In a surprise defeat for developer Brunswick Group, the planning committee voted 9 to 3 yesterday to reject the planning application for a 40 storey tower at Brighton marina that would have provided nearly 1000 homes for the city, nearly 400 of which would have been affordable housing
Despite being recommended for approval by the city council’s officers the vagaries of the planning system meant that the elected members on the planning committee were able to reject the application.
This is a blow for the developer but also for the city since it was rejected on the grounds that it would be an over-development which would be out of scale with the its surroundings and generate too much traffic.
Brunswick had made efforts to reduce traffic by a drastic reduction in the number of parking spaces for the development (planning regulations would have allowed 1 parking space per flat but the application was for well under 200). They had also worked closely with Brighton & Hove Bus Company to provide enhanced public transport links and a car club and had pledged £1.2m towards a rapid transit system and improvements to the cycling and walking networks.
ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT
The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership supported the application, which was always likely to be controversial because it included a tall tower that opponents (mainly residents in the immediate area) felt was too much for a location close to the Kemp Town conservation area.
In a town that has more conservation areas than any other in the UK it is hard to find anywhere that isn’t close to one. Because the tower was positioned at the end of the outer harbour it was actually over 400 metres away from the conservation area but would obviously be visible from considerable distances.
Nevertheless, given the overwhelmingly positive passage below from the officers report it is an extraordinary decision on the part of the committee to reject the application (which makes an appeal almost inevitable) :-
"English Heritage and the council’s Conservation and Design team do not consider that the proposal would harm the setting of the Kemp Town Conservation Area or listed buildings and gardens within it, and the proposal would not adversely affect the character or appearance of the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) and the Architects Panel are broadly supportive of scale, massing and design of the scheme. The council’s Head of Transport Planning and Policy raises no objection to the scheme, which meets the council’s transport objectives. The development would significantly enhance sustainable modes of transport and pedestrian and cyclist links into and within the site. The proposal would not generate significant traffic or compromise highway safety. The council’s Sustainability team supports the proposal as the development is highly sustainable incorporating energy efficient building practices, with 25% of the residential units meeting an EcoHomes standard of ‘Excellent’ and 75% meeting a standard of ‘Very Good’. The development would meet a range of housing needs including 40% affordable housing provision in accordance with Local Plan Policy. The amenity of existing and prospective residents would not be compromised by the development. The development has due regard for sites of ecological and archaeological importance and the council’s Ecologist and English Heritage raise no objection"
The problem for developers in 21st Century Brighton is that they just don’t have the land to build at low level. The city exhausted realistic options for horizontal development decades ago and now has to consider building up if we are to accommodate our workforce. Tall towers will always be controversial because they are inevitably in someone else’s view but this isn’t a reason to reject them.
As the glowing extract from the planning report above testifies, Brunswick is a model developer in that they wholeheartedly supported the local authority’s policy of discouraging car use and volunteered 40% affordable housing at a time when the Local Plan inspector had made it quite clear that 25% was the acceptable minimum.
The rejection of the Marina tower places a question mark next to a number of other developments planned for the city: -
- Although the Ice Arena at Black Rock next to the Marina does not include tall towers, it will generate considerably more traffic when it hosts events attended by up to 11,000 people.
- The King Alfred redevelopment at the other end of the seafront in Hove is barely much smaller in terms of the number of homes and includes two towers about half the height of the Marina application. A planning application has already been lodged.
- The proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS) is supposed to link developments at the Marina and Black Rock with the city centre, railway station and park and ride on the outskirts of town. The preferred route would also service American Express and the hospital in Edward Street. If the developments at the Marina and Black Rock do not happen, half the reason for having an RTS disappears.
At a time when Brighton & Hove desperately needs affordable homes and employment opportunities for its workforce, this decision sends out the wrong message to developers and the business community.
Read related items on:
Park & Ride
Rapid Transit System
Brunswick Development Group