From Factory to: offices, light industrial, leisure………….and flats… Dubarry House, Microscape House, Hove Business Centre
The quiet Formation of a trajectory
28 January 2015…..The Coalition Govt decreed as of May 2013 (albeit on a 3-year temporary basis) that all existing office space in the country could be converted to housing without a planning application. It has since stated its intention to make this permanent Planning Policy but is it likely to happen before the May 2015 election? Will it be taken forward by the next Government? Stopped? Who knows.
Certainly developers seized on the opportunity with glee whilst BHCC immediately grabbed the Article 4 Directions option to at least force planning applications on some specified areas. In Hove the only area chosen for protection was City Park between Hove Park and the Neville Road Greyhound Stadium.
So what of places like the former Dubarry Perfume Factory – now renamed in three sections as Dubarry House at the east end, Microscape House (formerly part of Dubarry House) and (for most of it) The Hove Business Centre.
The planning history shows a clear moment when this former perfume factory began to be seen in a very determined way as a development site for lucrative housing. We need to look at this until-now largely invisible tussle! Instead of regular long-term steady income from business occupancies, developers want in/out investment and single big chunks of money from outright sales. Get rich quicker-style.
What the Government wants, is to weed out derelict and redundant pre-21st century spaces that are unlettable or unsuitable for 21st century equipment and working practices and to get some fast, voter-friendly housing in place.
What BHCC acknowledges is the fact that it is unprofitable to build offices AT ALL. Certainly this is a sticking point where use of the Sackville Trading Estate consent is concerned. This writer has had that from the developer himself a few years ago. BHCC planning strategy sees loss of office space to housing as a way of making it more scarce so that rents achievable rise and it becomes profitable to newbuild offices. Can’t fault that logic! Plus it will please Govt planning inspectors who insist BHCC must put MORE housing into its City Plan. Somehow. But what about employers and employment space?
Formation of a trajectory: the planning history
BH2003/00124/FP: Octopus Properties Ltd. submitted and gained planning consent for change of use of the Dubarry House end of the building which carries a Newtown Road address (it has an access point from it) to B1 office/light industrial plus 8 flats and an extension on the roof to provide office space and a roof terrace. Foot in the door….so onward to a bolder move!
BH2003/02060/FP: Octopus Properties Ltd promptly returned with a planning application seeking Change of use to B1 plus 14 flats, an extension on the roof to provide office space, residential accommodation and roof terrace. This application failed. One aspect of the reasons for refusal was failure to retain employment land. It was appealed, apparently; but either the council website has not been updated or this application appeal remains undecided and backburnered…simmering.
There is another 2003 application on the council website from Octopus for Dubarry House….but BH2003/03958/INVALID was never taken forward. It is listed without further detail as withdrawn.
BH2004/00204 was registered for Dubarry House by Octopus Properties Ltd using Hove Park Villas for the address whilst the two previous applications got Newtown Road addresses. Not sure why that happened. But I found it! This application gained consent to remove factory fire escapes from the Newtown Road side of the building and to add new balconies to four residential units plus window replacements.
It was around this time that Microscape, who had space in Dubarry House got that chunk renamed Microscape House. Or so I deduce from looking at the planning record.
BH2004/01372/FP from applicants Microscape received consent for a “Glazed infill balustrade to create roof terrace. Condition 2 stated that there must be no use made of the north side of the flat roof except for emergencies.
The council has kept its foot on the brakes and refused to allow either Dubarry House or (the now) Microscape House sections of the old perfume factory to have residential use of the rooftop, even though it allowed an office extension that looks like a flat onto the roof. See photo above! Now comes the whining and the pressure.
BH2005/06169 was submitted by Octopus Properties, seeking erection of 2 penthouse flats with terraces for Dubarry House. Their planning statement invoked the 2003 consent for offices & flats, saying “The concept of residential development was granted at this stage and therefore this application does not require a change of use, but relates to the construction of the penthouses”. Twist. Turn. Contort. They then invoked the glazed infill rooftop balustrade consent of 2004 to suggest “This permission demonstrates how the roof terrace is appropriate to be used as amenity space, and constructions (the balustrade) at this location are not considered to have a negative impact on the surroundin area”. In spite of all the canny salami slicings this application cited, this application was still refused and it failed on Appeal as well. No residential on the roof.
BH2010/01685 – again from the persisting Octopus Properties Ltd – came back for another go at putting housing on the roof of Dubarry. This application sought erection of a one-bed penthouse incorporating the terrace. And again the planning statement sought justification from the previous ones, saying, e.g. “is similar in design terms to the office extension” they got onto the roof. And so of course it is “in keeping”. And this application too failed. The refusal was then endorsed on Appeal by the planning inspector who actually mentioned that it would be clearly visible from the footbridge over the railway. Yup. At eye level with activity on that terrace. See photo above!
Push, push, push. Block, block, block. And the principle of residential on the factory roof has not been accepted at any stage. But there is now a change of position at BHCC as a new mood of hysteria pushes for ever more housing….anywhere. Regardless. Just do it. In the case of the old Dubarry Perfume factory housing looks like it is going to displace employers and employment space inch by inch. Is that wise? Do employers wish to share premises with domestic activity? The Hove Business Centre, owned by Pearl & Coutts made the next move…the one currently on the table.
BH2014/01981 from Pearl & Coutts put an open walkway above tiny Newtown Road back gardens along with leisure terraces in 9 flats to go along the entire length of the Hove Business Centre section of the old factory. It was going to be refused and so it was withdrawn.
BH2014/03742 soon replaced it, but enclosing the walkway so there is no overlooking of Newtown Road properties. The flats casually assume that the massive skylight over business premises below is expendable (they freaked, as it happens) and that the Dance studio on the top floor that often hosts up to 100 people watching the dancers, even 38 Brazilian drummers on one occasion, won’t be any kind of a noise issue for whoever would live in these roof flats. There is the assumption that there is no conflict of interests. An assumption that is being made now by Brighton & Hove City Council’s planners. Will the commercial tenants be forced to relocate if flats go on the roof? Seems likely. The application is recommended “Minded to Grant” and is to be determined on Wednesday, 28th January.
With this latest application to grow housing on the roof, we have a pivotal moment. Councillors have to decide whether this is an employment site or that it is time to give the nod to slowly turn it into a block of flats. If this application is agreed, just watch Dubarry House and Microspace come back again at their end of this venerable old factory, seeking residential use of that office with a terrace you see in the photo illustrating this article and read about in the front end of the planning history given here. The principle of residential use of the rooftop has always been resisted until now. With the officer recommendation that has now fallen. Is employment space now increasingly expendable? Seems so. Up to you to decide councillors.