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News - 14 September 2014
Circus Street goes to planning on Wednesday. Will the committee bottle it?
The Urban Dictionary definition of the term to bottle it: When you're on the verge of doing something awesome but back out at the last second or fail to accomplish your objectives due to lack of resolve.
The £100m Circus Street development would transform a scene of utter dereliction into 142 new homes [20% affordable], a library and teaching space, 450 student bedrooms [thus freeing up 450 bedrooms in family homes], 3,530 square metres of Grade A office space and a new HQ for Dance South East.
The development, which is expected to bring an additional £10m p.a. into the local economy over the next ten years, would be built to One Planet Living standards with highly energy efficient buildings, grey water recycling, green roofs, photovoltaic panels and a local combined heat and power plant.
There is no doubt that the proposals manage to cram a lot onto a small space leading to complaints that it is ‘over development’; complaints from many of the same people that insist that the urban fringe should be protected and building should be limited to brownfield sites [like Circus Street].
The dire shortage of any sites, brown or green, means the city has to be inventive and bold about how it uses its land. There is no scope for developing brownfield sites in any other way than to the maximum density; it’s a luxury we can’t afford. Having said that, it is remarkable how much interesting public space the Circus Street plans will provide thanks to clever design work by architects Shedkm.
That means that some of the flats behind the site to the east will lose some of their light. In compensation they will also lose the view of a derelict concrete warehouse covered in graffiti and gain access to a fabulous public space including a community garden. Some complain that the flats in the new development are too small but the 17,000 people of the Council’s housing waiting list would probably not object. Others complain that the roads and streets in the development are too narrow but no one ever made the same complaint about the twittens in The Lanes.
Council planning officers have recommended approval but that might not be enough to convince the planning committee to be bold and grant an application that it is not exaggeration to call transformative. Let’s hope they don’t bottle it.
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