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News - 21 September 2011
The Astoria

Greens face first big planning test

The proposal to demolish the 78 year old Astoria Cinema in Gloucester Place and replace it with a £2.2m office development was always going to be a difficult test for the new administration. They passed it.

Probably, if the new Green city council were free to choose their first major application to come before the planning committee they wouldn’t have picked the proposal to demolish a listed cinema [albeit abandoned for 15 years and derelict beyond repair] in a Green ward that was high in the affections of many residents.

The decision to give the go ahead for its redevelopment into high-tech office space makes perfect sense in terms of planning, economic development and the needs of the wider city but such considerations have often been lost in the politics of the planning process; especially at the final hurdle.

The new development

Those that wanted to retain and restore the cinema were probably acting more from the heart than the head. Quite apart from its appalling physical condition, there is a question mark over the capacity of the city to support another major entertainment venue [nearly 2,000 seat capacity] without having an adverse impact on the viability of our other venues. Culturally Brighton & Hove punches well above its weight but there is a limit to the number of venues that can be supported by an essentially domestic audience drawn from a population of 250,000 people.

Those opposed to the redevelopment often cited the nearby empty office block – Sussex House – as proof that the city doesn’t need any more office space. In fact Sussex House is closed for refurbishment and, although we have nearly half a million square metres of offices, less than 3% is the Grade A quality that modern businesses need to compete in the 21st century marketplace.

Working with leading sustainability consultant Atelier Ten, local architects Conran & Partners have designed a scheme that boasts the most impressive environmental credentials including locally sourced materials, natural ventilation, solar shading, earth ducts and rainwater harvesting all located on a sustainable transport corridor ten minutes from Brighton Station. Ideal on every count.

At the planning meeting Cllr. Amy Kennedy, Cabinet member for Planning, Employment, Economy & Regeneration said, “The architecture is excellent, a 21st century design for a 21st century city.”

ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP COMMENT

The city needs to generate 6,000 jobs in the next two years just to stand still and maintain its current 71% employment rate [which is well below all our neighbours]. If the developer now follows through, this planning consent represents an important step to providing workspace for this, and future, generations and sends a strong message to the development community that the city is not only “open for business” but also “serious about business”.


Read related items on:
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Planning
Brighton & Hove City Council
Conran & Partners
Kennedy, Amy
Gloucester Place


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