Angsty Planning committee split! Medina House is approved on Chair’s Casting Vote

08.03.17…..How ironic.  The for/against public consultation split was duplicated at the meeting of the Planning Committee.  Nevertheless, an actual judgment had to be made by them.  Five voted for, five voted against, one did not show up and one abstained.  So the Chair’s casting vote had it.
Concerns mostly hinged on the 3-storey east wing and its unneighbourly impact on residents directly behind as well as just how much heritage value was salvageable in any retained conversion attempt and at what financial cost; and these issues were thoroughly explored by councillors. The lack of financial detail to demonstrate the unviability of retaining the existing structure was set against and beside the structural decay information provided by the applicants.  Concern for Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages light provision was considerable.
Sitting beside me were the Pilbrow architect (and partner at Pilbrow & Ptners), Keb Garavito Bruhn, and his PR team.  The victory should have made the architect happy but he left looking tense and unhappy.  Had the application been refused, a further small concession on heights given, and the application returned for a second vote, there would have been relief for residents and near unanimous support from councillors.  Instead….everyone left looking upset.  Including the winner!  Of course the applicants now have a list of 19 Conditions to fulfil so its not over.  Brickwork remains a bit of an issue.
The council officers said they placed reliance on Local Plan HE8, item C to underpin their support.  Councillors were minded to explore this a bit.  The benefit is to the townscape, the conservation area and some retention of heritage.  But it was acknowledged there is no benefit to existing residents and some negative impact.

HE8    Demolition in conservation areas

Proposals should retain buildings, structures and features that make a positive contribution to the character or appearance of a conservation area. The demolition of a building and its surroundings, which make such a contribution, will only be permitted where all of the following apply:

a)     supporting evidence is submitted with the application which demonstrates that the building is beyond economic repair (through no fault of the owner / applicant);

b)     viable alternative uses cannot be found; and

c)     the redevelopment both preserves the area’s character an would produce substantial benefits that would outweigh the building’s loss.

Three of the Planning Committee Members were absent.  Two sent in substitutes and one was a no-show.  On the Tory side, Cllr Jayne Bennett did not arrive.  Cllr Lynda Hyde sent Cllr Dee Simson to sub in her place. On the Labour side, Cllr Inkpen-Leissner sent in Cllr Kevin Allen to sub for him.

How the Planning Committee Councillors  spoke and voted

Greens Cllr Leo Littman was firmly in favour and voted with the recommendation to        Grant.    Cllr Phelim MacCafferty voted in favour, after consideration of why it was not a Listed bldg.
Labour:   Cllr Kevin Allen did not utter one word at any point in the meeting. He abstained.   Ward Cllr Clare Moonan voted against, but would vote for if there was height reduction.   Cllr Adrian Morris voted against, with concerns about neighbour impact and height.   Cllr Russel Moye voted against, but would vote for if there was height reduction.  Cllr Penny Gilbey voted for it.  Chair, Cllr Julie Cattell understood the 900mm plinth need and supported it.  Voted for and her casting vote for the application decided it.
Conservatives:  Cllr Carol Theobald was quite the cheerleader on this and voted for the application.  Cllr Dee Simson, subbing for Cllr Hyde need to see more on the financial viability issue to be confident, and lower east wing height and could not support just because better than the previous attempts.  She voted against.  Cllr Joe Miller voted against but would vote for it with proof of repair/restoration unviability on cost grounds, need to reduce east wing and depth of the 900mm privacy and flood mitigation plinth.
The meeting was webcast live on 8th March, uploaded 9th March (incomplete and in need of sorting), full version including Medina House expected to be online by 10th March.


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Medina House goes to the Planning Cttee for decision on 8th March ‘Minded to Grant’

28.2.17…..The original saveHOVE response was logged as a Comment but the subject line was “Qualified Support” to reflect the fact that there is a dilemma here.  Even with amendments, there are persisting concerns  over height for residents behind Medina House.  Removal of a few inches of height has been enough for the Planners, however, and they are now taking it to Committee with a ‘Minded to Grant’ recommendation.
Read:  The Report to the Planning Committee
Read: Response on headed paper from Cllr Wealls in support of resident interests which is included in paperwork to the Planning Committee.  Regrettably his most considered response, which he submitted using the online comment box,  based on his visit to 13 Sussex Road, and detailing window/light issues is not in Committee papers, and is presumably buried within the anonymity of the summarised and unattributed responses under Objections, Support and Comments, as is the saveHOVE main response.
Read:   Cllr Weall’s considered response to the height amendments not included in committee papers.
Read:  The main saveHOVE response before the slight height reduction amendments. See photo of back areas that NEED to be visited by the Planning Committee on a site visit!
Read: The formal supplementary saveHOVE response to the Report to Committee and height amendments.  It is regrettable that the officer’s Report fails to acknowledge the considerable saveHOVE involvement with an entry in the report or to supply the addresses of other respondents in the normal way.  There is a mixed response among us about supporting/objecting to the proposal but saveHOVE has conferrred with many and actively assisted residents to make their case to ensure the light loss issue gets properly focussed assessment.  And it is the reason for making a Comment only response.  Numbers of those objecting, supporting, commenting ONLY, without addresses are given in the Report which means the Report does not reflect the level of response of those most affected by the proposal and represents a huge departure from the norm.
Read:  supplementary saveHOVE representations made through the council’s online facility: one and two.
BH2016/05893 was received by BHCC on 31.10.16 and could have been expected to be decided before now. The increase in building height (2.7 metres) and addition of height along the back wall adjoining Victoria Cottages (the old pool area), where 3 storeys of height are proposed, does not comply with the Medina House Planning Brief which indicates that any replacement building should be no higher than existing.  There is also the question of how necessary demolition is.  The Brighton Society representative on the Conservation Advisory Group is an architect who believes the building CAN be converted and retained but CAG per se voted to recommend approval of the demolition and newbuild house proposed.  The applicants insist it is not financially viable to retain it.  There are grumbles about white brick (cream actually, and it would match Marrocco colourwise) with murmurings about preferring red brick because the original Medina House (under the 1923 render) is red brick.  If not this proposal, then what?  It is a lovely bit of architecture, but.but, but!
 It was the excellently realised objection from 13 Sussex Road, drawing attention to anticipated light loss to rear area rooms, over and above existing light loss from the bulk of Medina House – especially when low sunlight casts deep winter shadow – that led to the small shavings from height in amendments.  The level of light loss suffered already is about a third…substantial.  Basement area windows are worse.  Victoria Cottages at the sea end are also affected, but the Committee Report does not acknowledge their rear patio garden area need for sunlight, only the public footpath access to main Victoria Cottages entrances.
Ground floor flats in Bath Court within Sussex Road opposite the back part of Medina House  also stand to lose light from the proposed main building’s roof height increase of over 2 metres (even after height reduction).

Bath Court itself and Benham Court beside Marrocco are of a height that blocks sunlight from both Victoria Cottages and Sussex Road to a significant extent so  sunlight from above Medina House and through the demolished pool area is all that properties immediately behind actually get.  In winter the sun is too low to give much sunlight.  Their creation resulted in Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages losing a third of their sunlight and created significant overshadowing there.


View south: sunlight access between Benham Court and Bath Court needed for Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages….Photo 3.3.17 by Pennymay Griffin

Back in the 1960-80’s period Hove Council wanted to towerblock the entire little Kings Esplanade area!!!  Instead of those 3 blocks of flats that did go up, they should have put in two or three more little terraced streets running north/south either side of Sussex Road and Victoria Cottages to create the same amount of housing without anyone losing light.  Space would not have been wasted on ugly car parks either.

On 15th February 2017 letters were sent to existing objectors informing of amendments to the proposal and giving a period of consultation up to 1.3.17  for comment on the height reduction.  And it is not huge. 500mm off the main building apex (half a metre), 420 mm comes off the 3 storied back wall of the existing old pool area and 220 mm comes off the chimney.  When Pennymay Griffin spoke with the planning officer she was given to understand that officers feel this reduction provides the “step down” to Victoria Cottages that they needed to see and, on balance, benefit now outweighs detriment.
But the light levels issue created by the heights proposed just does not go away.
The report does reflect a lot of the application negatives, so the Committee will hopefully wonder why it is recommended ‘Minded to Grant’ and be motivated to come along to 13 Sussex Road, the twitten and Victoria Cottages on a site visit before making their decision.
1.1.17 update…..The objection from Cllr Wealls which is currently missing from the online Agenda bundle for Committee (see above link to the objection) will be added to the Late List on Friday, ahead of the Committee meeting.  Neil Vowles is today preparing an article for The Argus.  Final objections have been lodged by the residents who would be most affected by light loss from the height level of the proposed newbuild which can be viewed on the Planning Register.  A site visit has been requested.  It is hoped that Pilbrow have a further potential concession in reserve (on height) which they can offer either before Planning or during the meeting.  And where are the demolition/logistical plans for the newbuild if they get consent?  Residents need to know.
Please note:  Neil Williams from 13 Sussex Road will speak for objectors on Wednesday at Planning.

Do have a look at the estimable Judy Middleton on the subject of Medina House and note this paragraph below taken from her blogpost.  Anyone supporting arguments to convert what is left of Medina House NOW, needs to understand the state it was already in, that cement render was required to stabilise it in 1923.  The bricks used in building it were very porous and did not last well.  Architects say they are just powder in places now.  So what of the original materials are reasonably salvageable?

“In 1916 the Borough Surveyor reported the external condition of the brick and terracotta was in a serious state of decay and it was too expensive to cut out and replace the defective parts. Therefore it would be better to render the whole surface with Portland cement; in 1918 sanction was obtained to borrow £800 in order to carry out the work. In the event, rendering did not take place until 1923 when Parsons & Sons agreed to undertake the work for £1,279.”

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The 17 and 18 Seafield Rd sub-divisions into anything are, were and remain ILLEGAL

23.2.17…..It is surprising to read the Decision and Report concerning applications for Certificates of Lawfulness to turn a load of bedsits with shared facilities into self contained units (for possible use by West Pier Project clients); surprising too that it took so long for the Refusals to come (with a twist to the tale!).
Each of these two addresses was already sub-divided into 10 bedsits each (with both shared kitchen and bathroom use for some and just shared bathrooms for others.  Application  BH2016/06234 for 17 and BH2016/0621 for 18 sought to make everything self-contained.
Just one problem:  the existing bedsits were there entirely illegally – no consent to sub-divide and no HMO licence!!  According to a Seafield Road resident these two addresses had people living in them up to Christmas and the buildings have for at least 4 weeks now been undergoing renovation work AS PER THE NOW REFUSED APPLICATIONS TO SELF CONTAIN.  They have to stop, apply for retrospective planning consent of some kind and residents should immediately seek a stop by reporting the ongoing building works to Enforcement.

The two jawdropping Reports which refuse the applications are more or less identical and devastating to read.  Here is the one for 18!

And here is the Decision Notice for 18, signed today and placed online here!

It is worth just adding this little note on “sui generis” uses as it is relevant to this situation.  It comes from

Sui generis use class in planning

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order categorises uses of land and buildings. Developments may not be used for purposes that are not within the use class for which they received planning permission. Changing the use of a development from one class to another may require planning permission, although changes of use may be permitted without the need for a planning application for certain allowable uses (for example changing a restaurant into a shop – see permitted development).
Sui generis’ buildings are those that do not fall within any particular use class. The Latin term ‘sui generis‘ means ‘of its own kind’.
Sui generis buildings include:
  • Theatres.
  • Houses in multiple paying occupation.
  • Hostels providing no significant element of care.
  • Scrap yards.
  • Petrol filling stations and shops selling and / or displaying motor vehicles.
  • Retail warehouse clubs.
  • Nightclubs.
  • Launderettes.
  • Dry cleaners.
  • Taxi businesses.
  • Amusement centres.
  • Casinos.
A material change of use from a sui generis use, or to a sui generis use, will require planning permission.
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Gaming the planners irresponsibly: a case example of what Developers get up to.

12.1.17…..I have tried, in my waving little tall poppy way, to defend the planning system and the beleaguered planning officers from time to time when developers bemoan them as obstructive and unfair….when they are NOT.   In the main, I do it in comment trails behind Argus or Brighton and Hove News articles online or in an ebrief to saveHOVE supporters. 
This case example spells it out, in an article worthwhile reading and remembering.  I hesitate (but do it anyway) to compare this applicant with anyone else, but the name of Sirus Taghan and Medina House came to mind when reading it. So many others COULD have.  Witholding important information is a gaming norm with developers looking to get around the system, their profit motive being all that concerns them.
Next time you hear a developer complain about the shockingly bad planning department that takes too long to get them a decision (in their favour), just remember this example, would you, please?
Planning refusal for a 44 unit elderly residential home on a persistant flood site in Patcham


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King Alfred. Rumours; questions; with answers from the Horse’s Mouth

01.01.2017…..A tantalising comment appeared in one of Tim Ridgway’s weekly Argus columns which hinted at a Crest Nicholson attempt to get numbers of flats increased at the expense of Starr Trust community space.  That told me a Karis, Mark 2, situation was brewing…..
I rang Tim for a chat.
Developers were gossiping and he’d been listening. ‘Crest underquoted to get the gig’.  ‘Crest are now moving on the Starr Trust to concede space to more housing’.  ‘Crest are trying to edge the Starr Trust out of the deal with BHCC and take it all’.  Those are the rumours.  My mother would call the Crest aggression ‘dirty pool’.  If they would do it to the partner that GOT them the gig, they would do it to the Council and the public is my view.
The concession has already been made down to some bookable community rooms, including the 300-seater which could take film clubs, intimate performances – not what was originally hoped for (rehearsal studios and a major performance venue plus a Starr Trust base).  And on the esplanade side there is only a miserable little coffee shop space with two mean little tables outside for beach visitors and esplanade walkers (in the drawings).  In other words, not enough for the public inconvenience of all that proposed housing plus leisure centre, which will swamp the Kings Esplanade beach colony and create road use havoc.
The huge bookable Hove Town Hall venue which hosted entertainments and events. is no more…and needs replacement somewhere else IN HOVE.  Where, if not here? At King Alfred itself, we are losing the sprung dance-floored ballroom which is ALSO a popular weddings venue; so that flexible use, 300 seater of Starr’s is non-negotiable in my books.
Ahead of Hanukkah and Christmas, I emailed Rob Starr.
“Not hearing good things about Crest Nicholson and KA, Rob.  And it starts to look like Karis all over again with your dream treated as expendable.  Are you being bullied by Crest Nicholson?”, I askedHe got back to me saying “this is not and will never be another Karis”.  He confirmed that, as agreed, “it is still including 20% affordable…it is still delivering the Community spaces I had in from day 1….and the increases in residential are actually very low in numbers.  The Development Agreement is being drawn now by solicitors from both sides and will be signed in the new year as agreed.  In fact a letter of reasssurance went to BHCC just this morning from the Board of Crest confirming all this….” 
I appreciated his reply but wanted to say more and learn more.  So I went back to him, referred to the lost Hove Town Hall venue that needs replacing in Hove and said his 300 seater was required as minimum.  I told him “I don’t want just a dormitory there with a leisure centre” and said the proposed “coffee shop onto the esplanade is far too small” and that I feel it is only right he “gets a Starr Trust base out of this too.  How many units of housing now?” 
He was straight with me.   He confirmed the large 300 seater and other community rooms STAY in the plan. “Flats will be about an additional 80; over the whole site it’s a small number”.  I disagree.  But I don’t forget that the Karis monster got planning consent for over 750 flats.  Click on King Alfred in the tag cloud for related King Alfred articles and on for some details about the proposal I got from a meeting with Rob Starr some while back about what is planned.  And add “about 80” to 580….. 
If we do not want another Karis (Crest Nicholson bullying, with cooperation from a desperate-for-housing-numbers Brighton & Hove City Council Labour Administration complicit), which saw a few visits to the P&R committee to get ever increasing numbers of flats agreed (on financial viability grounds), a degree of support for the Starr Trust is going to be needed from the public.  But how much?  And concerning what details?  The entire scheme is seriously overwhelming.  But a precedent decision to agree 750 flats (Karis) is THERE.  Unfortunately, so is the District Valuer’s assessment of that Karis scheme as “borderline unviable”.   This time BHCC is putting some money into the scheme too, so the public is owed a much greater say in what is going to happen.
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