Case file revelations re: bilingual school app – demands & threats to City Park/Engineerium/Miniature Railway

Note the wheels on this train topiary work at the southern Droveway end of the miniature railway!

Note the wheels on this topiary ‘locomotive’ at the Droveway end of the miniature railway!

29 August 2013 Update…..There was a serious error of fact in the first version of this article, posted 23.8.13, stating that land would be taken from the Miniature Railway part of Hove Park (behind the brick building down to the sub-station).  This completely rewritten article provides new information (from the planning officer’s case file) and removes the claim that land behind the brick building is to be lost.  It is already within the depot.  You can see this looking at the satellite view on Google.  But the case against the school is growing very strong and the railway is disgustingly threatened.
The Spanish/English bilingual school, based in Falmer for its now 9 months only of operation, now seeks to expand dramatically, take over, and erect a 630 pupil, 3 storey school within, the Hove Park depot part of Hove Park used by BHCC  gardeners.  The site is adjacent to both The Engineerium on its northern side and the Miniature Railway area on the eastern (park) side. The railway has operated there since 1951, with leasehold possession of the land since 1973.  The school planning application intends that  the miniature railway surrenders its sole and private leasehold use and security to them because they want pupil access over this area.
Proposed access/egress point over the leasehold Miniature Railway land

Proposed access/egress point over the leasehold Miniature Railway land

At present the railway is open for people to ride on some 15 times a year.  It is not promoted by BHCC but should be.  It attracts huge queues on its open days.  It is otherwise securely locked away behind the railings which enclose the site adjacent to the depot.  Only the gardeners have access from the depot gates otherwise.  Apparently, some of the locomotive engineers have been involved with work on museum machinery at the Engineerium,  and they are surely side-by-side complementary attractions enhancing use of Hove Park’s north-western perimeter beside the only bit of Hove Park not full of ‘things’ (Cafe, bowls pavilion, tennis courts, children’s playground).  The grandeur and beauty of it is quite something.  And it is a serious wildlife sanctuary.
For the proposed bilingual school, the miniature railway is inconveniently there and in the way of a clear link from the depot area out and through to the park.  Never mind.  Just put in a school gate where the gardener’s rough gates are and walk over their land, through their railed fencing locked gate.  They’ll have to give the school a key.  It is brazen trespass.  They have one hell of a nerve to put this into a planning application without the knowledge or agreement of the Miniature Railway people who  were left to just put in a response like any other consultee…..about use of their leaseheld land. 
Only a quiet letter in the working case file, submitted by J. Lynn on behalf of The Committee for The Brighton & Hove Society of Miniature Locomotive Engineers alerts anyone to the fact they have leasehold possession of the entrance area into the park from the depot’s ‘back door’; and they object to what is assumed will be imposed on them by BHCC to facilitate building this school THERE.  The letter reminds that their ‘ongoing lease’ provides that they “shall & may peaceably hold & enjoy the said premises without interrruption by the Council or any person” and that their track “is used on weekdays & weekends on a regular basis and no impediment to our use should be caused; the gate should not be permitted.  The access gates to the public path in the Park are also kept padlocked for security and safety reasons.” 
It may only be open to the public 15 days a year but they use the premises for their necessary on-site maintenance and locomotive engineering work too.
Brighton & Hove Society of Miniature Locomotive Engineers 'station'

Brighton & Hove Society of Miniature Locomotive Engineers ‘station’


View south to the loop area with the topiary 'locomotive' and the electrical sub-station.  The school proposes to take the building here and all the grounds behind it down to the sub-station

View south. The topiary ‘locomotive’ and electrical sub-station are out of view, beyond these trees and curving track . The school assumes right of access over this land whenever they like. Such arrogance!

There are other letters giving concern and sitting in the planning officer’s working case file.
Legal & General, owners of City Park object, expressing concern for their 2,000 employees and Droveway access issues.

 

English Heritage notes that the depot sits within The Engineerium Conservation Area, protected as if part of it.  Samantha Johnson reminds BHCC that this is a “locally designated heritage asset, and the NPPF requires that local authorities look for opportunitis for new development within conservation areas or the setting of listed buildings to enhance or better reveal their significance (para. 137).  The whole letter reflects a kind of bafflement but pushes the conservation job of commenting onto the BHCC conservation officers. 
Mike Holland, owner of The Engineerium, objects and requests first refusal for the depot land.  He wishes to use the depot to house The Brooking Architectural Museum Trust  “who have the finest collection of architectural salvage in the country…used as a teaching resource by conservation professionals, universities, schools, surveyors and their students, crafts apprentices and private individuals”.  He goes on to say that “This  valuable archive is considered legendary in the world of conservation and is unique, in that it offers a hands on experience.  We are proposing to create an indoor Victorian Street leading to the collection housing small cottage industry…”.  And in his closing remarks I read (between the lines) a danger that the future of The Engineerium as a museum owned by Mr. Holland could be in jeopardy.
Steve Tremlett gives the Development Control constraints for the full planning application BH2013/02096.  There are none apart from HE8 (demolition in conservation areas) and HO19 (community use) from the Local Plan and as there is no Planning Brief on the land, it could be used for anything, basically. He states “The existing use of the site does not have any policy protection…”
His comment omits HE3 ((Development affecting the setting of a listed building – 5-times over Listed Engineerium, including the party wall!!!!)  AND!!!  HE6 (Development within or affecting the setting of a conservation area) which no doubt sit in the accompanying BH2013/02097 Conservation Area app to demolish within the depot.
Sanne Roberts for the Heritage Team recommends refusal, declaring that the school’s “footprint , scale and massng have an adverse impact on the conservation area and listed buildings” and “The space would be dominated by the bulk of the building in comparison to the size of the plot…” especially “the third storey” – the whole lot “detracting from the setting of this group of listed buildings and their landmark status in the local area”.   She draws attention to the upward sloping topography that “allows views into the site” and the Droveway being at its steepest on the downward incline by the depot.  She reminds that in winter, when foliage dies back, the entire depot is open to view from the park. 
Line of trees at the back lines The Droveway slope and shows the area which would not be occupied within the site due to the topography

Line of trees at the back are along The Droveway bordering the downward perimeter there. Buildings would be in the foreground area of this photo

She references Local Plan policies HE3, HE6, HE8, QD1, QD2, QD4  and the Engineerium Conservation Area Character Statement as all of you should in making your own objections to the Conservation Area application BH2013/02097.    Recommends reducing by one storey and varying roofline.  Sadly, her planting suggestions for hiding this horror would result in severe overshadowing of the miniature railway which would lose southern and western sunlight. 
Southern Water inform that a trunk main and distribution water main cross the site – right through the middle, looking at their drawing!  They indicate that the exact layout of the site cannot be determined until the applicant identifies exact position.  And they would have to pay for diverting the water main !  A BIG job.  And then there are existing sewer investigations….. 
Ward Cllrs Vanessa Brown and Jayne Bennett have objected to the application, saying the site is too small for over 600 pupils, there is insufficient outdoor play space, the shed design is inappropriate and the parking and access issues are hazardous and overwhelming.
The County Ecologist says “the planning application cannot be determined without further surveys to ascertain use of the site by protected species and to inform appropriate mitigation“.
Half the depot site would not even be used – with fencing proposed between the unuseable slope and formal play space.  The slope is to be left to grass. They want life cheap, easy and on flat ground.  Do they expect to have free use of Hove Park itself for the needs of its proposed 630 kids instead?  A few parental support letters in the working case file openly demand it and make it clear they expect it. They wrongly assume locals to it have it all to themselves!

HOVE PARK IS A MAJOR HOVE FACILITY USED BY PEOPLE DRAWN FROM A WIDE AREA OF THE CITY POPULATION AND  BHCC OFFICERS DECLARED EXISTING USE TO BE ‘AT CAPACITY’  DURING ONE OF THE PARK HOUSE PLANNING APPLICATIONS.  LOCALS ALREADY HAVE TO HOST THE CARS OF PEOPLE DRIVING TO THE PARK TO USE IT – ALL DAY EVERY DAY.  LOTS OF THEM.  THE ARRIVAL OF CITY PARK’S 2,000 HAD A MAJOR, ADVERSE, IMPACT ON SURROUNDING STREETS.

The Miniature Railway should not have had to remind BHCC of its ongoing lease on the land (since 1973) in its too gentle  objection letter, pointing out that the land is not currently legally available for the school to traverse or use to access their own proposed gated entry point.  Does current access by gardeners  create the right for 630 kids to use it too?  Would Policy & Resources (who have to given consent for change of use of the land) bully the miniature railwy into it?
The casual sense of  entitlement by the school to use of this land beggars belief.
Here!  Have a look at the boundary treatment drawing within the application documents and note the gate proposed to be put beside this brick building.   The school’s attitude to the Park, its existing users and the privately run miniature railway is insulting, arrogant and grasping.

BOUNDARY TREATMENT DRAWING

A canny query from one Richard Carroll sits in the working case file, asking if the land is “surplus to council requirements” and up for disposal.  Does BHCC have to just pass it over to school use because the Coalition Government’s education quango demands it for this free school?  Whilst these free schools are state schools, they are OUTSIDE of all and any council control – which is why they are called ‘free’.  No control; yet the residents of the city are asked by the Coalition Govt. to surrender public land to them.  Richard Carroll asked the question of BHCC.  Should the application be recommended for approval, the Policy and Resources Committee will decide its ultimate fate, and that of the miniature railway too! 
It may be that there is a financial challenge to letting the school put up its building on the cheap, using free land, that it would have to be marketed.  The land has a financial value and Councils have a duty in this regard where council-owned land is concerned.  Plus, it is currently part of Hove Park and would have to be legally severed from it.
Please object to this rude, intrusive and totally outrageous planning application by emailing your comments to BH2013/02096 and BH2013/02097 to planning.applications@brighton-hove.gov.uk.  Leave out traffic and parking issues.  Done to death already in ALL objection responses in the file to the extent that objectors have forgotten the badgers, the red list birds, the Engineerium, City Park’s 2,000 employees, the loud noise from plant on their Droveway wall, the Co-op artic Droveway delivery area , the use, rights and future of the railway and Hove Park itself.  Put in supplementary objections if you have already objected. The formal deadline may have passed but the application is still live and you can continue to comment up to the Friday before it goes to Committee (as a Major application).

The people supporting this are, in the main, parents of children going to the Falmer-based school (some from Portslade) and those desperate for ANY Hove-based school.  People who moved to the area but have no interest in its heritage. Wider, long-term issues are entirely ignored as they all gush from a hand-out of things to say.  They claim it is in keeping with the Conservation Area and Engineerium, that there is no traffic or parking issue as it has all been ‘sensitively’ organised, that the design of the building will enhance the area, etc.  Hilariously, they turn flaws around, declaring them to be virtues.

The saveHOVE objection suggests giving this land either to the Engineerium to house an historic and important architectural salvage collection or bringing the depot into the Article 4 Direction on City Park that forces a planning application should anyone try to convert any of it to housing.  Eric Pickles decreed that NO building in Brighton and Hove could be exempted from owners converting offices to flats without a planning application.  Within Brighton, a large area is now subject to an Article 4 Direction forcing use of a planning application;  in Hove, only City Park has this protection and level of valuing.  It is vitally important to the city’s economy that protection is given to SOME areas in order to retain and provide new jobs.

Here is the schedule of operating dates for the Miniature Railway

Miniature Railway schedule of opening dates for 2013

Miniature Railway schedule of opening dates for 2013

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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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