Major Redevelopment for King Alfred…this one looks a goer !

20 August 2012…..Chat at a July garden party led to meeting up with Rob Starr on Friday morning, August 3rd.  He is putting together an interesting package of proposals for the King Alfred site.  That is the good news. 
The bad news is that the BHCC Local Plan brief for the King Alfred site is being kept, unchanged, and brought forward as a policy for the new City Plan (not yet adopted).  And it calls for 300 to 400 units of housing to go on this small site.  Starr intends to make the King Alfred project stack up financially by building them too.
Rob Starr is a lovely man.  I wondered if I could trust my own judgment and so I called on Frank le Duc, who interviewed him about this proposal and his article is scheduled for appearance in The Latest, Tuesday, 21st August 2012.  You will get a more detailed and comprehensive view of the proposals from that article, I’m reckoning, so pick up a copy from a wire basket near you, likely to be outside an Estate Agent or at the train stations.  Frank was seduced too!  “What a wonderful man”, he said to me.
Rob’s respected and adored father died in 2004 and Rob set up the Edward Starr Charitable Foundation in his memory.  Within it, he has something called CHOCS – Children Helping Other Children Smile.  He has done a project at Varndean with year 10 students there, aided and abetted by The Grand Hotel; and kids in Peru were the beneficiaries. The kids at Varndean had hands on tutoring and assistance from professionals in organising a business plan – the whole shebang and raised money to send to these kids in Peru.
Rob is a lyricist, his wife is a soprano singer, he has kids and he runs an Insurance Company called SEICO.  Because he is arts-minded, his vision for what he wants to create (whether ultimately at King Alfred or not) involves the performing arts and physical culture.  Not ‘sports’ exactly nor ‘leisure’ either.  But keeping Cheetah’s if it is done at King Alfred.  He likes Cheetah’s. 
What he builds is intended to be run by the Trust and volunteers.  This is a man who says he likes to partner – widely, it seems to me. 
Rob has involved The Young Vic (theatre!), a Brighton ballet school and others in putting together what would be at a new King Alfred within a wider development that, will also alas, include a load of bloody rabbit hutches.  He assures me there is plenty of space to do it all so they won’t be rabbit hutches…..hmmmm.  And yes, he is building tall, but not as tall as Karis/Frank Gehry tried to.
I gave him some yes, buts…..transport is hopeless and the A259 not something to cross.  Had he spoken with Roger French.  No!  He’s talking with The Big Lemon!  Why can’t he put his dream project into The Hippodrome…..not such a good answer here.  He wants to be on the seafront.  Swimming pool.  Yes.  Restaurant. Yes.
Developers usually talk to local residents and groups like saveHOVE only at the final stage when a consultation document is needed to submit with the rest of the bumpf going into their planning application instead of at the in-development stage.  But I was able to give him information from the Karis/Gehry years and point him in one or two directions that would help him, and hopefully make for a better development where Hove’s seafront is concerned.  Things he did not already know.
Taking soundings in order to get a ‘feel’ and local knowledge should be part of every developers research well ahead of expensive designing and etc.  The earlier people like us are involved, the less likely these people are to go off half cocked and end up in a battle royal with residents and possibly taking a refusal hit.  Talking to planners at the council or even councillors is just not enough.  They talk in terms of policy and rules.  We talk about the way the area IS and how it works and what’s missing and what is sacred to us.
Example:  Portzed failed.  And they had all kinds of council input but it was residents who exposed the problems and put paid to the helical wind turbines leading to refusal.  That developer has since talked a lot with local residents (including a retired planning officer) and maybe the replacement application will be better and no more money will be lost in putting a flawed application together for that site. We’ll know soon enough.
Rob Starr left it that he would organise a meeting between myself (and possibly bringing others) and his architects (Haworth Tompkins), etc. .  Nothing has come forward so far, but he plans to put the concept in front of residents sometime in September – I’m guessing at King Alfred.  And I’m guessing ‘already designed’ too. 
I have told him about a design idea that was in The Argus during the King Alfred debacle, produced by Japanese architecture students studying at a local language school.  Their project had involved resident surveys and then the design.  I fell in love with it and never forgot it.  It was…..lyrical!  I said a performing arts/gym/physical culture emporium should feel upbeat, lift the spirit and ‘sing’. 
Many claim their stumps are joyful when they are not.  I remember too much from the Karis/Frank Gehry days…..
Imagine long, quite wide ribbons of stout 120+gm white paper, loosely coiled in a circular shape, then dropped onto a table.  Imagine tables and chairs ascending inside one line of the top edge of one of these slightly uncoiling ribbons.  Nautical and very nice for a terraced restaurant!  With a nod to the Art Deco era. 
Five days after our meeting Rob Starr (who has Crohn’s disease, arthritis, etc.) and 5 others swam the Channel to France in a relay swim, for charity, to benefit the Foundation he created in his father’s name.  He only learned to swim two years ago.  A unique and interesting developer for the King Alfred who makes me want to believe something good just might result from his plans – apart from all that wretched ‘housing’ that is just so inappropriate for Hove’s seafront.
Can’t wait now to read what Frank’s written in Latest 7!

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UPDATE NOTE:  21.8.12         You can also read Frank’s Latest 7 report here if you missed getting a copy of the magazine.  I recommend it.  He was taping and scribbling and has put down more detail than I have recalled for my own piece here.  Highly recommend you read it.  It is exactly as told to me in my own meeting.  A valuable record of what the dream looks like now compared to how it may change or manages to stay true as things progress.

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UPDATE NOTE: 22.8.12         To understand the constraints imposed on ANY developer concerning redevelopment of King Alfred, it is important to look at the Local Plan Policy SR24 here and Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPGBH 10) here .  At 6.5 of SPGBH 10 it is spelt out that 300-400 units of housing are expected.  Nobody can presently develop at King Alfred without building in the requirements specified in these two policy documents .  It must be remembered that the site is owned by BHCC.  Policy requirements COULD be changed for the City Plan but it is currently intended that this policy will be retained.

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UPDATE NOTE: 23.8.12           The Argus contacted Rob Starr, and he tells me all they wanted to do was get him to slag off the Kings School and skating rink proposals for the King Alfred site which he was unwilling to do.  The Argus report only partially reflects the true nature of The Edward Starr Charitable Trust plans but there are now three outfits making plans for the site and the article reflects this.  Read it here.
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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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