The Polly Samson (and Gilmour family home) redevelopment
09.03.17…..Following on from yesterday’s Planning Committee meeting, which granted planning consent, subject to s106 Agreement being signed, and 19 Conditions being met, we now have to look at what lies ahead concerning Medina House, the site, the neighbours – because only one hurdle in the planning process of change has been cleared. A great deal of work still lies ahead.
What has not been discussed at any stage and is not a Condition of Planning is how the replacement building will be addressed. In the minds of locals it will continue to be Medina House and, if the plans are not changed (which they could be, more on that later), it will look like a poetic, ghostly echo in form. The main building repeats much of the existing detail with the lost original east frontage brought back nearly identically to give the new amenity space some privacy and a front wall. It is also part of the agreed plans that what remains of the original bespoke Royal Doulton tilework is retained on the retained north elevation on the east side. A really serious echo, apart from contemporary twists like shuttering and the new east wing and the brickwork. Will this building just be 9 Kings Esplanade or will Polly Samson and David Gilmour want to retain the name “Medina House”?
Notoriously, however, once those first, immediate, planning consents are given, public attention and councillor attention ends. Everyone goes away, leaving them to it. Mistake. Experience demonstrates that ‘carrots’ go into planning applications to sweeten and encourage consents which are later withdrawn via planning applications to alter or delete Conditions of Planning Consent or to tweak the design itself (see Condition 3 for this). As well, uneasy problems that developers hope to keep out of the public consultation process, along with unfinished business that is expensive to organise and best left till you KNOW you have consent make up the inevitable list of Conditions, some of which prevent any start whatsoever until resolved.
So let’s look at the potential tweaks first.
Keb Garavito Bruhn, the Pilbrow & Partners architect for this project, sat a seat away to my left looking stressed, tense, concerned, focussed – even a little distraught – as councillors quietly, seriously, and joylessly considered his proposal on behalf of Polly Samson (the applicant). Instead of gushing praise, he was hearing concern for neighbour impact and hearing officers admit that their recommendation was about benefit outweighing detriment to the conservation area, the townscape, heritage – but not neighbouring properties. It would not have taken much to get a better response from all of them. Five councillors turned it down because of neighbour impact and five accepted the outweighing argument and supported the plans. One abstained and one had (very unusually) not turned up. This gave the decision to grant to just one person. The Chair.
A project like this, for famous people, in a seriously prominent seafront position, with a design like this could have been more than grudgingly accepted. And in my opinion, the design potentially merits nomination for an award within the architectural field. It is a clear collaboration between Polly Samson and the architect and I’d like to hope they want a clean and happy all-round best of all worlds outcome and kudos. It was achievable.
The five councillors who turned the application down echoed one another in saying if it came back with the east back wall and overall height reduced, they would be happy to support it. So the project was never in danger of being a Taghan-style no-hoper. Almost everyone wants this redevelopment to be a huge success. Ball’s in the applicant’s court on this one now….
But, about that ‘carrots’ issue! The east area back wall with the bespoke Royal Doulton tiles has the potential to be dropped. The actual piece of wall must be retained in order to keep the tiles and to be incorporated into the overall structure. It was one of the lovely reasons for wanting this proposal. But they COULD come back with a design tweek that demolishes and loses it on viability grounds. See Condition 3.
The List of 19 Conditions
Please click here to see the Report to Committee containing the 19 Conditions at the front end.
Condition 3: Any alteration to the design
This requires a planning application to be submitted and agreed.
Condition 7: demolition and rebuilding
The council needs to see and approve contracts for demolition and rebuilding to ensure there would not be a vacant Sackville Hotel-style or i360-style demolished and blighted site left for years and years. There seems not to have been any time limit from 2006, beyond planning consent that was deemed implemented in 2009, for i360; and the council and West Pier Trust were caught by the balls somewhat as Marks Barfield pleaded poverty and failed to get financial backing. It is entirely possible that this blackmail situation was what led in a straight line to the PWLB financing, just to remedy the blight!! So now the council are careful to bind developers with this condition.
Condition 8: Materials
There is an ongoing concern and difficulty about the creamy ‘chalk’ coloured white brickwork proposed for this replacement Medina House . My own observations in formal response to the application for saveHOVE were echoed by Keb Garavito Bruhn in his speech to the Committee. When Medina House was built, everything built along the Elsplanade was red brick. Now nothing is. Not even Medina House! St. Aubyns Mansions was over-rendered and Medina House was cement rendered in 1923 because the Marine Environment destroyed cheap, porous brickwork so fast. The newishbuild Bath Court and Benham Court are light buff yellow brick. The non-original frontage of Marrocco is rendered and cream coloured. Plus, the housing along Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages behind is also cream painted render for the most part. So why would you want a dirty great red brick building stuffed between them all now??? It would be loud and garish. And it would neither enhance the character of the area nor honour the memory of Medina House or do justice to the contemporary echo of Medina House…IMHO.
Condition 10: the retained bespoke Royal Doulton tilework
How this is proposed to be effected within the redevelopment requires proofs and plans to be agreed by BHCC’s planning department to ensure it happens and happens well. I hope and expect that Amy Frankie Smith, (new ‘fluxsurface’ website here) an architectural terracotta specialist, whose Fellowship Paper on Medina House was read by Keb Garavito Bruhn, and who we brought to our consultation meeting with him and his team in August 2016, will be involved here. The fact this has been conditioned serves as a warning to the applicants that this part of their plan has importance and is expected to be realised.
Condition 11: a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP)
From the pov of residents this is almost the most important Condition of all. How the hell are they going to actually DO this!!!! The tight configuration and site access difficulties draw breath. Plus there are queues in front of Medina House in summer for ice creams from Marrocco, use of his garden for dining and tourism along the Esplanade and the beach area itself to consider. Demolition into the yard area could help contain the mess of demolition but the prevailing westerlies are going to blow the dust into Benham Court open windows and over the Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages area. It would be a kindness of this could be a late autumn/winter demolition and newbuild to help with that.
RESIDENTS PLEASE READ THIS CONDITION IN THE REPORT AND BE AWARE THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO BE INVOLVED IN RESOLUTION AND MANAGEMENT OF THIS SITUATION. I HOPE WE CAN EXPECT A PLANNING APPLICATION FOR THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT MITIGATION PLANS.
These are the Conditions for which your attention is most needed. There is a Condition about car-free except for anyone holding a disabled Blue Badge which involves an agreement that applicants have to sign but this is not an issue as they have parking close by anyway. It means the house is car-free if it gets sold on.