11 September 2014…..The derelict corner factory site in Newtown Road, by St. Agnes deconsecrated church (now a gym), and up Goldstone Lane, finally has a redevelopment proposal: a terrace of 6 houses with a block of 59 flats and 100 sq. metre offices space to be provided by Hyde Housing.
Hyde Housing put 253 invitations into resident and business premises around Newtown Road, Fonthill Road and along Conway Street to view proposals on Wednesday, 10th September between 3:30 – 7:30 pm at their offices in Davigdor Road (which required people to travel to see them).
Computer generated images (CGI) were ranged along one side of a meeting room on propped boards. Appallingly, there was no consistency in colour rendering from drawing to drawing and worse, on consultation response forms available for comments, the brickwork was described as grey and yellow and we were askd if we were OK with that. See the CGI below. Sample colours for bricks and terracotta were displayed on one board and architect Andy Parsons was adamant that the main brickwork would match St. Agnes Church – reddish, that the dark contrast brick is blue like at the Engineerium, a blackish blue; and, in a visual reference to the stonework on St. Agnes, the rooftop penthouse flats would be clad in grey terracotta. How lovely that it is NOT in BLOODY ZINC! The block of flats and St. Agnes would form a visual unit, colourwise, that would bolster and reinforce St. Agnes’ presence and visual relevance. That is one of the great positives of the scheme.
Present were Hyde’s architect, Andy Parsons, from Yelo Architects, along with their planning consultant from Lewis Planning, who will organise the planning application. The purpose of this exhibition was to gain consultation feedback (a requirement and it will go into the application). Below is the Hyde Housing representative who greeted us.
Whilst Hyde had been to BHCC’s Planning Dept. to discuss proposals and take pre-planning advice from planning officers, the Hyde representative indicated there were no plans to take advantage of the opportunity for a pre-planning presentation to members of the Planning Committee to further avoid unacceptable details being incorporated into the application itself. These meetings DO lead to changes.
It was the Hyde Housing nightmare proposal for Park House which led the then Planning Chair, Cllr Lynda Hyde, to introduce pre-planning presentations to members of the committee. The huge, outsize footprint of the Park House megalossus block of flats by Hove Park had been agreed by the planners in a way that committed the Planning Committee to that footprint size – taking that crucial decision away from them. Pre-planning presentations are intended to give the Planning Committee a voice before applications are even submitted. It would be prudent for Hyde to change its mind on this.
So what is proposed…
What WAS proposed to planners was a terrace of 6 three-storey, 100 sq metre, houses for Goldstone Lane, their top floors set back to provide balconies; and an 8-storey block of flats for the corner site along Newtown Road.
Officers insisted on the height dropping to 6 storeys in line with the roof height of St. Agnes. It would also be about safeguarding the proposed terrace, which would be to the north of this height and affected by overshadowing issues (just like the Medina House redevelopment constraint on Kings Esplanade). But is this the best use of the land?
There is a long-term need, specified in the emerging City Plan, to put 630 units of housing in the area bounded by Old Shoreham Road, Sackville Road, Goldstone Lane and down to the other side of the railway lines to below the 10-storey blocks in Clarendon Road. Where can they go?
A few of us did discuss this at the exhibition! And the day before it, in an e-briefing from saveHOVE, providing links to the DA6 City Plan map and chart of BHCC use requirements, supporters and associates were given something to bear in mind when considering the proposals. “10% of the housing requirement on this site” said one man” on the day. Glad he opened the link and read the bumpf! Important to have this context in mind and to be considering which areas are best loaded with the big numbers to make the least impact on the area and existing residents.
Hyde want to build the terrace to sell it for ready cash. But does it mean putting less on the site than it can take? It is something to really think about concerning the block of flats. To the north is the Goldstone Retail Park’s extended rooftop up to and over Old Shoreham Road, so no overshadowing there. To the west and to the south are the Newtown Road industrial sheds, storage and etc. which are not an issue for overshadowing/light loss. That leaves only the Goldstone Lane residents to the east and they have gardens fed with sunlight from the east and from the south. Clever design could cheat more to frontages from the west if flats extended up the lane instead of that terrace.
Why too must St. Agnes be the height guide? There is no other reference point to justify it. And the area is close enough to be considered within the Hove Station Tall Building node. It is the terrace of six jammed together small houses that is not making best use of space, but seems to have been included as a cash cow. It does not offer a nice place to live in the overbearing shadow of the proposed 6 storey block of flats. Hemmed in by that on one side and the Goldstone Retail Park on the other (which existing Goldstone Lane residents complain generates noise disturbance at all hours when large vehicles access the back of it).
Would it be better for the whole site to be a six-storey block with a whole ground floor employment space? Please bear this question in mind as you (hopefully) read to the end of this article on the exhibition.
It is intended that there be 65 units of housing in all. Goldstone Lane is to be the entrance area for all 59 flats, the basement car and cycle park and the terrace of 6 houses.
What is downright shocking is that not one unit of this housing association scheme would be a rental unit. The terrace of six houses would be for “outright sale”. 28 flats out of 59 in the block would be shared ownership – and Hyde insist this is their affordable 40% element. 29 of the flats would be for outright sale, the same as the 100 square metre terraced houses (though perhaps not outright, perhaps leasehold). It waters down the entire remit of what a housing association is for. What does Registered Social Landlord mean now? Does it mean tenants in old stuff but making money out of newbuilds? There are some questions here! And perhaps Planning Committee councillors would like the opportunity to have a chat with Hyde BEFORE an application is submitted. All newbuild development affordable housing is provided by housing associations. So….
This layout drawing for the terrace of 6 houses caused some discussion. These are 100 square metre, 3 bedroom family homes across 3 floors (with a balcony on the top floor). That is 20 square feet per family of 5 person. It was confirmed as being to scale so consider: The driveway is 3 car lengths long; the house is 1 1/2 car length deep and roughly 2 car widths wide; the garden is 2 car lengths long. Think about that….. Scowling and indignation greeted worries with comments such as these. No; it isn’t cramped! There will be storage space for all their accumulated possessions. The houses would cost more to buy if made bigger. No; these are not starter homes. They are similar to te houses opposite…..etc.
Have a squint at the interior of the ground floor interior to judge for yourself. The floor above has 2 bedrooms and presumably the top floor with balcony is the master bedroom. When a Newtown Road resident was asked (he has kids), if he would choose to have the long driveway and garden or would prefer a bigger house, he did not hesitate. “A bigger house”. Families need space for sanity, quiet, play, activities, sound reduction and peaceful school work, etc. etc. A tweet this week out of the USA provided the information that for the first time in its history more than 50% of its people are single. The 20th and 21st centuries created stress-machine life. So, is it so surprising? Living alone gives those singles a lot more living space. And that is there, where housing is so much bigger anyway. Make housing tiny and you are asking for family breakups. We have to put a stop to this rabbit hutch stuff.
The gentleman from Lewis Planning revealed that Brighton & Hove has no space standards built into its Planning Policy documents. Not in the Local Plan, City Plan, nowhere. A supplementary planning document could be raised providing space and light standards which would have to be complied with (which is not the same as the Lifetime Homes Standards applied nationally). Here is the coup de grace: Other authorities DO have such policies in place. Adur, mid-Sussex, lots of places. Hellooooo. Why don’t WE?!
On the Newtown Road frontage, 100 sq. metres of office space is proposed, accessed from Newtown Road. Would any of the basement car parking space be available to occupants of that office space? This is bound to be a question from both planning committee councillors and planners during the planning process. Details MUST be in the application so that they can be assessed and put out to public consultation.
It has been pointed out that not every flat would have a parking space and speculation that those buying flats outright might have a space as of right with their leaseholds….or not. Some residents at the exhibition ASSUME a two cars per dwelling requirement! There is already a car club space in Newtown Road it was said. Would another be appropriate? Could one of the basement spaces be appropriately dedicated to a second building occupants’ car club? Might the Planners insist on car-free externally (no resident permits allowable)? These are details for the planning process. Overspill parking is the number one resident worry. Always is.
DA6 of the City Plan requires this whole site to be employment led. Oops!
This is going to be something to watch during the planning process. 100 square metres on the Newtown Road side does not make this scheme compliant with the emerging, as yet unadopted City Plan which is intended to replace the Local Plan set of policies.
The planning consultant at the exhibition was frowning when this issue got raised and reminded us that the City Plan was unadopted. In his view Chapter 5 EM Local Plan policies can be invoked. It will be interesting to see if we get a tussle as between application use of EM policies and BHCC countering that with other EM policy moves to cancel their moves. If Hyde win, this part of the City Plan becomes redundant even before it can be approved. The truculence of their mood suggested a middle finger to having to take the City Plan into account at all. And as this site has been on the market for years more than the usual test period for change of use, it seems likely that the DA6 part of the City Plan will have to be set aside and rewritten somewhat.
Here is the floorplan for the block which shows just how little employment space there will be. Indeed it isn’t even new employment space. It is intended to replace the area at the northern end of the Goldstone Lane part of the site which is not derelict, in which six people are currently working. Is it enough? Smiles morphed to surly grumpiness at the exhibition when it was queried….alas.
Below is the non-industrial, domestic area just west of the Newtown Road industrial/semi-industrial, employment focussed area and St. Agnes Church which the architect has chosen to reference for materials. St. Agnes would also absorb most of the light loss and overshadowing from the bulk of the block of flats rather than housing further up the lane.