BH2012/00114 Park House – Application to be decided April 4th

28 March 2012…..This is the third attempt by Hyde Martlet to gain planning consent on this site for their proposed massive block of 71 flats.

The appplication  seeks demolition of the imposing Park house, shown in this photo, along with its ugly extensions along Old Shoreham Road.  It was sold by Bellerby’s school in 2007 and has been vacant since.  All three roof peaks visible in this photo belong to Park House.
Read the full 38 page Agenda report here
In the wake of an unsympathetic Planning Inspector’s Appeals judgment  (two refusals heard together), there has been little room for manoeuvre for residents and council.  Alas, the Council’s own Planning Policy documentation failures within are something to blame here.  This shrieked loudly back at beleaguered council officers presenting the Council’s position at the Appeals.  The Inspector was happy with footprint, basic height, number of flats.  Wildlife did not figure in his concerns and he did not agree that there was any need to be concerned by extra park use, but the developer’s appeal did fail – mostly on design and roof treatment grounds.  It makes refusal of this latest application a problem on any other grounds.
Old Shoreham Road looking west to the junction
The promise of traffic hell from a 71 flats, 5 storey building with underground car parking is now virtually guaranteed – with more accidents on the corner of Old Shoreham Road where it meets Fonthill Road and Goldstone Crescent (most of which are unreported prangs, so figures for the planning application are misleading).
The Tongdean Character Statement was written to include this area at its outer limit but failed to provide explicit, appropriate reference to it.  This is one of the devastating BHCC Planning Policy document failures.  It was done with minimal desktop research by a part-timer and without her or BHCC ever knowing about Hove Park Gardens, which is mostly hidden away behind Park House, without knowing the historical significance of Park House within  Edwardian era Hove development.  Re-addressed at some point as Old Shoreham Road, the fact that it is no. 1 Hove Park Gardens was just not understood (or possibly even known).  Too late now and, on cost grounds, the Character Statement will not be revised.  In its flawed state, it was still used for determining this current application.
Consideration of Park House within the context of Old Shoreham Road and ignoring the fact that it was originally no. 1 Hove Park Gardens is an important skewing detail that distorts and to some extent allows Hove Park Gardens to be disvalued.  Indeed (for the first two applications), until saveHOVE appealed to ward cllrs and lobbied the planning department to get it, the residents of Hove Park Gardens were not even lettered by the council as ‘neighbour consultees’.  But people west of Hove Park WERE! 
For this application, residents in HPG WERE lettered, but only no. 6, a newish resident (son of the deceased previous one), responded.  The others have mostly given up in despair.  Perhaps they signed the petition of 88 signatures against it. 
The Wildlife Conservation SPD was raised after the 2nd application failed and The Planning Brief was raised this time last year as belated ways of shoring up protection ahead of this latest application and both had “to be taken into account” once this 3rd application appeared.  These documents flowed from our collective persistence in banging on the council door to make them look and really see that extraordinary little bit of remnant vegetation and encapsulated countryside left over from the 19th century Stanford Estate.
It is shaming that the two ward councillors for Stanford Ward, now Hove Park Ward, never, ever, made any effort to get the council to understand the huge significance of Hove Park Gardens, both historically and as a wildlife refuge.  Behind Park House and the Gannett House which replaced nos. 2, 3 and 4 Hove Park Gardens, red-list birds have found sanctuary between the two parks – the Hove Recreation Ground and Hove Park itself.  And badgers have their homes back there too.  How could they not have had any inkling of its unique and wonderful qualities – never felt protective of it?  Invisible from the road, the area harbours a residential home for the elderly and a little hamlet of 4 or 5 houses – tucked away behind the imposing Park House. 
Park House was once a very grand dwelling with its own sky-lit, multi-windowed, linked studio annex behind it.  Old Shoreham Road was car-free and used in the main for coach and horses travel when Park House was built – about 1904.  Even this information was too much for BHCC to bother to get for the previous two applications.  The best they managed was reference to it being a club in 1912.
In 1906, on the day of its grand opening, a photo was taken of Hove Park  from one a back window of Park House.  The photo is lodged within the James Gray Collection, now owned by The Regency Society. 
An entry in Judy Middleton’s respected Encyclopedia tells us that in 1916, when Park House wanted to instal electricity,  Hove Council refused access to their electricity grid on the grounds they were under Steyning, not Hove. 
Knowing that 2, 3 and 4 were to be demolished (this was when Hove Manor and Gannett House were planned to replace them, but fronting Goldstone Crescent), James Gray photographed the little private road and houses (1-4 Hove Park Gardens) of which Park House was no. 1.  These too are lodged within the James Gray collection – viewable on the Regency Society website.
A poignant, little, dog’s gravestone sits behind the boundary wall by the front path, dated about 1926.
Street directories hold information on who lived here from 1904/5 onward.  There are no wartime entries or after until 1949, by which time it had become a residential home for the “mentally, elderly frail”.  No. 5 Hove Park Gardens, built in 1925, eventualy became a Baptist residential home for the elderly too.
The Bethesda Residential Home (5 Hove Park Gardens) by the ancient bridleway
The 4 houses, Park House and the three behind it, were the only dwellings north of Old Shoreham Road in that area for some 20 odd years.  Orchards and farmland surrounded the two parks with the little sliver between them (Hove Park Gardens) isolated and left to change very, very slowly and in a way that left some original trees and vegetation and its wildlife dependents in peace therein.  Councillors knew it was there.  But the Council’s planning and conservation people did not.  And so the protection it should have been given was never provided and now the worst is to happen.
Planning consent for 71 flats over 5 storeys with both underground and overground parking provision are as big an incursion into this low-density, green and rustic wildlife haven as those big ships were, when heaved ashore by the Japanese tsunami and left parked over roads, houses and the rest.  That is the measure of the incongruity of this intrusive and bullying development.  A massive block of flats on this site is an assault on the urban grain, a slapping away of conservation and wildlife concerns and a visual insult to both the gracious Hove Park and the Hove Recreation Ground.  A thuggish presence.  If it gets built. 
Interestingly, research published recently in the USA shows that tree growth and birdlife are highly sensitive to noisy environments with some species failing spectacularly in overlit and over-noisy areas.  Hove Park Gardens is a definite Wildlife Corridor and refuge for red list birds and badgers.  This application will not be refused and desecration of this sanctuary is now pretty much guaranteed – in the name of affordable housing need, even though most of these flats will be be ‘market housing’ for sale at a high price.
Hove Park Gardens – the ancient right-of-way path
When asked if they could, instead, provide another residential home for the elderly here or sheltered semi-independent housing for the elderly (to achieve lower levels of outdoor activity on this sensitive site, especially at night), a Hyde Housing representative affirmed that, yes, they could “but why would you want to?”.  How crass is that?
Many residents would like to see such sensitivity shown to re-developing this site.  There is no chance of keeping the lovely Park House itself.  Alas, Hyde just want their money back.  They paid too much for the site at the absolute apex of property trading insanity in 2007.   But maybe they will just sell the site with planning consent to whoever wants it.  Or landbank it with consent.  There is no obligation to actually build once consent is achieved.  Consents last for 3 years.  How well off is Hyde Martlet these days? 
And who will buy a bijou flat on a roaringly noisy Old Shoreham Road (rush hours mostly) in this financial climate?  These flats are getting triple glazing!  Would you sit out or open your windows to Old Shoreham Road traffic or invest in buying one of these flats?  How many of the proposed residents for this block of flats would consider the sensitivities of park users or residents opposite and NOT junk up their balconies or hang laundry out there facing the southern sun? Sometimes Housing Associations fail to sell their market flats and the whole lot ends up as social housing for rent.   It happened over Preston Park way a few years ago.  Some would welcome this (certain politicians definitely would) but they probably don’t live in the area or use the two parks.  These parks are heavily used by Hove residents per se, especially parents with children, tennis players, lawn bowlers, dog walkers, those seeking excercise, nature lovers and residents in flats with no other access to green space, including those from the nearby Clarendon & Ellen Estate just below the railway line.  In previous applications, a council consultee response noted that use of the parks was “at capacity”.  This is especially so  in warm weather and holidays.
Noon Friday is the absolute deadline for any late responses to be received for the late list for consideration by councillors at the meeting on the 4th.  Email to planning.applications@brighton-hove.gov.uk or hand deliver to City Direct at Hove Town Hall.
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About saveHOVE

Concerned with planning, development and the conservation of historic Hove, we actively seek to prevent inappropriate, negligent and abusive redevelopments!
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