Hove Station area Redevelopment: Cllrs/City Planner Meet with Residents
A first public meeting has been held between Council representatives and local residents to hear about The City Plan and to discuss MATSIM’s redevelopment proposals for the Conway/Ellen Street area adjacent to Hove Station.
Goldsmid Cllr Rob Jarret chaired the meeting on Tuesday, 17th July, 2012 which was attended by some 28 residents from affected areas either side of the railway lines at Hove Station. Brighton and Hove’s City Planner, Martin Randall joined him. Also attending were Goldsmid Cllr Ruth Buckley and the new Chair of Planning, Central Ward Cllr Christopher Hawtree.
Ahead of MATSIM’s July 2nd meeting with saveHOVE, a set of drawings had been provided by them to facilitate feedback and discussion on the day; these were passed around to provide more information concerning what is proposed. Included was a drawing of the proposed link into Hove Station from the site. Railtrack will need to be involved for this to go ahead and it seems inconceivable that they would not leap at the chance to be part of this redevelopment. It would increase numbers travelling by rail to Hove Station to go to the planned cinema, art gallery, shops, flats, etc. Access to the station from the west is very awkward and this scheme would mean having west as well as south and north access.
Our meeting coincided with the final week of opportunity for the public to make representations to BHCC for the draft City Plan, Pt. 1. The meeting was heavily weighted towards promoting the need for people to make their fears and wishes known by putting in a response. The formal public consultation deadline is 20th July, but a tweet to saveHOVE at the beginning of the week indicated midnight of Monday, 23rd would be acceptable. Mr. Randall indicated that noon of Monday was acceptable; and even for a few days beyond, responses would not be refused. So get in there and have your say!
The importance of the City Plan was stressed. Mr. Randall drew attention to policy DA 6 within the draft City Plan (which will, in due course, replace the existing Local Plan). This policy covers the area from Ellen Street up to Old Shoreham Road and from Sackville Road over to Hove Station. Within it is the smaller, delineated area from Ellen Street over to the Conway Street Bus Depot which forms the present MATSIM/LCE redevelopment area. BHCC expects a planning application by November.
Residents at the meeting were deeply concerned about anticipated traffic and attempted parking levels (even putting a figure of 1,000 cars a day on their fears). They were aghast at the large number of flats proposed to go into tall towers. Some 250 flats are officially proposed but this could rise to 400 we heard. To give a clear comparative view, it should be noted that the five 10-storey blocks along Clarendon Road in front of the proposed redevelopment contain a total of 297 one and two-bed flats (with more in the low-rise buildings strung between four of them along Ellen Street). Food for thought.
Many developments these days include car-club provision or are car-free. Minimising traffic and parking impact on Hove will be a major concern with this development and that is why the proposed new walk-through-to link with Hove Station is of such crucial importance to make this scheme work. If the development fails the sustainability test it will not get planning consent.
A Fonthill Road resident raised an important point at our meeting with the City Planner and Councillors, specifically related to policy DA 6, that is well worth repeating here. Between Hove Park and the Hove Rec on Old Shoreham Road, Hyde Housing have planning consent to build a mainly five-storey block of 71 flats adjacent to the draft City Plan’s delineated policy DA 6 area. The suggestion from the floor that these should be taken into account and deducted from the DA 6 housing target figure of some 575 residential units is sound. This should definitely be requested in all consultation representations concerning the City Plan. Go for it.
BHCC HAS A TALL BUILDINGS STRATEGY AND HOVE STATION IS AN IDENTIFIED TALL BUILDING NODE WITHIN IT
The City Plan, when finalised, will replace the existing Local Plan. Below this city-wide, long-term policy strategy document are a plethora of other planning policy documents you need to know about. Many of these policy documents are years old permanent supplementary policy documents. They accrue in various forms on an ongoing basis.
At our meeting on Tuesday evening, Martin Randall said the area had been identified as one that “could take tall buildings”. Not that it will get tall buildings if developers comply with planning law and policies. Break it to ’em gently, eh?
Some years ago, under the then Labour Administration, BHCC decided that it wanted to build tall in the city because of the lack of land in front of the Downs, demand for housing, and the wish to encourage the city to grow and become a major economic centre. Density was then and continues to be seen as A Good Thing. Expand upward because you can’t expand outward.
The Tall Building Strategy is one longstanding BHCC policy decision that rises above all others where the Hove Station redevelopment is concerned. In 2003 the Labour Administration presided over the commissioning of a Tall Building Study (Gillespie). Tall building ‘nodes’ and ‘corridors’ were identified in order to control and contain where tall buildings (defined as 18metres in height, approx 6 storeys high, and very tall buildings as over 15 storeys) should be sited.
The Hove Station area is an unbordered tall building ‘node’. And there is no height limit within the strategy.
SPG 15 (Supplementary Planning Guidance) is the adopted tall building strategy encoded as a planning policy instrument with which all planning applications for tall buildings must comply. It was adopted in January, 2004. The strategy and planning guidance were deliberately created to facilitate tall building development in this city, not to prevent it. Until recently, Paris guarded its low-rise and historic central skyline very jealously, forbidding construction of tall buildings. Alas, the pressure to go tall and perceived competitive need sparked talk in recent years of changing this policy.
Planning Briefs further pin down what is acceptable on any given site. Materials, types of development (such as retail, offices, industrial, housing, a nuclear reactor, a leisure centre, school, hotel, hospital, locally specific issues such as wildlife, community spaces, etc.) in Plannng Briefs ‘guide’ developers so they do not go off the deep end. Planning Briefs provide site-specifics that the Local Plan/City Plan cannot. At our meeting, saveHOVE requested a Planning Brief be prepared by BHCC for the Hove Station redevelopment site and the City Planner, Martin Randall responded positively.
If this request is actioned, local residents should expect an exhibition showing options and background information along with a consultation opportunity to provide local knowledge and preferences which could be influential – ahead of any planning application and to help restrict what can be given planning permission. But it must be in place before the application is in play to have real power. Even if done simultaneously, it would have to be taken into consideration.
Nick Lomax began his design proposal for the Hove Station area site with the drawing of a sail – a narrow, billowing triangle of a sail. It got fatter and fatter and more bulbous and less sail-like as he was forced to design-in more and more flats. These bulbous towers would, at ground level, be overbearing, heavy and depressing. Design, overshadowing of the area north of the railway lines and across the little terrace of houses in Conway Street, increased activity (and its handling within the scheme regarding impact on amenity) will, along with sustainability and infrastructure pressure, be big issues.
The entire scheme will change and develop and hopefully not end up as the ugly, square boxes one man attending the meeting feared getting. It is inevitable only if BHCC and the planning committee settle for that. If talks with the council over the last few years have gone well, if LCE’s Nick Lomax is allowed to revise the scheme so his original sails can ‘ply the waters’ of the site gracefully, and if the developer submits a good planning application that somehow avoids negative impact on Hove, then the city’s shopping list of things needed for the city’s economy just might be significantly shortened by MATSIM’s eventual scheme.