24/04/18…..People rarely ask these days, but used to ask “save Hove from what?” Slow death. Physical dismantlement. So much. Why is there a problem?
The truth is, Hove was annexed by a failing Brighton Council, led by now Lord Bassam, aided and abetted by the then Hove Council leader, Ivor Caplin. Both Labour Party apparatchiks. The creation of Brighton & Hove as a unitary authority changed everything for Brighton….and for Hove. By the turn of the Millenium City status was sought and granted and before long, Bassam’s plan to become Lord of all he beheld (directly elected Mayor) would be the coup de grace that granted Labour near unassailable power over both Brighton & Hove….or so they planned. But this last move at least did not come to pass after an all-party, city-wide Allies for Democracy campaign persuaded the public to vote against it in a referendum. Then came the demolitions of Hove housing to create blocks of flats. They came thick and fast and then came the Karis skyscrapers bid to redevelop the King Alfred. By 2005 saveHOVE had emerged from the streets.
With so many being incomers, not many see the political motivation but many DO see the evidence of a profoundly diminished Hove and the need to try to save it from total and complete cannibalisation by the local authority which is STILL basically just about Brighton. Indeed a look at planning policy documents makes it clear that Hove and beyond are expected to serve Brighton’s perceived economic ‘needs’. Brighton is the core. We are not an integrated, coherent city.
The only reason for becoming a City was to try to get Bassam in as Directly elected Mayor so Labour could try to engineer long-term command under him. We are a city in name only with Hove cannibalised and treated as a suburb of Brighton.
Brighton had to have a new Library….so a PFI agreement got them one – the Jubilee. Trouble is, servicing the PFI contract takes HALF of the annual city budget for libraries. Right now the Council is organising the cannibalising of Hove’s ONLY grand Grade 2 Listed civic building – the Carnegie-endowed library on Church Road. Most of the justification for its Grade 2 Listing is to be found within its interior. Two stacks of listed shelving were removed to create office/disabled toilet facilities in compliance with the DDA legislation back in 2004/5 and now three more of the original seven radial shelves forming a semi circle are to be removed for another office, leaving just two. In addition a nursery is to take over the basement with outdoor play space by the back curved wall of windows. Noisy. Oh, and a cafe will occupy a quarter of what is left of the ground floor area….noisy. The reason? To make Hove Library earn money, to help pay for Brighton’s follies.
It isn’t just the library….
Hove had hotels of note once upon a time, when it was a town in its own right. The very, very beautiful Sackville Hotel that “fell” during a refurb, the Lansdowne that keeps changing hands now but never gets turned into flats or anything else. And perhaps the less said about the Smart Sea View Hotel the better. Planning Policy has the centre of Brighton ring-fenced as where hotels are to be protected. Outside that delineated area, no hotels will be valued, protected or newbuilt.
Hove is much younger than Brighton as a built environment, and its wider roads and bigger buildings reflect its development as a town for the well-heeled who were encouraged to come down from London to it at the end of the 19th century. Hove’s regency Brunswick Town was built in the early to mid 19th Century in the regency style, not long after and in a similar way to Kemptown on the eastern side of Brighton seafront. Very Belgravia, dontcha know. The reputation of Hove for many decades was different from Brighton and when I moved down from London in the late 1980’s my Brighton hairdresser considered Hove to be “social death” – so staid and elderly was its reputation in youthful circles. People retired to Hove and it acquired a “God’s Waiting Room” image. That has all GONE.
As soon as Brighton got hold of Hove (annexation) there was an immediate exodus of wealthy, older people. This fact emerged in a Full Council meeting (in Brighton), when the noughtie’s Labour leader Ken Bodfish said that the year 2000 census had shown a significant loss of older, wealthier residents from Hove. They decamped to Eastbourne, Worthing and beyond. When I moved to Hove in the 1980’s it was immaculate, tidy. Governance from Brighton was different and Hove soon began to look as scruffy as Brighton. In came the developers knocking down houses, as well, and in came the flyposters for Brighton clubs, in came the graffiti and up went the blocks of flats, replacing substantial houses. And Hove General Hospital in Sackville Road was closed – later to be converted to council flats.
Bit by bit all the infrastructure that had belonged to an independent Borough of Hove was scrapped by its new Brighton masters. The hospital, the hotels, even its town hall as a civic centre is no more. Now the town hall is a police station with some council offices and a customer service desk; and the public auditorium area is converted to rented out offices. The Council Chamber is still in use , alternating with Brighton Town Hall’s Council Chamber. Once the King Alfred redevelopment begins, the LAST bookable venue of substance will be demolished. Both the town hall and the King Alfred ballroom have hosted entertainments and weddings and other public events catering to many hundreds of people. That is ending. The parks are fair game too. Gone are some Hove Park tennis courts, lawn bowls support from the council, and the former Hove Borough Council gardening depot in Hove Park was sacrificed to a free school in an area that did not need a new school.
Hove is just a spare parts depot for Brighton. As for the Portslade bit….that is just invisible. Unloved, ignored. What we are not, is a proper city.