Maybe in time Wickes will close and become a supermarket.  I often wonder about  that.  But as it has a car park and there is another outlet there too, adding a food shop on the new development site would be compatible and wise.

Planning does not look enough at what is already missing in development hot spots over and above what impact new development is going to have.

There are 80 car park spaces planned (of which 8 disabled) and the usual huge number of cycle spaces – 188.  Perhaps they consider that the Wickes car park will absorb the rest of the need!  There are no restrictions on parking in it and it is generously sized.
Noise from the railway will need to be a consideration.  Even though trackside buildings are no longer proposed, the site is going to be noisy when trains go through and windows are open.  But many quite like the sound.  And it is not a heavily used track area.
I have few hopes of height or density reducing any further.  People will have their views about design.  And impact can be reduced by using subtle tones and materias that fit in (with the Willett Estate mainly) rather than stand out screaming for attention.  The development will mainly be visible from north of  the railway lines.
In August 2017 I wrote up my consultation visit with the Crest Nicholson developers.  The scheme has changed since then, but it is there for further reference.
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Opened July 8, 1908….Happy Birthday to Hove’s 110 yr old Carnegie Library!

7.7.18…..Tomorrow (Sunday), a group of us will meet at 3pm outside the closed library to give our Grade 2 Listed treasure a birthday party!  You are invited to come along, listen or give a reading.  There will be squash for toasting, cakes, (olives, sticks of pepper and celery, crisps from me to keep up salt levels in this heat).  Feel free to bring something yourself (non-alcoholic as no licence to have it there).  It has been organised by Laura King of the Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission and local writer (whose leaflet you may have), Christopher Hawtree.
Brighton & Hove City Council mostly ignored its centenary.  Staff wore Edwardian costume.  But no featured City celebration of what we have.  Here is what we celebrate on its (endangered) 110th birthday:

 

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i360 at the specially convened Policy, Resources & Growth Cttee today….oooohhh…sssss

28.6.18….As I left the Policy, Resources & Growth meeting in Hove Town Hall’s Council Chamber and hobbled behind my walking aid to the heat of the street a thought came out of NOWHERE.   The Mafia are at their most unctuously flattering and complimentary about someone just before they order a hit on them.  Having just finished the James Comey book – A Higher Calling – which detailed a lot about his lawyerly dealings with the mafia in New York and which dripped with insinuation about Trump as a mafia Don,  I suppose the flavour of the book lingers, mixed with every movie and notion ever held about them.  Do I digress?  Maybe…
The Council Chamber on this uber-hot day was blissfully cool.  But that in itself now feels just a tad sinister.  Councillors were cool too.  Seemed quite chilled and calm – and prepared too on the Green and Tory bench.  They each had amendments to the tabled report (revised from June 14; see previous post here for various links).  Amendments were made available at the meeting. Links below.
Present for the Labour Administration were Cllrs Emma Daniel, Gill Mitchell and Les Hamilton with new council leader, Dan Yates in the Chair.  Opposition Tories sitting were Garry Peltzer Dunn, Andrew Wealls, Steve Bell and Tony Janio whilst Opposition Greens sitting were Cllrs Phelim MacCafferty and Leo Littman.
The Chair began by noting similarities between the Green and Tory amendments which he hoped could be melded into a single amendment and proposed a 15 minute adjournment to do it.  Tony Janio wasted no time slapping that down, declaring the two amendments “complementary”.  There was unanimous, all-party, voting support for both amendments in the end.  The Green AmendmentThe Tory Amendment.
So.  Onward.  Also present, invited by Cllr Yates to attend, and invited to take questions were members of the i360 Board – 4 of them.  Julia Barfield (now widowed, so no David Marks), the CEO who replaced Eleanor Harris (surely the first of the significant warnings came when she left),  Steve Bax and two others whose names other writers will have caught.  I did not.  They confirmed a few key details.  The West Pier Trust owes THEM money they intend to collect.  They have a 100 year lease on the land from the Trust so have no intention of leaving and NO, they have not even asked the Trust for a rent reduction on the land they sit on.
The i360 Board are seeking expert advice on marketing and think securing advance ticket sales is important to get round the problem of not selling tickets on cloudy or inclement weather days.  NICE!  Presumably idiots suckered into this do not get their money back if from abroad or out of town with no wish to get a different ticket for another time when there is a view to see.
BHCC is going to spend £50,000 on getting an expert in to look at their investment position – but the Tory amendment demands i360 have this sum added to their debt and that if their trading position does recover, that BHCC gets a much increased share of ticket revenue….25%.
Very little was actually said by councillors and almost nothing by Labour cllrs.  Dan Yates praised the i360 to the skies.  Les Hamilton reminded everyone of his position back in the day when he predicted visitor numbers would not reach the projected 800,000 that justified the second loan but would be more like 400,000.  A timely I told you so.  Labour did not agree to the 2nd of the two PWLB loans from BHCC that lifted sums from about £14m to £36.2m to get the i360 erected.
Andrew Wealls praised the i360 and its benefits to the City.  Tony Janio heaped praise on its various contributions to the City, and so also did the other Tory and Green cllrs.  Well they would wouldn’t they.  For it was THEIR cooperation in the Green Administration that agreed BOTH of the PWLB loans to i360, putting BHCC in debt to the tune of £36.2m which has to be repaid to PWLB at 4%.  The money was lent on at 7% or 7.7% I think with the i360 only paying the interest and not the capital sum over many, many years.  Now they seek to get out of paying any interest – for awhile.
The i360 seeks a restructured loan and deferral of the June instalment due in two days’ time with £100,000 payable in December.  Straight away it was said that only a deferral would be on the table at this time.  The council officers, clearly stung by reactions following publication and deferral of the June 14 Committee report, produced a tougher one this time.  A bit.  All consideration of restructuring of the loan will happen in months to come and to PR&G October or December (looks like).
Green and Tory cllrs clearly feel betrayed and it is THEY who stand to reap public wrath and revenge at the ballot box, so they were in no mood to spare the officers today.  And THIS is perhaps the biggest story of the day.  Executive Director Nick Hibberd told cllrs that officers had known for about a year that visitor figures were a problem.  He said that about two months before the June14 meeting of PRG, they realised they would have to take the issue of the future of payments to the councillors on this committee.  They were told in no uncertain terms that this was not good enough and that in fact it was…how to phrase it?  I dunno.  Tories and Greens were united in very vocally demanding that officers keep them much better informed on a running basis ….even keeping them informed at Leaders meetings.  The i360 has a council officer on the i360 Board as an observer.  They have had a clear view for a LONG time and let it go this far, only informing councillors some five weeks ago.
I hope John Keenan is successful with the Guardian news desk.  He was there as was Ben Weisz for the BBC Sussex radio, Frank le Duc for Brighton & Hove News and Sarah Booker Lewis who is the Local Democracy reporter who feeds various local lpapers as part of a Local Democracy project (and she is good).  Tory Steve Bell was interviewed before the meeting and early evening news bulletins carry his remarks on Sussex Radio.  Listen in the morning for the meeting report I’d say.  View the now uploaded webcast of the meeting.
So if you read this far, do you see my Mafia metaphor?  Heaping praise on the i360, heaping approbrium on the officers (watch your backs Mark Ireland and Nick Hibberd!) whilst looking to secure their own Tory and Green positions a year ahead of the local elections tells me that P&R G in October and December will be VERY important committee meetings and heads may roll if the i360 fails to recover and thrive.  There would be no more praise, no more Mr Nice Guy pleasantries.
Capische?
Oh….and Steve Bell abstained in the vote to agree deferral.  He may be the designated hard man to watch come October/December.  And I hope the i360 Board understands just how parlous their situation is….when a local election is looming for this city and councillors need to fight for their survival just as the i360 is looking like its not going to make it.
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Will i360’s begging bowl spill over with kamikaze BHCC largesse today?

28.6.18……On the 14th of June Cllrs on the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee heard new Council Leader, Cllr Dan Yates, begin the meeting by anouncing that the i360 item would not be taken – would be deferred. Here is The Agenda item from that meeting and here is webcast of Dan Yates’s announcement (3rd item Chairs Communications  Click THERE).
The Tories already knew this but distributed a new amendment at the meeting, all the same, before it convened.  They used the opportunity to flag it up and grandstand a bit about wanting the i360 decision THEN and not after a deferral.  Go to the webcast link above which is to item 3 (Chairs Comms) to hear the heated exchange between the Chair and Cllr Janio!  There is no webcast for item 10 on i360 as it was not heard.

There was a huge reaction from one Luke Johnson, owner of the West Pier, a man with a long history as not just a “serial entrepreneur” but also as a former Chairman of Channel 4 TV.  He emailed Councillors to say the i360 is insolvent, should not be bailed out, but rather taken over by BHCC (who largely paid for it to be built, so may as well now repossess it!).  He offered to run it with his pier. 

A week of no invitation to talk and he went to the media.  Here is the Argus coverage of his remarks.  And here is the first and best one that went up from Brighton & Hove News

The meeting, deferred til today, at 4pm, Hove Town Hall is in public (partly).  Here is The Agenda for it.  Note most of the meeting is in Part Two which is NOT IN PUBLIC.  Only the public part will be webcast.  Ahead of it Brighton & Hove News have today again weighed in with a bit of explanation about the slight changes to the agenda.
I was called on by BBC Southeast for the June 14 moment and again yesterday  for their local news bulletin.  Sussex Radio was also broadcasting after the June 14th deferral on this and I was called on to provide a sound bite for that too.  As well, both MP Caroline Lucas (defending the i360) and Jeremy Mustoe (Chair of the Brighton Society opposed to the neglect of other things to help it) debated a bit on the pros and cons.

Stay tuned!

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