Gaming the planners irresponsibly: a case example of what Developers get up to.

12.1.17…..I have tried, in my waving little tall poppy way, to defend the planning system and the beleaguered planning officers from time to time when developers bemoan them as obstructive and unfair….when they are NOT.   In the main, I do it in comment trails behind Argus or Brighton and Hove News articles online or in an ebrief to saveHOVE supporters. 
This case example spells it out, in an article worthwhile reading and remembering.  I hesitate (but do it anyway) to compare this applicant with anyone else, but the name of Sirus Taghan and Medina House came to mind when reading it. So many others COULD have.  Witholding important information is a gaming norm with developers looking to get around the system, their profit motive being all that concerns them.
Next time you hear a developer complain about the shockingly bad planning department that takes too long to get them a decision (in their favour), just remember this example, would you, please?
Planning refusal for a 44 unit elderly residential home on a persistant flood site in Patcham


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King Alfred. Rumours; questions; with answers from the Horse’s Mouth

01.01.2017…..A tantalising comment appeared in one of Tim Ridgway’s weekly Argus columns which hinted at a Crest Nicholson attempt to get numbers of flats increased at the expense of Starr Trust community space.  That told me a Karis, Mark 2, situation was brewing…..
I rang Tim for a chat.
Developers were gossiping and he’d been listening. ‘Crest underquoted to get the gig’.  ‘Crest are now moving on the Starr Trust to concede space to more housing’.  ‘Crest are trying to edge the Starr Trust out of the deal with BHCC and take it all’.  Those are the rumours.  My mother would call the Crest aggression ‘dirty pool’.  If they would do it to the partner that GOT them the gig, they would do it to the Council and the public is my view.
The concession has already been made down to some bookable community rooms, including the 300-seater which could take film clubs, intimate performances – not what was originally hoped for (rehearsal studios and a major performance venue plus a Starr Trust base).  And on the esplanade side there is only a miserable little coffee shop space with two mean little tables outside for beach visitors and esplanade walkers (in the drawings).  In other words, not enough for the public inconvenience of all that proposed housing plus leisure centre, which will swamp the Kings Esplanade beach colony and create road use havoc.
The huge bookable Hove Town Hall venue which hosted entertainments and events. is no more…and needs replacement somewhere else IN HOVE.  Where, if not here? At King Alfred itself, we are losing the sprung dance-floored ballroom which is ALSO a popular weddings venue; so that flexible use, 300 seater of Starr’s is non-negotiable in my books.
Ahead of Hanukkah and Christmas, I emailed Rob Starr.
“Not hearing good things about Crest Nicholson and KA, Rob.  And it starts to look like Karis all over again with your dream treated as expendable.  Are you being bullied by Crest Nicholson?”, I askedHe got back to me saying “this is not and will never be another Karis”.  He confirmed that, as agreed, “it is still including 20% affordable…it is still delivering the Community spaces I had in from day 1….and the increases in residential are actually very low in numbers.  The Development Agreement is being drawn now by solicitors from both sides and will be signed in the new year as agreed.  In fact a letter of reasssurance went to BHCC just this morning from the Board of Crest confirming all this….” 
I appreciated his reply but wanted to say more and learn more.  So I went back to him, referred to the lost Hove Town Hall venue that needs replacing in Hove and said his 300 seater was required as minimum.  I told him “I don’t want just a dormitory there with a leisure centre” and said the proposed “coffee shop onto the esplanade is far too small” and that I feel it is only right he “gets a Starr Trust base out of this too.  How many units of housing now?” 
He was straight with me.   He confirmed the large 300 seater and other community rooms STAY in the plan. “Flats will be about an additional 80; over the whole site it’s a small number”.  I disagree.  But I don’t forget that the Karis monster got planning consent for over 750 flats.  Click on King Alfred in the tag cloud for related King Alfred articles and on for some details about the proposal I got from a meeting with Rob Starr some while back about what is planned.  And add “about 80” to 580….. 
If we do not want another Karis (Crest Nicholson bullying, with cooperation from a desperate-for-housing-numbers Brighton & Hove City Council Labour Administration complicit), which saw a few visits to the P&R committee to get ever increasing numbers of flats agreed (on financial viability grounds), a degree of support for the Starr Trust is going to be needed from the public.  But how much?  And concerning what details?  The entire scheme is seriously overwhelming.  But a precedent decision to agree 750 flats (Karis) is THERE.  Unfortunately, so is the District Valuer’s assessment of that Karis scheme as “borderline unviable”.   This time BHCC is putting some money into the scheme too, so the public is owed a much greater say in what is going to happen.
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Medina House: the sticky height issue shown with this photo!

View south from Victoria Terrace/Neptune Pub area provided by Pam Griffin and Mike Roberts

View south from Victoria Terrace/Neptune Pub area provided by Penny May Griffin and Mike Roberts

21 November, 2016…..To the left of the photo here, foreground, are the Victoria Cottages rooftops and to the right, the Sussex Road rooftops.  It looks impossible in this photo but there is an access footpath running between the back borders of each row of housing, down to Medina House, exiting into Sussex Road.  Medina House is, literally, the width of this narrow footpath away from the boundary wall of the Sussex Road House behind it.  To the extreme left, in the background, is Marrocco and the edge of Benham Court. To the extreme right is the edge of Bath Court, where ground floor flats facing Sussex Road are certainly not going to gain sunlight if a highter than existing, replacement Medina House, is built there.
Medina House sits recessed from Sussex Road but in line with their back gardens – so already creating some overshadowing.  This view from north to south gives the clearest possible sense of how this area might be affected by the proposed nearly 3m height increase of the main building and the build up of building height, incorporating the back wall adjacent Victoria Cottages, partially filling the gap you can see here.

Clearly the developers need to produce a CGI of how THIS view would be altered, using winter sunlight to indicate maximum overshadowing likely to be experienced.

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EE and Hutchison 3G application submitted for a 25m monopole in the Bath Court carpark


7.11.16…..For sometime now a high antennae pole, sited in the area behind the Alibi pub within the former Texaco station site on the Kingsway/St. Aubyns South and adjacent to the Bath Court car park has been a source of comment and annoyance for local residents who never knew it was going to go there.  It just seemed to arrive.  Well, now that there is an application to redevelop the Texaco/Alibi area the pole is inconveniently sited and this application has been submitted for a re-siting of it.
Two Bath Court residents confirm that the Bath Court Board are CONSIDERING the request to put it in the carpark area and a Benham Court resident who has dealt with something like this in London informs that it could bring Bath Court owners a lot of money to agree.  One of the Bath Court residents emails that it is proposed to go in his parking space.  So, another ugly pole is proposed, but even with planning consent it cannot happen unless Bath Court agrees to provide the siting.  Is the carpark in the Cliftonville CA?  I think it might be, actually, whereas the Texaco site is NOT.
Brighton & Hove City Council, in its wisdom, has stopped, and decided to WITHOLD, provision of its traditional list of applications REGISTERED in the previous week.  It is a total nuisance and deliberately inefficient IMHO.  Just one of those death-wish inefficiency things people sign up to from time to time that creates confusion (and extra work for interested parties).  Perhaps they want to use planning applications as click-bait now, to boost the website’s overall hit rate, to show the Government how popular the website is !!!!!!  Why else force punters (including the media) to go back endlessly over weeks and weeks seeking an uploaded registration date and viewable documentation?  Questions to website feedback have been studiously ignored.

Check the planning register in a  week’s time to see if registered.  If informed of the registration date, more info will be added to this post.

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Medina House: A new application submitted: BH2016/05893

7.11.16…..The expected application was logged on the Council website on 31.10.16 with its allocated file identification BH2016/05893 and status ‘invalid’.  It is invalid while being registered – this being about inspecting documents and details as being complete for the purpose of registration.  Only then will neighbour consultation letters go out to that part of the area they deem necessary (which may or may not be ALL those who NEED to be included).  For the record this should include all Sussex Road, Victoria Cottages, Benham and Bath Court residents as bare minimum.  Sadly, it has been council policy not to letter buildings containing more than 15 flats, so we need to watch for Benham and Bath Court who will be very much affected on lower floors.  The two big issues of principle will be height and demolition/replacement of Medina House.
When we know what the documentation includes, please check for its HEIGHT to see if any further lowering, in the wake of summer consultations and the September public exhibiton, has been conceded.  Sunlight, where the shadows fall NOW should be photographed to provide evidence of existing impact from Medina House and again as the winter sunlight falls lower and lower, creating more and more shade in Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages (back areas especially).  I do not expect Victoria Terrace to be impacted by this application.

The Conservation Question

Many of us are quite excited by the proposal we saw over the summer, even love it.  It offers a poetic, ghost of Medina House re-arisen design.  Gone but not gone.  The question of whether it should totally replace the existing building (but keeping and incorporating part of the back wall and tiles and looking like it) remains as a planning issue.  The Gilmours’ team are clear Medina House is not in good enough shape to be kept for conversion.  Does the application demonstrate to proof level that this is so?  The documentation must be scrutinised and probed on  this front, over and above dearest conservation wishes to keep this last bath house standing, with a realistic eye on both the Planning Brief which seeks to retain it, general planning policies, and what the owners want to do.  Does the fact the Esplanade would be spared increased traffic, parking and numbers of residents from a newbuild block of flats there influence your thinking?  This would be a single family dwelling (albeit suitable for conversion, no doubt).  It may WELL influence the planning department’s thinking, given its desperate wish to get as many units of housing built as possible.  Does the replacement proposal offer something special to the Esplanade that is an over-riding consideration?


Overview of replacement Medina House proposal, looking southward

Overview of replacement Medina House proposal, looking southward

8.11.16….Well that was fast!  Seems to have gone live TODAY.  For orientation, please look first at the Planning Statement followed by the Design & Access StatementDesign & Access Pt 2, Design & Access Pt 3.
These two documents tell the application story and provide core details for this proposed five bedroom family home, including why the existing building should be demolished – summarised here:
1.  extensive fire damage throughout the second floor timber floor, with significant section reduction at some locations;
2.  the Dutch gable is leaning outwards by c300 mm, highlighting a disengagement of the gable wall from the lateral stability system;
3.  the facade is in poor condition with several cracks, some severe, and bricks exposed. In some places, the mortar joint has disintegrated and the bricks are free to move;
4.  the brick arches to the eastern elevation have suffered from movement and are currently infilled with blockwork to support them;
5.  several structural elements of the second floor timber deck and the roof frame have been cut and/or removed. The bearing timber boarding, for example, has been removed and currently the floor is only supported by thin ceiling joists which are not suitable for residential loads. One central vertical brace of the central roof truss has been cut out;
6.  the second floor joists are not supported on the masonry walls but on a light timber stud lining frame which is unlikely to be capable of taking floor live loads;
7.  the first floor steel joists appear to be suffering from substantial corrosion leading to spalling of the clay block and the wide cracks in the deck soffit;
8.  water penetration in many locations throughout the building are causing humidity tracks and moisture ingress;
9.  many of the concrete elements are in poor condition, especially at the ground slab, which was formerly the swimming pool and was subsequently exposed to the elements;
10.  the timber staircase is not protected against fire; and the services are beyond repair
Please note the list of neighbour consultees, as shown online today, is a disgrace, not acknowledging Victoria Cottages or Sussex Road residents except for the two addresses directly adjacent to the north elevation of Medina House – and one of these, 3 Victoria Cottages, was bought by Taghan and is part of the overall site acquisition.  Medina House and the courtyard area (2 plots) were BOTH individually lettered.  So three neighbour consultation letters to the actual applicant/development addresses and none to the residents who stand to be impacted.  A saveHOVE comment about this has been submitted with a request that Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages residents be lettered and given neighbour consulation numbers.  Most of Bath Court seems to have been lettered, and that’s it, along with Marrocco.
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