1-3 Ellen Street BH2016/02663 – official consultees object, compromised amenity societies support!

29.10.16…..A SERIOUSLY polarised picture is emerging as between the positions taken by the Regency Society, The Hove Civic Society, with the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum and the many internal, Brighton & Hove City Council  consultee responses.  The extent to which developers and architects have infiltrated or influenced amenity societies and groups to try to steer outcomes their way has never been shown more clearly.  It is ruthless, in ruthless times, as income and profit are sought by them.  That is not what amenity societies should be about.  And for the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum to be getting in bed with developers might come as news to most of its membership (who signed up to creation of a Neighbourhood Plan to eventually put beneath and influence the City Plan).
These days public and official consultation responses are being parked online behind application documents which makes it possible for easy viewing of them, instead of having to ask to view the officer Case File to follow an application’s progress.  This is, however, deterring people from having their say.  Indeed even the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum’s 15 pages of rambling praise and support for this massive overdevelopment FAILS to carry any form of address on it – not so much as an email address.  Some people are using name and post code or just name, neighbour consultee letter number (if they got a letter), and/or email address.  It is all being accepted by the council.  But back to the issue that needs attention!
Here is a clip from the end of the BHCC Policy consultation response:
capture-1-3-ellen-st-policy-response-clipThis is a shocking rebuke!!!!!  But it is also just one example too of expert condemnation of the application, over and above the felt need to chastise the HSNF.  Go to the Planning Register and input address/planning ID number and read what Arboriculture has to say, what Housing has to say.  Actually, look at THIS from what Housing has to say:  there is no affordable identified, no wheelchair accessible identified.  And space standards are homed in on.  Some 25% of the 188 flats do not meet nationally described space standards!
capture-1-3-ellenst-housing-response-clipThere is more, much more.  Have a look.  Do note, however, that should this application be withdrawn, all the online documentation will also be withdrawn and become inaccessible.  But these bits are copied and saved here!  To shame them.
David Robson (an architect) has provided the Regency Society response, recommending approval of his friend Nick Lomax’s design for this scheme.  Nick is of course merely designing to a stupid brief for an overdevelopment from MATSIM.  The client dictates.  But what is Robson thinking? Why does the Regency Society not worry about all the things that the officer consultees do?  About unliveably small spaces?  Negative impacts?  Is it because the building trades and developers have too much influence there now?
And what about the Hove Civic Society support for the scheme?  Its Chair is also on the HSNF Committee – no conflict of interest there?  Do the members of any of the societies know what is being said and done in their names?  Or do they just belong to them for the social life provided?  Sadly for city planning, these two registered charities (Regency Society and Hove Civic) enjoy still trade on past glory and receive consideration by the Planning Department.  Hard to believe BOTH societies were established to protect threatened townscape.
Is undersized provision of parking spaces for humans Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum policy?  NO, NO, NO!! It  is outrageous for HSNF to put its name to an application with 25% undersized flats!
How is it possible that the Conservation Advisory Group puts in a response saying it is divided in opinion on this application?  This also happened years ago when a Regency Society Committee member put in a letter of support on their official behalf for glass penthouses on top of the Old Market.  She was rumbled (by me) and the Society WITHDREW that support.  But a right old rumpus ensued, ending with an appalling paragraph in the report to committee saying the Regency Society were divided and would not be giving an opinion.  On the Listed Regency Old Market.  Appalling.  The reason it is happening is because those in unquestioning favour of driving development or just promoting their own interests are proactively seeking and gaining a voice in amenity groups and societies.  Of the big three traditional groups, the Brighton Society alone provides a strong impartial voice, as do the smaller societies and local residents groups (and saveHOVE!).
This application and the consultation responses viewable online right now show just how severe the compromising of such groups has become.  The council is predisposed to wanting and seeking applications that provide new housing in the huge numbers that Planning Inspectors demand are provided in Brighton & Hove.  It is therefore very important to note the depth of antipathy to this application from the internal council consultees and to lament and question the mischief that is destroying the credibility of both the Hove Civic Society and the Regency Society along with the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum who all need to cool their excitement for development and become impartial.  Which they are not.
As for MATSIM!  In 2012 they were outrageously overambitious and greedy and got slapped down so they never even put in their application.  No lessons learned because they are back with this one.  A VERY greedy application which according to the Housing consultee response is in the hands of the District Valuer now for assessment of their claim that they cannot afford to include affordable housing (of the 188 flats, just 10 rentals and 9 shared ownerships are now grudgingly suggested, but not identifying which of the undersized or appropriately sized they would give).  Be clear.  MATSIM own the shed part of the city block which could not have cost them very much, frankly.  So…..

NB:  The first post on this up to 17 storeys block of 188 flats, offices and retail application (with guideline site photos and some updating to it a couple of times) can be accessed by clicking on this link

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Medina House….the case for demolition reviewed

18.10.16…..By now I think many of us were expecting to see a newly submitted and registered application for Medina House, out for public consultation.  The public exhibition on 17th September has been and gone and perhaps before writing this, I should have made an enquiry….but I did this instead.
The Planning Register contains details of previously registered applications (those which were not withdrawn), the documentation and decision notices.  Without the planning application ID numbers it can be tricky to get to everything.  Put in Medina House, put in MEDINA HOUSE, put in Kings Esplanade, put in 9 Kings Esplanade and differing info comes up in spite of the Planning area IT having been overhauled recently.
For the record, the last (most recent) application was BH2014/03898.  Its delegated decision notice providing REFUSAL is dated 4 March 2015. So why am I looking at this stuff now…..   There are specific issues which the new owners/applicants will seek to address in order to achieve a planning consent.  They will be looking at Decision Notices, at previous reasons for refusal and addressing them.
Height is an issue for residents behind Medina House, which needs to be as existing.  Underdevelopment as a single family dwelling MAY exercise BHCC who are desperately seeking increased units of housing.  Building Condition and structural integrity are a further serious sticking point for the developer because of its status in planning policy documentation.   Just how open to professional interpretations and opinions the keep/demolish issue is must be tested by any new application.  When the new application appears, consultees will need to look at their structural survey which will almost certainly be there to justify demolition.  In our meetings with the current architects, there has been criticism of Taghan’s structural reports.  When the time comes, you may wish to ‘compare and contrast’ – because proof Medina House is “beyond economic repair” has to be proved.
Here are a few links for you:
1.    The 2014 application initially submitted a 2012 10-page letter from Powell Williams Building Consultancy, uploaded 19 November 2014 – labelled  ‘structural survey’ on the council website, but called ‘initial findings’ by Powell Williams.  They concluded it was “technically feasible” to convert the building to “3 flats”.  The March 2012structural inspection report‘  from Design Consultancy Civil and Structural Engineers Ltd  was also uploaded 19 November 2014
2.     In February of 2015, further documentation was added, no doubt in an attempt to prevent a refusal.  A  Stiles Harold Wilson Building Condition Surveycarrying a January 2015 date, was prepared by a Building Surveyor and uploaded 9 February 2015  and VERY misleadingly labelled on the council’s planning register list of documents as a  Structural Survey.   Four of the five appendices were uploaded behind it.  The one not uploaded was (c) Feasibility – so basically, all this last-minute additional material addressed cost.   (a) Asbestos Remediation quote   (b) A 2013  Viability Assessment   (d)  The 2012 (again) Powell Williams Building Consultancy 10 page letter    (e)  The March 2012 (again) Design Consultancy 2012 Structural report
3.     And the application was  refused a month later, the case not having been made for demolition.    Decision Notice for BH2014/03898
So what has changed, 18 months on?  What is the difference between a ‘Structural Inspection Report’, a ‘Building Condition Survey’ and a ‘Structural Survey’ – more than just fiddling with semantics I hope.
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Developer explains King Alfred delay in a letter published in the Argus

4.10.16…..Last Friday, 30th September, the Argus lead letter was from Rob Starr, Chairman of The Starr Trust – one half of the development team, with Crest Nicholson, chosen by Brighton & Hove City Council to redevelop the King Alfred site.  It is unusual for a developer to be so open and looking to speak to the  public in this way.  He wanted to explain why the project timetable has been put back by some months and what the silence is about.
The letter went into the print edition which people may have missed seeing.  I think it is worth us all reading this and Mr. Starr has been good enough to supply the text of what he sent to The Argus for saveHOVE to reproduce here.
“Is there a delay in completion of the King Alfred regeneration Project?  If there is then the delay probably started about 30 years ago. 
The best way I can answer the question of further delays is to ask what is important; starting the project or completing the project?  For me personally, whilst I often find the pace frustrating and the delays disappointing, it is the extra time we take now that will mean the project will be delivered on time.  Surely it is the quality of the project and the completion date that are the important things and not the pace in which we work to achieve that.
The timings that have always been important to me are that we would have a year to engage with the public & complete the necessary planning agreements, and that we would complete the project by the end of 2020 and exceed everyones expectations.  Those were, and remain, my aims. Right now there have been no suggestion that this will not happen.  My partners at Crest Nicholson and the team at Brighton & Hove City Council are all doing their best to make sure this project is delivered as best as it can be and as quickly as possible.
Certainly we are taking more time than anticipated on the legal agreements, the financial modelling and building up the most exciting and dynamic team to deliver this project.  But surely it is only correct to do all this before we start public consultations and certainly before we start physically on site.  Perhaps if the previously failed schemes for King Alfred had taken as much care in the due diligence as we are taking then they would not have failed.  Remember that a lot has changed in the world since we started out on this journey, so it is only correct that we take the time to adjust and correct constantly to ensure that we get it right.
Any project the size and important of the King Alfred regeneration project must be given every care and attention; we owe the site and the City that much.  We always said that if we ensure we get it absolutely right from the beginning that once we physically get onto site there would be no reason for the project to be halted, delayed or at worst stopped.  By taking our time now and crossing every T and dotting every I we can make sure that there can be as few surprises as possible once we start the physical work; surely that it the correct approach.  This is not only true for major property development but it is equally true for work on a private house, for business projects, for charity fundraising, for arts, for sport, for education; the list goes on and on – it is said that if you fail to prepare then you prepare to fail. My partners and I will not allow this project to fail. If we need to take more time now to ensure that the project goes ahead and completes on time then I will fight for that every step of the way.
Do I find it frustrating that we have not already completed the agreements; of course.  Do I find it disappointing that we are not already in consultation with the public; of course.  But I would be far far more frustrated if the project had stalled half way through because we have not taken the time right now to plan it correctly.
The King Alfred regeneration project will go ahead and will exceed all expectations.  
Rob Starr,
Chairman The Starr Trust”
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MEDINA HOUSE – a first image is released of the proposed redevelopment


This Pilbrow CGI shows how the newbuild ‘ghost’ reinterpretation of Medina House has the potential to visually reintegrate Marrocco next door back into the Esplanade frontage by way of its past/present linking position and appearance.

16.9.16…..The King Alfred ballroom hosted a formal public consultation Exhibition of plans on Thursday, September 15th and again on Saturday, September 17th ahead of finalising the scheme for a planning application.  Consultation forms were available and people were encouraged to use them to provide their views and suggestions.  The public feedback will be collated and put into a document for inclusion as part of the set of documents for the planning application.  
Medina House design could still change ahead of planning application submission. Have your say 17.9.16!

My photo of the model does not clearly show the shuttered windows on the Sussex Rd elevation, alas – apols for that. Please note design changes are still possible ahead of the final submission of a planning application


The designers of the Medina House proposal are Stuart  Westwater and Keb Garavito-Bruhn of the architecture firm Pilbrow and Partners working to a brief from Polly Samson.
In the wake of August consultation meetings provided to small groups of people, the designers have reduced the height by a metre from 3.7m higher than existing to 2.7m.  Recessed dormer windows were also removed from the roof leaving just those visible here.  The apex of the roof was shaved flat (part of height reduction!!) and two roof lights added to it.  Extra solar panels could also be added along that line in future but are not included now.  Solar panels ARE however in the plans along the back wall area over the winter garden.  There is a tree proposed for the yard.  Lou Stack tells me a tree was removed from the rear of a Victoria Terrace address awhile back that “was the southernmost tree in England”.  If that was right, then a tree in this sheltered spot would take that title. A tree would also soften the appearance of the brickwork if it goes above the wall or oversails it a bit.
Privacy was designed in from the off –  by putting the windows higher up from the pavement, but inside too, there will be deep shelves putting space between the actual glass and interior area. On the western elevation, towards the back there are two lines of narrow, permanent shutters along with two wider actual windows with openable shutters (not sure if that is a change or was there before).
Those attending Thursday’s exhibition date were largely pleased and even keen.  Criticisms included “bland”, “industrial looking” and “no privacy with queues of people in front of it waiting to buy ice cream from Marrocco”.  The terracotta swag at the top of the existing sea-facing wall of Medina House was referred to as a detail wanted for the new frontage.  I suggested maybe getting a stonemason to carve something into the brick. A further comment behind the Argus article showing the top image here (provided by Pilbrow), objected, saying ” it looks like a mosque”!!!   
The Planning Application is due to be submitted by the end of September, 2016.  The architects have had pre-application meetings with both officers and the Planning Committee (most of whom turned up for it).  Feedback to them was apparently pretty minimal.

Medina House Building Condition

Medina House was built with “red rubber” bricks (a term, no actual rubber in them) and its’ four outside walls are load-bearing.  By 1923 the cheap and porous bricks were already in poor condition, which is WHY the surface was rendered.  That render is not original and was put there to keep the building going in 1923.  They only lasted 30 years before needing that!  And 1923 was 93 years ago.  Pilbrow’s architects tell me that the bricks have gone “powdery” in parts of the eastern elevation.  This detail supports their survey and contention that the building is beyond economic recovery and conversion. 
Photos in exhibition flats this week showed some of the totally burnt out and blackened interior which two arsons inflicted.  What, in truth, is there left to keep for any regeneration project?  There ARE people who insist it can still be saved.  So they need to provide clear and credibl evidence for their planning responses.
There are cost implications for any project here which need to be soberly considered in working out just how far past recovery Medina really is.  It is known from Land Registry that Polly Samson paid OVER £1m to Sirus Taghan to acquire the site.  It is chokemaking to think of him getting a penny more than he originally paid for the privilege of irresponsible ownership and negligence over 17 years – just £300,000 in 1998.  Clearance, asbestos removal, securing the site, ground investigations (for a foundation), architects and PR firm fees, the planning application prep and council fee….how much more has been invested to this stage over the £1m plus  paid for Medina House?
Only the back wall area with the Royal Doulton tiles still attached will be retained, for incorporation into the newbuild winter garden at the back of the courtyard.  It has to be kept in order to keep the tiles.  It means that the eastern elevation blue tiles will be lost as they cannot be removed from the brick wall without being lost.

A polished halo moment!  We stopped Sirus Taghan building any of THESE!

Our achievement: none of Taghan's horror towers got planning consent!

Our achievement: none of Taghan’s horror towers got planning consent!

I would like to put something to everyone here:  David Gilmour is concerned about the heritage lamps along the Esplanade from The Meeting House cafe to Hove Lagoon.  BHCC have put temporary heads on some and say there is a cost implication keeping them there.  Mr. Gilmour would like to see a campaign to get this sorted; plus, what do others think of the light-colour change from warm to cold white?  And is it even an option to seek a change on that front?  Email saveHOVE with your thoughts please.  According to one of the Pilbrow architects working on Medina, other than the new and much harsher light colour IS possible these days.  The council are poor and getting poorer so any serious campaign would need to involve fundraising.
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Medina House – Our 2nd August meeting with the Project Team

5.9.16…..In the wake of saveHOVE’s post upon first learning of redevelopment plans, we had a meeting with the architects at the Cornerstone Community Centre, Palmeira Square on August 2nd. 
Six of us met with Keb Garavito-Bruhn from Pilbrow & Partners – the architects engaged by Polly Samson – and others from the project team putting this newbuild scheme into planning form.  Only six could be accommodated and they were:  Ruth and Barbara from Benham Court, David from Bath Court, retired architect John Small, terracotta specialist Amy Frankie Smith and Valerie.  David’s ground floor flat is at the back of Bath, facing Sussex Road and Barbara’s in Benham is at current Medina House roof height.  They were chosen because height had to be discussed and they were in a position to offer informed views on that as closely affected.
It was stressed to the architects that they needed to meet especially with Victoria Cottages and Sussex Road residents and they said letters had gone out to them.  Unfortunately only daytime meetings were offered and this has caused a certain amount of bad feeling with residents who missed out.  But the public exhibition at King Alfred, from 4-8pm on the Thursday, 15th and again from 10-2pm on Saturday, 17th ahead of a planning application means they are not being bypassed.

The Royal Doulton Tiles

It was pleasing to learn that Amy’s Fellowship paper on the Medina House bespoke Royal Doulton tiles had been read by the architects.  Indeed, they will remain in touch with her as their project progresses.  The proposal includes retention of the remaining tiles on the back wall area.

Building Condition 

There is a limit to how much a building can take and still remain viable for restoration/re-use.  Has that limit been reached?  This is a key question which the planning application will have to answer.  Loss of the existing Medina House will inevitably be resisted, as loss of the West Pier is STILL resisted, even now!

Ruth and Valerie wanted to see both the 2012 Survey of Medina House and the Planning Brief we worked so hard to achieve addressed at this meeting.
They have of course done a new survey.  Keb Garavito-Bruhn, presenting to us, said that the steel joist claims from the 2012 survey were faulty and that structural issues with the outside (retaining) walls included a sunken area a metre deep and one wall with a blown out area.  It is their view that the building cannot be converted/saved.  The building has suffered 18 years of abuse, including two arsons since 2012, the last of which saw roof trusses removed to facilitate a roof collapse (which did not happen).

The Proposal

Demolition, with the ghost of Medina House made solid is what is proposed, effectively.  It is clear Polly Samson (and husband David)  gave the architects this brief.  And a very poetic rebirth is what is proposed.  Lazarus, the phoenix arisen – call it what you like – that is what we looked at.
Newbuilds which incorporate material from demolished sites is not a new thing, and when done well, keep the spirit of the old building alive.  But in this case, the entire shape and detailing of Medina House is repeated, but clad in ‘chalk’ coloured brick.  The clay bricks are narrow and textured.  The Magistrates Court in Lansdowne Road uses it on an end wall.  At the back of the filled-in pool area, the tiling is to be kept on that back wall within a glass-fronted ‘winter garden’.
The design has some elegance in spite of Pilbrow’s website showing their work to be about big, muscular, knuckle-duster blocks and towers.  It is clear the Gilmours had a lot of input into this design – because it is quiet.  No muscular swagger or screaming look-at-me ugliness.  It is very likeable.

Design issues

HEIGHT:  The newbuild ‘Medina House’ was proposed to us to be 3.7 metres higher than at present. This is partly because of ground conditions so close to the sea and need to be flood free but also because of need to put windows higher up for privacy.  So the ground floor inside would be raised up a bit.  Nevertheless height is a contentious issue.
Strong representations were made at our meeting about this increase and it remains to be seen whether the height will come down.  David and Barbara have overshadowing and views issues of some severity.  Valerie went to bat for the tiny Victoria Cottages and Sussex Road homes and gardens directly behind the back wall.  They are not well served with light now and planning officers have in the past indicated to Valerie that nothing higher than the present building could replace Medina House.  We made it clear this was a non-negotiable issue for us.  And it affects the Bath Court flats facing Sussex Road too.
ROOFSPACES:  Quite a lot is expected of the newbuild, including useable rooms in the roofspace and the recessed dormer windows, along with big chimneys, are not beautiful.  One of the features of the existing Medina House which gives it its unique quality and presence is its big, deep, unbroken roof.  It was stressed that the house needed to accommodate extended family, blah, blah.  What matters in planning terms, however, is how the building fits into the Cliftonville Conservation Area, the townscape, how it impacts on neighbours, and its long-term value, use and convertibility (to other uses than as a single dwelling), etc.
We do not forget that Polly was once said to have thought a spa on this site would be good….and many would STILL like this to be what is done with Medina House.
PARKING:  There are parking spaces adjacent to Medina House in Sussex Road and there has been some discussion about trying to get them moved.  It is unlikely that the applicants will pursue this.
MATERIALS:  John Small asked about the bricks for cladding the newbuild.  They are clay bricks, narrow and textured.  Described as white, they are in fact chalk white which is creamy.  Is this an appropriate material to use on this site?  It is a consideration.  A building that is too ‘muscular’ on this site could be overbearingly Grand.  Materials contribute to the overall impression in this regard – enhancing or diminishing how imposing it would be. Indeed, Amy wondered what red brick would be like….

The Public Exhibition of Plans

 King Alfred ballroom.

 Thursday, September 15th from 4pm to 8pm and Saturday, September 17th from 10am to 2pm

Members of the project team will be on hand to discuss the scheme and how it has changed since we met with them on 2nd August.
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