On Wednesday the city council’s planning committee turned down a planning application for a 150 bed hotel adjacent to the football stadium on design grounds. One of Brighton & Hove’s three MPs has gone public with his condemnation of the planning system.
Accusations from both sides make the picture difficult to discern but it is certainly the case that council officers recommended refusal and the committee supported that decision with the casting vote of the Chair, Cllr. Julie Cattell [Labour], and the abstention of Cllr. Maggie Barradell [Labour].
Supporters of the scheme proposed by Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, including MP Pete Kyle, pointed out that it would create 82 permanent jobs and bring an additional £5.8m to the local economy and £314,000 per annum directly to the cash-strapped council in new uniform business rates. A brand new radiotherapy unit was also in included in the plans.
Pete Kyle was quoted in The Argus a saying that the acrimony that has developed between a major developer with an excellent reputation for investing in the city and the planning department is very damaging to Brighton & Hove's reputation.
But planning officers maintained that the design of the hotel was at odds with the stadium and not up to the same level of quality despite being clad in the same material as the stadium, saying that the ‘angular and linear’ shape of the proposed hotel detracted from the stadiums architectural presence.
In the business community there is an amount of sympathy for Brighton & Hove Albion executive director Martin Perry who fought a ten year battle to persuade planners that the stadium would not detract from the rolling Downs and who now finds that the proposed hotel is deemed to detract from the curvaceous stadium.
Council officers insist that they had raised concerns about the design in June last year but the football club is counter-claiming that they were denied an opportunity to meet with the council in the week prior to the application going to committee. There was also an amount of wrangling over the £147,000 demand for Section 106 payments with the club pointing out how much it already invests in the local economy and local employment schemes.
Cllr. Cattell has issued an invitation to the club to engage with the council on a second application. The football club, which is now one of the city’s top five employers providing jobs for over 1000 people and generating £34m per annum for the local economy, can take up the offer and redesign the hotel, take the existing application to appeal or just walk away from the deal and use the land earmarked for a hotel as car parking for the stadium.
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