i360 at the specially convened Policy, Resources & Growth Cttee today….oooohhh…sssss

28.6.18….As I left the Policy, Resources & Growth meeting in Hove Town Hall’s Council Chamber and hobbled behind my walking aid to the heat of the street a thought came out of NOWHERE.   The Mafia are at their most unctuously flattering and complimentary about someone just before they order a hit on them.  Having just finished the James Comey book – A Higher Calling – which detailed a lot about his lawyerly dealings with the mafia in New York and which dripped with insinuation about Trump as a mafia Don,  I suppose the flavour of the book lingers, mixed with every movie and notion ever held about them.  Do I digress?  Maybe…
The Council Chamber on this uber-hot day was blissfully cool.  But that in itself now feels just a tad sinister.  Councillors were cool too.  Seemed quite chilled and calm – and prepared too on the Green and Tory bench.  They each had amendments to the tabled report (revised from June 14; see previous post here for various links).  Amendments were made available at the meeting. Links below.
Present for the Labour Administration were Cllrs Emma Daniel, Gill Mitchell and Les Hamilton with new council leader, Dan Yates in the Chair.  Opposition Tories sitting were Garry Peltzer Dunn, Andrew Wealls, Steve Bell and Tony Janio whilst Opposition Greens sitting were Cllrs Phelim MacCafferty and Leo Littman.
The Chair began by noting similarities between the Green and Tory amendments which he hoped could be melded into a single amendment and proposed a 15 minute adjournment to do it.  Tony Janio wasted no time slapping that down, declaring the two amendments “complementary”.  There was unanimous, all-party, voting support for both amendments in the end.  The Green AmendmentThe Tory Amendment.
So.  Onward.  Also present, invited by Cllr Yates to attend, and invited to take questions were members of the i360 Board – 4 of them.  Julia Barfield (now widowed, so no David Marks), the CEO who replaced Eleanor Harris (surely the first of the significant warnings came when she left),  Steve Bax and two others whose names other writers will have caught.  I did not.  They confirmed a few key details.  The West Pier Trust owes THEM money they intend to collect.  They have a 100 year lease on the land from the Trust so have no intention of leaving and NO, they have not even asked the Trust for a rent reduction on the land they sit on.
The i360 Board are seeking expert advice on marketing and think securing advance ticket sales is important to get round the problem of not selling tickets on cloudy or inclement weather days.  NICE!  Presumably idiots suckered into this do not get their money back if from abroad or out of town with no wish to get a different ticket for another time when there is a view to see.
BHCC is going to spend £50,000 on getting an expert in to look at their investment position – but the Tory amendment demands i360 have this sum added to their debt and that if their trading position does recover, that BHCC gets a much increased share of ticket revenue….25%.
Very little was actually said by councillors and almost nothing by Labour cllrs.  Dan Yates praised the i360 to the skies.  Les Hamilton reminded everyone of his position back in the day when he predicted visitor numbers would not reach the projected 800,000 that justified the second loan but would be more like 400,000.  A timely I told you so.  Labour did not agree to the 2nd of the two PWLB loans from BHCC that lifted sums from about £14m to £36.2m to get the i360 erected.
Andrew Wealls praised the i360 and its benefits to the City.  Tony Janio heaped praise on its various contributions to the City, and so also did the other Tory and Green cllrs.  Well they would wouldn’t they.  For it was THEIR cooperation in the Green Administration that agreed BOTH of the PWLB loans to i360, putting BHCC in debt to the tune of £36.2m which has to be repaid to PWLB at 4%.  The money was lent on at 7% or 7.7% I think with the i360 only paying the interest and not the capital sum over many, many years.  Now they seek to get out of paying any interest – for awhile.
The i360 seeks a restructured loan and deferral of the June instalment due in two days’ time with £100,000 payable in December.  Straight away it was said that only a deferral would be on the table at this time.  The council officers, clearly stung by reactions following publication and deferral of the June 14 Committee report, produced a tougher one this time.  A bit.  All consideration of restructuring of the loan will happen in months to come and to PR&G October or December (looks like).
Green and Tory cllrs clearly feel betrayed and it is THEY who stand to reap public wrath and revenge at the ballot box, so they were in no mood to spare the officers today.  And THIS is perhaps the biggest story of the day.  Executive Director Nick Hibberd told cllrs that officers had known for about a year that visitor figures were a problem.  He said that about two months before the June14 meeting of PRG, they realised they would have to take the issue of the future of payments to the councillors on this committee.  They were told in no uncertain terms that this was not good enough and that in fact it was…how to phrase it?  I dunno.  Tories and Greens were united in very vocally demanding that officers keep them much better informed on a running basis ….even keeping them informed at Leaders meetings.  The i360 has a council officer on the i360 Board as an observer.  They have had a clear view for a LONG time and let it go this far, only informing councillors some five weeks ago.
I hope John Keenan is successful with the Guardian news desk.  He was there as was Ben Weisz for the BBC Sussex radio, Frank le Duc for Brighton & Hove News and Sarah Booker Lewis who is the Local Democracy reporter who feeds various local lpapers as part of a Local Democracy project (and she is good).  Tory Steve Bell was interviewed before the meeting and early evening news bulletins carry his remarks on Sussex Radio.  Listen in the morning for the meeting report I’d say.  View the now uploaded webcast of the meeting.
So if you read this far, do you see my Mafia metaphor?  Heaping praise on the i360, heaping approbrium on the officers (watch your backs Mark Ireland and Nick Hibberd!) whilst looking to secure their own Tory and Green positions a year ahead of the local elections tells me that P&R G in October and December will be VERY important committee meetings and heads may roll if the i360 fails to recover and thrive.  There would be no more praise, no more Mr Nice Guy pleasantries.
Capische?
Oh….and Steve Bell abstained in the vote to agree deferral.  He may be the designated hard man to watch come October/December.  And I hope the i360 Board understands just how parlous their situation is….when a local election is looming for this city and councillors need to fight for their survival just as the i360 is looking like its not going to make it.
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Will i360’s begging bowl spill over with kamikaze BHCC largesse today?

28.6.18……On the 14th of June Cllrs on the Policy, Resources and Growth Committee heard new Council Leader, Cllr Dan Yates, begin the meeting by anouncing that the i360 item would not be taken – would be deferred. Here is The Agenda item from that meeting and here is webcast of Dan Yates’s announcement (3rd item Chairs Communications  Click THERE).
The Tories already knew this but distributed a new amendment at the meeting, all the same, before it convened.  They used the opportunity to flag it up and grandstand a bit about wanting the i360 decision THEN and not after a deferral.  Go to the webcast link above which is to item 3 (Chairs Comms) to hear the heated exchange between the Chair and Cllr Janio!  There is no webcast for item 10 on i360 as it was not heard.

There was a huge reaction from one Luke Johnson, owner of the West Pier, a man with a long history as not just a “serial entrepreneur” but also as a former Chairman of Channel 4 TV.  He emailed Councillors to say the i360 is insolvent, should not be bailed out, but rather taken over by BHCC (who largely paid for it to be built, so may as well now repossess it!).  He offered to run it with his pier. 

A week of no invitation to talk and he went to the media.  Here is the Argus coverage of his remarks.  And here is the first and best one that went up from Brighton & Hove News

The meeting, deferred til today, at 4pm, Hove Town Hall is in public (partly).  Here is The Agenda for it.  Note most of the meeting is in Part Two which is NOT IN PUBLIC.  Only the public part will be webcast.  Ahead of it Brighton & Hove News have today again weighed in with a bit of explanation about the slight changes to the agenda.
I was called on by BBC Southeast for the June 14 moment and again yesterday  for their local news bulletin.  Sussex Radio was also broadcasting after the June 14th deferral on this and I was called on to provide a sound bite for that too.  As well, both MP Caroline Lucas (defending the i360) and Jeremy Mustoe (Chair of the Brighton Society opposed to the neglect of other things to help it) debated a bit on the pros and cons.

Stay tuned!

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Just a yard, not a garden. What parent would want THIS for their toddlers Nursery School?

29..18…..The planning applications (two) for a Hove nursery school chain to potentially take over the basement of Hove Library and the sliver of yard outside will go to Committee next Wednesday, 6th of June for decision, recommended by officers to Grant.  BHCC already gave itself consent to strip out Listed radial shelving (see post below) – next week in fact.  No waiting to see if the nursery gets the basement.  Look at what is offered!
Don’t parents want their children to be able to PLAY outdoors?  The application has the cheek to call this a garden.  It is a yard.  And now a comment online from Env. indicates only 4-8 children would be permitted to use this “learning space” at any one time.  This is pretty painful salesmanship.  The worst kind of spin and bull.
Use of this narrow sliver of space behind the bayed back wall of Hove Library insults children, insults the neighbours who have to listen to the squealing and crying, the shrieks and arguments and it promises to disrupt anyone using the computer room inside what will be left of this Grade 2 Listed Library interior or doing work with the books or simply seeking the solitude and quiet of browing the book stacks.

To add your voice to the growing chorus, look at the plans for BOTH applications by the Nursery company – one for this yard and one for use of the basement and alterations to the Listed back wall on the ground floor.  Click here to access and comment separately on BOTH!  It is already too late to comment on the Listed application that BHCC gave itself consent for (officer decision). 

And come to the public meeting at Hove Library Thursday this week 6pm – 7:30 to meet the nursery people, the officers and cllrs who have no WILL to respect this building.

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The Hell that is BHCC’s contempt for Hove Library. A noisy nursery planned for its yard & basement

29.5.18…..Is there ANYTHING that any of us could ever do to get the Brightoncentric council to stop seeing Hove as a store cupboard it can raid to prop up sleazy old Brighton?  Or, in this case, to stop seeing the exceptional Grade 2 Listed Hove Library and its spectacular interior (buried under dross) as a way to pay for the Brighton Jubilee Library’s PFI contract obligations? The Labour Administration’s current Machievellian schemings see the front of the ground floor as baby boogie in the Children’s area as usual, with a cafe on the other side of the frontage.  At the back they will shortly rip out 3 more of the original 7 radial shelves that were ranged around the entire bayed back wall.  To comply with DDA legislation, 2 were removed 2004/5 for a disabled loo and offices.  Now they want MORE offices to replace book shelving so that a nursery school can have the basement and outside yard.  Only a token 2 of the original 7 Listed shelves (freestanding and against the windowed wall) are to be retained….for now.
These vile people have already smugly given themselves Listed planning consent to destroy three of the remaining five radial shelves and most knew nothing about it.  They refused to allow it to go to the planning committee for decision.  Officers made the decision and it was legal.  Immoral.  Unethical.  Sleazy.  But legal. And just look at this cheeky banner outside the side entrance.  Months before planning consent to use the basement FOR their wretched nursery school.
And from June 4th, the library is closed so they can demolish the Listed interior at will.  THIS is what you are losing:

Note they call it Essential Maintenance….

On Thursday, a PUBLIC MEETING WITH COUNCILLORS AND OFFICERS is being held at Hove Library .  People should turn up!  And defend this building!  Next week, even before they get the Planning Committee to rubber stamp the nursery applications, they will just demolish the interior.  See the Hove Library post two down for details.

STOP THE NURSERY!

The two nursery school planning applications are still live but go to Planning Committee next Wednesday.  Only 8 have objected to use of the basement for a nursery school and 40 piled into objecting but using the yard application number!!!!  Mayhem from cars picking up & delivering children to the nursery, squealies and tears all day long from the children (it is what this age group DO!), a cafe application to come and baby boogie continuing in the children’s library.  Quiet use of the library cannot continue if this happens.

THIS neglected application needs your URGENT attention and OBJECTION                                                          CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS

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The Hebrew Synagogue, New Church Road, Hove exhibits revised development plans

29.5.18…..The Hebrew Synagogue in New Church Road has been working on plans to densify use of its present site to incorporate housing, social facilities, like a shul and a café, along with a new synagogue.  Like all the churches they need to look to how they can secure the future of the synagogue, with a view to putting renewed life into this part of the Jewish community and its activities.  It is being financed by the Bloom Foundation.
A first set of plans were shown to Planning Committee cllrs at the end of 2017 and to a VERY small number of local residents.  Photos from the exhibition were passed to me then with great concern for what was proposed.  In the new year,  the grounds were cleared and trees were threatened just as the nesting season was starting but residents were very fast off the mark in getting BHCC onto it because of Tree Protection Orders on some of them.  Robert Walker, from Parks and Gardens, immediately attached NEW (but temporary) TPO orders on even more of the trees there.  Contacting the Argus resulted in an article about the tree threat.  The original plans called for tree losses.
A couple of years ago, Westbourne Ward lost about 14 mature elm trees after Dutch Elm Disease was found.  Sadly the source was traced to a badly stored woodpile at St. Christopher’s school on the corner of Westbourne Gardens (beside the synagogue site).  The school was not made to pay or replace them, nor did it offer.
Some years before that, on the opposite side of New Church Road, when a site with NHS buildings on It was redeveloped, mature trees were cut down THERE too.  It is, therefore, vital that the precious bank of trees on the synagogue site are retained.  Happily, their revised plans do pledge to keep all those with a TPO on them.
I was unable to attend the exhibition which was held afternoon/evening last Thursday and again Friday morning till 2pm.  Westbourne resident Paul Spirou, however, was kind enough to snap a few pictures of the model and flats which I can provide to you here so you are a bit informed along with details he emailed.
The plans have been revised downwards and forwards (to put it simply) in the wake of presentation to officers and planning committee members.  There is reduced height and proximity threat to the retired enclave at Carmel House, but a terrace of houses with their gardens adjacent will bring an unaccustomed level of activity outside their windows.  But would it be a problem, necessarily?  Depends on how many children, how much use and loud voices are to be expected!
Where there are currently two freestanding Edwardian era houses (used for nursery  school) at the front of the site with a line of trees between them, two huge, rather fiercely imposing blocks of flats are proposed.  Looking at the context view provided by the model, it is clear that height precedents are set in New Church Road up to about 8 storeys.
The entire scheme seeks to provide 70-80 bedrooms across the double site in 45 flats and a terrace of houses across the back boundary with gardens facing Carmel House to the north (with just a single entrance point in New Church Road – which has to be a concern).  Heights are from three up to about six storeys.  There is basement parking provision too – 45 spaces.  Access appears to be from the eastern boundary with egress down the western boundary.
Paul Spirou remains concerned, saying
It’s still too big, too tall – is taller in every way and with a larger footprint in every dimension – and will potentially turn a quiet site into a noisy one. I understand its an attempt to revitalise a community but there’s no evidence to support the ‘build it and they will come’ approach….”  
Perhaps they expect  to attract Jewish incomers seeking to leave London who might like to live in a purpose-built Jewish community compound, complete with synagogue and a shul for the kids to learn Hebrew, etc.  But are they creating a ghetto?  And is that a good or a bad thing?
The developers plan to submit their application in the first two weeks of June and hope to begin on-site demolition in October (lasting 3-4 months).  Their hope is to complete the redevelopment by September 2020 in time for religious festivals.  This seems a long build time but reflects that a LOT of building is planned.  Have a look at the gallery of photos below.

Precedent taller buildings in New Church Road bookend this view of the model showing the proposal looking north.

view north east showing the precedent taller buildings in New Church Road at either end – synagogue redev middle. Note Carmel House top middle behind redev site in the dog leg part of Westbourne Street that feeds into Westbourne Gardens.

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