MATSIM choose LCE for their 6 hectare Hove Station redevelopment

It is announced today, Tuesday 3.7.12, and in The Argus Business section, that MATSIM have chosen LCE to take forward redevelopment of the area between Ellen Street and the railway along Conway Street, west of, and linking to, Hove Station when the bus company is relocated to Hollingdean.
At 11am Monday morning, at their invitation, saveHOVE was privileged to meet with architect, Nick Lomax, of LCE and Andy Lambor of MATSIM to discuss the redevelopment and proposals ahead of public announcement.  The saveHOVE voice matters – but only now the project is at a very advanced stage and documentation for the planning application is in preparation!  MATSIM also had talks with the Council beforehand about this area.
At our meeting, Mr. Lambor wanted to talk about the backstory to his choosing this moment and to emphasise that he has a time-limited, finite window for gaining planning consent. But everything he said was a replay of the Sackville Trading Estate story when the Coal Pension Board decided to redevelop as leaseholds of existing tenants were expiring.  They also needed to relocate freeholders Rayner optical before they could implement their planning consent.
In this Hove Station case, the first need is for The Argus  to find new offices to move to. The second is for their Hollingdean premises to be demolished and for a new bus depot to be built there.  Only after these two things happen can Conway Street be vacated so demolitions can begin there.  This will take some years!
MATSIM can surely do what the Coal Pension Board and Parkridge did at the Sackville Trading Estate – just keep giving extensions to expired leaseholds for as long as required.  I do not see any rush to gain planning consent.  I see a need to get this extremely important area redeveloped to best advantage for Hove and the city’s overall needs.
The Argus has yet to put a figure on how much space it is seeking, but it currently occupies about 15,000 sq. metres, according to MATSIM.
And the LCE proposals?
Tall, heavy, bulbous and overbearing,  ‘beehive’, cone-shaped towers, based along a meandering reworked Conway Street up to a link with Hove Station.  A “Cultural Centre for Hove” which includes a 9-screen cinema and an art gallery.  The set of drawings provided on Sunday, ahead of the meeting, messaged Crawley-cum-Croydon and chavvy.  One drawing evoked memories of the Piccadilly Circus Trocadero of old.  Another, the ugliness and mood of the ASDA/cinema area of the Marina.  Just Not Hove.  And I bluntly said all this to Nick Lomax and Andy Lambor.
Nick Lomax’s first sketched thoughts for the towers had centred around a billowing sail shape.  Narrow.  A triangle.  This resonated with me and I implored him to go back to that first thought, to take out the weight, to make it lighter, more upbeat and elegant, to take them taller to fit in the required number of flats, if need be.  This is a tall building node with very little overshadowing to design for.  Angling these ‘sails’ cleverly would deal with that problem. They need to be smaller at the eastern end where Goldstone Villas, the old Dubarry Perfume Co. building and housing east of Fonthill Road behind it need consideration.  And the little row of historic terraced houses at the far western end of Conway Street, that escaped the razings back there in the 1960’s, must also not be overshadowed and buried in shade.
As usual, developer needs had forced design compromise (hence the fatness of the proposals we see in these initial proposals to fit in more flats).  The fat, bulbous line of towers would be overbearing at ground level and bring a heavy, depressing note to the Conway Street area.  And they would not work well within the context of the existing 10-storey Clarendon and Ellen Estate blocks ranged along Clarendon Road in front of this site.  Narrow, angled, ‘sails’ would work better. 
I suggested that the currently planned ‘meander’ along the existing Conway Street line could be taken deeper or even lose Conway Street altogether which would give tower sitings more elbow room and an opportunity for a whole new set of access/egress areas to be created with a more interesting and circulating feel, instead of a the single meandering, linear, main drag in front of the towers along the existing Conway Street line.  Starting a re-jigged road behind Clarendon House where Ellen Street begins would help commuters heading for Hove Station too!  Provide a more natural pathway towards  it.  Pedestrianised of course.  Only Fonthill Road and Ellen Street really need to be kept as they are.
Maybe put in a few new little streets, reviving the names of the ones eliminated back there in the demolitions of the 1960’s (perfectly good terraced housing, a huge, Connaught-like school, shops, businesses) that made way for the current sets of buildings.  Nick Lomax said he had the Lanes in his mind as an influence.  So.
The one thing I noticed but failed to speak about at this meeting was how built up it all looked, with only one or two token ornamental sized little trees and some green rooftops planned.  This part of Hove has an overly arid feel to it, with tiny streets that cannot take street trees.  Only the Clarendon Road edge of the Clarendon & Ellen Estate offers respite with its pavement’s edge landscaping.  A green, lawned, square with TREES would be nice somewhere within this scheme to warm it up.  If I had my druthers, I’d site a huge lawned ‘square’ the length of the whole redevelopment area with the towers on one side and all the other facilities ranged around it.  I did mention that, actually, just….because. 
Green space is needed in this area, possibly down around the back of the Cliftonville Pub (by Hove Station) and Ethel Street where it is a bit sheltered.  There is a mean wind tunnel through the gap betweet Conway Court and Clarendon House that sweeps up to the corner of Ellen Street where, not long ago, a council-planted street tree was quickly killed off by it.  At the meeting, this problem was also discussed.  And modelling for wind will be done and added to the planning application.  The Cliftonville has a boarded over back entrance at the end of Conway Street.  Not a lot of people know that, but Andy Lambor of MATSIM does! 
I can visualise it now – a big round, tree-ringed suntrap of a green ‘square’ outside a re-opened back entrance to the Cliftonville pub…..somewhere to sit facing the sunset of an evening, glass in hand…..nice. 
With a good redevelopment on this six hectare site, the city has a unique opportunity to achieve the kind of facilities that would draw economic activity to it – by train, on the buses, in taxis, on foot or on bicycles.  Virtually car-free.  An economic draw must be at the centre of all considerations for this redevelopment.  Minimum impact on Hove and maximum economic gain – so surely a leisure centre, commuter housing, the kind of shopping not possible in Hove at the moment, the planned cinema, should all be there. 
Regrettably, whilst defunct Parkridge have now reformed with the same people and backers (as P2), and won back the re-tendered job of redeveloping the Sackville Trading Estate, they are not linked up with MATSIM for a coordinated job of redeveloping from Ellen Street all the way up to Old Shoreham Road.  And neither is Colin Brace, owner of the derelict factory in Newtown Road involved with MATSIM or the Pension Fund that owns the Decon Laboratories building on Conway Street. 

Decon Laboratory, Clinic, Childrens Centre, nursery area behind Conway Court

At the meeting I briefed Andy Lambor and Nick Lomax about the Decon Laboratory expired planning consent situation.  I provided them with a photograph showing the area over and  behind Conway Court which includes a nursery school, a Children’s Centre and a Clinic as well as Decon Laboratory.  It would be a shame if these areas could not also be within the redevelopment scheme in order to sort out their layout and space problems and to maximise the use of those sites up to and including Decon who want to redevelop anyway.
MATSIM do not want to do it.  It was plainly ruled out to me at our meeting as unworkable for them to join forces with Decon, Colin Brace, P2 for a single big sort-out, regeneration, newbuild grand scheme.  Competing interests and goals?  Who knows.  Money?  Well, some of the territory is owned by the Council.  If they are game to borrow £14m to lend to Marks Barfield for their pole in the sky on the seafront (not needed), it seems fair to suggest they could better use their borrowing powers within this Hove Station regeneration, redevelopment opportunity.  And maybe this is the time to consider all that and to plan for a new school to be sited somewhere between Ellen Street (which used to have one) and Old Shoreham Road.

Without some level of integrated approach and cooperation, I fear the Hove Station redevelopment all the way up to Old Shoreham Road ending up like the New England Quarter which could not be uglier or more badly put together.

What a pity that Brighton and Hove City Council were behind the curve and failed to anticipate all these regeneration, redevelopment, problem-solving opportunities in that area so that a single Planning Brief could have been prepared for the two areas either side of the railway lines.  Problem too is that BHCC wish to keep the area for semi-industrial, B1 and B8 use.  MATSIM and LCE need this emphasis to be relaxed but they will have their work cut out to tackle this problem when they do their Retail Study to justify that part of their planning application.  Just as Parkridge did for the Sackville Trading Estate (‘Sackville Place’) scheme.

Hove’s centre is no longer where it was created at the end of the 19th century when George Street, Church Road and Blatchington Road catered for a largely seafront-based population.  The last 50 years have seen Hove developed up to the Downs and Hove Station is the best ‘centre’ for its future and to provide facilities for more than just the seafront-based population.  Nick Lomax was vocal in his agreement with this comment when it was made.  On Wednesday, 4th July, Adam Trimingham added his own endorsement for this position in a comment piece in The Argus. 

BHCC still sees and organises policy around the notion that this part of the city is ‘suburban’ and they are wrong.  To continue in that vein is to cling to an out-of-date, Brightoncentric and unfair view of Hove.

No initial proposal ever predicts exactly how things turn out in the end.  There will be many changes along the way.  Ensuring that this redevelopment does not create a Marina-level chavs paradise or a Crawley-cum-Croydon loud and vulgar corner at Hove Station will be the saveHOVE focus, along with fighting for a set of towers that do us proud and reflect the expansive, lofty, adult and dignified, light and airy sophistication we deserve to gain back there. 
The scheme would link directly into Hove Station and require Railtrack to be on board.  Are they?  There is much still to be done before a planning application can be submitted and I do not think consent by November is likely.

We must travel hopefully, and all that, but a lowest common denominator result will not DO.   The principle of this redevelopment, however, is to be welcomed. 

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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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