Texaco/Alibi application BH2016/02756 – Consultation Response issues

Time to get to grips with the Texaco/Alibi Planning Application !
Architect's context drawing of proposal looking east along Kingsway

Architect’s context drawing of proposal looking east along Kingsway

21.8.16….Some months after the exhibition at the Princes Marine Hotel, comes the inevitable planning application with the same disappointingly harsh, angular, tall-building design (a few changes) – it’s clone-town glass and brick stuff you have seen everywhere from ads for Chelsea Basin flats to pretty much everywhere else, including, alas, now ALSO for the new Hove Station area planning application (1-3 Ellen Street, BH2016/02663) which seeks redevelopment of the semi-industrial shed site fronting Ellen, Conway, Ethel Streets just behind Goldstone Villas.  We need to demand better from architects.  Nick Lomax from Lomax, Cassidy, Edwards has designed both schemes.

Scheme Content

The Lomax design for Rocco Homes proposes  59 flats and a Co-op convenience store for the Alibi pub at 22 Victoria Terrace and adjoining former Texaco Petrol Station on Kingsway.   It swamps the eye with its composition of sharply angled and merged silos of varying heights.  Harsh. Hard.  This newbuild people-container would provide 55 flats. The converted upper floors of the Alibi provide another 4 flats, giving a total of 105 bedrooms. All the flats are proposed to be market – no social rented or part buy/part rent.  The ground floor of the Alibi remains  commercial with the ground floor of the tower housing the Co-op.
There is a potential problem for the ground floor use of the Alibi if it remains as a pub or café.  At night people outside smoking, etc. will be a noise issue for residents in the flats directly overlooking the area between them.  The residents would have noise abatement rights which could impact on the Alibi.
Texaco_Alibi proposed sq Fig 7 Planning Statement

Fig. 7 in the Planning Statement

The Co-op convenience store is proposed to open seven days a week, from 7am-11pm.  Deliveries to it are proposed to be from the Kingsway frontage.  How will all this impact A259 traffic flow?  A build-out full of bike racks is visible in one drawing that would squeeze the two lanes down to one at this point.  Surely not wise.
Parking?  Read the Transport Statement (link below).  BHCC advice to lose the car lift and reduce provision has led to offering just 17 carpark spaces – 8 between the Alibi and the Coop for customers (of both?) and 9 for residents adjacent to the Bath Court/St. Aubyns Mansions carpark.  A whopping 76 cycle spaces are offered – 34 at ground level and 42 in the basement.  You HAVE to read the Transport Statement, look at their figures and claims of plenty of capacity to understand this and to think how you can demonstrate it is wrong.  For starters, do you have to park north of Kingsway due to lack of spaces outside your own Esplanade colony home?  TELL THE COUNCIL IN YOUR OBJECTION.  PROVIDE STREET PARKING PHOTOS RELEVANT TO YOURSELF.
Fig. 4 from the Planning Statement showing panoramic view round St. Aubyns western corner to St. Aubyns Gardens

Fig. 4 from the Planning Statement showing panoramic view round St. Aubyns western corner to St. Aubyns Gardens – dead opposite the Texaco site

The towers proposed are so out of place opposite the Listed St. Aubyns corner, St. Aubyns Gardens and locally listed Alibi Pub (originally hotel) which together brought lyrical rounded mid-Victorian era grandeur to that part of Hove and horizontality of line.  The corner treatment shrieks vertically from behind its generic, off-the-peg – template – style references in stark contrast with the quietly purring Kingsway grandeur around Victoria Terrace and the entrance to St. Aubyns dead opposite.  All entreaties at the exhibition to put in some curves have been studiously ignored.
Much is made of the Alibi Pub within the application paperwork.  It is a key reference point, written about reverently and given respect and acknowledgment…..verbally.  But not by providing a neighbourly scheme to put beside it that respects the two Conservation Areas involved:  Old Hove north of the Kingsway and Cliftonville from the Alibi westwards.  The Alibi is inside the Cliftonville CA whilst the Texaco site is not in any CA.

Serious Application Registration issues

The application should have been registered as ‘Cliftonville CA (the locally listed heritage asset, the Alibi, in within it), adjacent Cliftonville , adjoining Old Hove ’ in recognition of relationship to TWO Conservation area involvements and not just Old Hove. This may change as an email has brought this to the attention of the planning officer for the application, Kate Brocklebank (who also assisted the applicants with considerable pre-planning advice), copied to Development Control Manager, Jeanette Walsh.  Does it need to be re-registered?  The applicants documents recognise it clearly, but council officers registering the application did not.
Clip from BHCC Cliftonville Conservation Area Map

Clip from BHCC Cliftonville Conservation Area Map

Neighbour Consultation letters from BHCC went to St. Aubyns, Seafield Road, Medina Villas, Osborne Villas ACROSS the 4-lane Kingsway but BHCC failed to send ANY to the nearby Sussex Road, Victoria cottages area that will be visually swamped by the looming towers with consequent light loss to the backs of Victoria Terrace, 1-4 Sussex Road and rear Bath Court flats.  None went to Bath Court residents whose car park would also be at some risk of being colonised by desperate new residents and Alibi/Co-op customers seeking parking and who will have party wall issues to deal with in view of the fact the development goes right up to their boundary and garage walls.  All they got was a site notice.  The ward councillors should intervene. 
The council is not understanding that the residential area south of the Kingsway is a kind of island site below that dangerous-for-pedestrians, windswept, 4 lanes of A259 that is the Kingsway.  An intimately-scaled colony, like a village, even with its Esplanade Bath, Benham and Spa towers.  Flag Court is the other side of the Courtneys so it is really the bit between St. Aubyns South and Medina Terrace with Victoria Terrace edging it along the Kingsway that makes up this cosy ‘island’ enclave. 

What you are really up against now

The planning application form and Transport  Statement provide dates of pre-app visits with the planning officer and evidence of highways department advice.  The Heritage Statement further indicates consultation with member of the planning committee and Design South East to solicit feedback ahead of finalising their application.  Residents need to be aware that changes were made in the wake of all this and an opinion from the Design Panel which they hope stitches in place everything needed to get consent.  This means objectors have to have a VERY good set of reasons for objecting to get this refused, assuming that all advice provided by officers was taken.  And evidence.

Objectors are also up against the City Plan, Pt 1 and its imposed high target for achieving new units of housing in the city (at the insistence of Planning Inspectors).  The fact it is market housing without one single unit of social rented housing or intermediate (shared ownership) is not helpful to the city and perhaps the deal is they pay a huge sum in compensation through a s106 obligation.  Or not.  Does BHCC plan to purchase any units off-plan?  For Council Housing use?  It is a cheap way of increasing stock, though if they DO take units, they would likely go to its leasehold Seaside Homes portfolio (or be bought by Seaside?).

Tasks for Objectors

The Planning Statement is absolutely Required Reading as a starting point to get to grips with what the claims are, what the planning constraints are and where resident wriggle room is for getting this application substantially modified or refused.
After the Planning Statement, it is the Design & Access Statement that MUST be gone through – full of useful illustrations too I might add.
The Transport Statement should be waded through by Esplanade residents and countering evidence provided to discredit its various claims. I would dispute the fact that its analysis of capacity and parking locally using street parking from BOTH sides of the Kingsway is valid.  Esplanade residents are so lacking in adequate parking provision NOW that some are forced to park north of the 4-lane Kingsway.  Residents who do not have Spa Court/Benham Court, Bath Court/St Aubyns Mansions carpark use do NOT have enough parking outside their own homes because there isn’t enough.  Did the Transport Statement take account of Marrocco diners’ use of parking spaces?  It is wrong to say that parking availability up St. Aubyns, up Medina Villas, up Seafield or Osborne  makes it OK to add up to 50 flats’s worth of competitive new parking demand on the area south of Kingsway.  Look at the police accident record provided too.
Residents of Sussex Road, Victoria Terrace are affected by sunlight and overshadowing issues and should look very carefully at the Daylight and Sunlight Study which was not written for your benefit!  Your photos from inside your window areas should go with your consultation response letters to demonstrate your likely loss.
Pre-planning advice from BHCC was to cut parking provision and to ditch the lift access basement parking due to potential street queuing issues (see that highways opinion reproduced in the Transport Statement).  A positive is advice to provide a car club parking bay on the street that would allow all residents the option to use that service instead of owning a car of their own.  This is an increasingly practical and welcomed option for people who do not do a lot of driving but cannot give it up.
Then look at anything else if need be or wanting to tackle in more depth.  Do the CGI images lie?  They usually do.
Do not rush to put your application response in.  This is your sole opportunity to influence and get changes.  Make sure of your facts and use planning.applications@brighton-hove.gov.uk to email your response, including photos taken to demonstrate parking issues, to demonstrate light and sunlight loss to rooms, to demonstrate overshadowing, overlooking, and to show the ways in which looming overdevelopment on the Texaco site will negatively impact or swamp homes nearby.  The formal time for responding ends 30th August.   But keep sending in new material to add to existing consultation emails/letters.  No decision or referral to the Planning Committee will occur until maybe October – the estimated decision date given online.  Ensure the subject line of your email gives the planning number, address,  and whether you Object/support.  Put Kate Brocklebank, the planning officer, in the cc field for insurance!
Finally.  How much development CAN that site take in your view?  Suggest.  How much of a problem is the tidal ground flooding that developers should be more careful of in constructing basement areas.  GIVE your local knowledge!

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Concerned with planning, development and the conservation of historic Hove, we actively seek to prevent inappropriate, negligent and abusive redevelopments!
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