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.

Brighton

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!

Hove

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 planning.comments@brighton-hove.gov.uk 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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Mortar Nova exhibit some of their plans for Kings House at Cornerstone

27.1.18…..The new owners of Kings House, on the corner of Grand Avenue and the Kingsway, sent out 1,000 invitations to residents around Kings House to view massing plans on Friday from 6-9pm and today, Saturday, until 4pm at the Cornerstone Community Centre attached to St. Johns Church at Palmeira Square.
The plans on show are not heavily detailed or comprehensive.  There are no internal floor plans and the elevation drawing for the proposed newbuild to sit behind Kings House itself and replace the 1980’s extension in Grand Avenue is not easy to read.  Many think it looks a bit grim.  Something similar, but smaller is planned for the current car park space on Second Avenue.   Pre-planning advice has been extensively taken and the Design Panel have also had their say about the architecture designs.
It was a convivial exhibition meeting that I attended Friday evening with a friendly and chatty team there to answer questions.  The room filled up with residents eager to see the plans and leave comments and suggestions.

The Grand Avenue Lawn

The developers’ expectation is that their s106 contribution will be over £1m.  And they would like quite a bit of it to go on the strip of lawn that runs the length of Grand Avenue in front of the eastern side properties.   A very special opportunity is presenting itself…but it must be seized, BHCC must be on board, and there needs to be public commitment.  Sadly, Parks & Gardens tell them they have no budget to maintain what the developers would like to put on that lawn.  From 2020 there is no further central Govt grant for local authorities which have suffered from progressive reductions year on year ahead of that deadline.  It has meant a HUGE loss of council staff, and, indeed the sale of Kings House ! 

The time has come to consider how best to deal with the council’s loss of capacity and to look at the various green spaces they somehow inherited and maintain, but which were originally created for private local use (much of it railed around too).  Would people be willing to consider creating a Community Trust to take back ownership of these lawned spaces, re-rail their perimeters, plant them up and pay gardeners or maintain them – something like the way  housing around squares was originally produced.  A look at original plans, old photos are helpful here when considering what the best way forward is.

Note the low brick wall with piers and railings along the Esplanade end of the lawn which you can see in the photo on the left.  That exact same detail once edged the lawn between Medina Terrace and the Courtneys along the esplanade edge.  Long gone.  Let’s get ’em back!  Note the edging detail around the lawn in the photo on the right.  Chains on poles?  Bollards?  A rough guess from one of the developers says £100,000 would pay for the area to get cast iron railings reinstated.  By the by, look at the gap behind Kings House in the right hand photo.  Apparently this was kept for many years as a croquet lawn!

The developers engaged Charles Wagner last July – formerly of English Heritage before it was split up.  He now works as a heritage consultant.  I look forward to reading the Heritage Statement in the planning application but these few details were provided in the exhibition and inspired my thinking about that lawn issue.
Apparently James T Knowles did the London Masterplan for the area from Victoria down to Clapham Junction – some of which actually got built – Charles Wagner tells me!  This scheme here was, of course, intended to be Belgravia on Sea.
A bomb hit the eastern-most end of the companion building to the east of Kings House and it was demolished – Kingsway Court was built in its place.  The way Grand Avenue was designed the lawns made sense.  But when the tall blocks were built on the western side in the middle of the 20th century this symmetry was lost and the eastern lawn became a strange orphan.  It is time it was sorted out.  And this moment in time presents that opportunity if BHCC, the public and money allow.
I was told the planning application will be submitted in March.  So lets look at some details…
Housing…..The scheme contains mostly one and two bed flats with a few 3 bed flats.  Kings House itself is to be broken up into 70 flats, the Grand Avenue-facing 10 storey block behind it is to have 70 flats and 28 flats are planned to go into the six storey block which will front Second Avenue, behind Kings House.  The 168 total means one parking place per flat, even though the likelihood is that over 300 people may  live in these three buildings.
The design of this building has not been greeted with great joy it has to be said.  And I questioned the grey railings on the juliettes outside the building that front the internal balconies.  They are there for “texture” to the design.  But being mostly internal, the balconies will be discreet, unlike the vile bolt-ons we are used to seeing.  I would like balconies to become more useful, more room-sized – proper terraces.  These are standard 3 foot deep only.  Cramped.  On the plus side, the design of the building is not a bells and whistles horror. It is intended to play second fiddle to Kings House itself.  The companion building would be similar.

Replacement 10 storey newbuild fronting Grand Avenue

There are detail issues which need to be looked at carefully when this becomes a planning application.  From the colour of the railings on these balconies to the building regs issue Victorian stair treatments raise.  The gap between cast iron details is too wide and there will need to be a way of making the gap smaller by adding something.
Kings House restoration….A lot of reinstatement is planned, including the original front doors facing the sea which led to the terraced houses behind them.  The chunk facing Grand Avenue was the bit that became the Princes Hotel.What I am NOT keen on is the hard standing planned for the grounds between each of the three buildings.  To my eye it will just be walk-through-worthy.  Not a place to linger and treat as communal outdoor amenity.
Affordable Housing…..Aware that lack of affordable housing is a hot issue, it was to be my first question. Normally a battle royal about affordable housing does not even begin until a registered planning application offering NO affordable housing is challenged by BHCC and the Planning Department demands referral to the District Valuer.  VERY interestingly, these people have been in discussion with the District Valuer since the start of the year – in the interests of “transparency” I was told.  This is a first.  You read it here first!  It means either no planning application in March and more haggling or an application with an agreed amount of affordable housing already agreed with the District Valuer.
Parking…..The existing parking provision is for 140 vehicles and the scheme plans to include 170 parking places which will be underground, beneath the two new buildings behind Kings House.  Nothing can go under Kings House itself.  Only a single level of basement parking is considered feasible due to the tidal groundwater conditions – they have done bore holes!  Given how far from the sea this is, questions DID come to mind about how the King Alfred redevelopment would be able to cope with basement parking or indeed how well the Medina House replacement on Kings Esplanade will similarly be able to block flooding.
Rooftop Garden…..No.  BHCC has been adamant this would not be suitable here.  They asked!
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Hove’s Grade 2 Listed, again threatened, Carnegie-endowed gem of a library building

24.1.18…..Cash-strapped councils are seemingly oblivious to the fact that this country suffers from a 20% level of functional illiteracy.  Instead of seeing them as a drain on resources, libraries should be seen as important resources in themselves which Britain needs to make better use of to erase that 20% figure and to ensure that 20% are not left behind in life to continue to populate our prisons so heavily, become unemployables or whatever.  Our sliding place in the global mix needs to be won back and emphasis on literacy is the place to start.
The Brighton & Hove City Council Labour Administration thinks books can be stored anywhere and that the building itself is not important.  Fine examples of architecture and heritage ARE a value in themselves which need to be treasured, looked after and handed on to the generations yet to come.
Below are 2016 photos taken in Hove’s gem of a Grade 2 Listed and Carnegie-endowed Library – constantly under threat of closure because Labour politicians put heritage at the bottom of their list of values (if valuing it at all).  The interior may have its clutter organised differently at the moment.  So much clutter instead of BOOOOOKS!!

The latest would-be assault on its internal integrity would see the radiating book stacks at the back of the ground floor (like spokes of a wheel up to the curved back wall) removed.  The Labour Administration wants the building to be used for whatever they can get away with that is not about books and being a – well – library.  Please look at the documents, read the public comments at the end of the documents list for the planning application detailed here:

Please read the heritage statement, the Design & Access Statement, the CAG response and the Brighton Society response within the documents page to get a sense of what is what and then explore the drawings, etc.  And PLEASE object to the desecration of this magnificent interior, aimed at replacing use as a library with use as offices, kitchen, whatever.  Stop their madness with your involvement.

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