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News - 21 March 2010

Royal Alex: a case of arrested development?

Brighton & Hove City Council is proposing to introduce a new planning brief this week to save the abandoned children’s hospital in Dyke Road from demolition.

The 1880s hospital, vacated by the NHS Trust in 2006, was purchased for £10m by house building company Taylor Wimpey which submitted a planning application in late 2007 for demolition and construction of 150 flats [40% affordable], a GP surgery & pharmacy and a public open park.

In March 2008 city planning officers recommended the refusal of the application on the grounds that the design would be detrimental to the Clifton Hill & Montpellier conservation area and Taylor Wimpey withdrew it and resubmitted later in the year with minor modifications.

This time the plans gained the approval of officers but the planning committee rejected the new proposals in December 2008 and Taylor Wimpey took the decision to Appeal, which they lost in June 2009 [see earlier story].

Now the Conservative administration will publish a planning brief, which will require any future redevelopment to retain the main building of the hospital. This is despite English Heritage declining to list it on the grounds that it had been subject to too much alteration over the decades and the District Valuer’s view that the site is of only borderline profitability even if demolition was allowed. The brief will protect the open space to the south of the main block and any new development must be no more than five storeys in height.

Taylor Wimpey, a company with a market capitalisation of over £1bn, have not committed to any new application and, given the current state of flux of the housing market, are likely to wait several years for an improvement in the economy before revisiting the site.

The managers of the Sussex County Hospital in Eastern Road will have been following the unravelling of the Royal Alex with nervous interest because their proposals include the demolition of buildings dating from the 1830s [see later story]. They have also not been deemed good enough to be granted listed status but local residents are keen to see them retained. Health service managers insist that they are too old and dilapidated to provide the care that patients need but conservation groups have them firmly in their sights.

Read related items on:
Development sites
Brighton & Hove City Council
Taylor Wimpey
Dyke Road

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