Time to rethink planning in Brighton & Hove?
By Andrew England
Why are vital planning decisions being taken without proper scrutiny?
A controversial planning application to build 148 new flats in three blocks up to 11 storeys high in Newtown Road, Hove, has been narrowly agreed by the council's Planning Committee virtual meeting. This scheme had just 22 per cent affordable housing and 54 per cent are one-bedroom flats. This follows the recent approval of 824 flats in the Moda scheme, in Sackville Road, Hove. The non-retirement element of the scheme includes just 10 per cent affordable housing and 45 per cent studio or one-bedroom flats.
Liberal Democrats acknowledge the urgent need for more housing in Brighton. In particular, we need far more three-bedroom family homes than we are currently building. We need these to be at affordable prices, rather than continuing to build more and more one-bedroom flats at high rents. The council's own Objectively Assessed Need report from 2015, which is used as a reference to measure planning applications against, outlines the optimal housing mix required yet seems to be consistently ignored. Why is this?
In the same area near Hove Station the New Wave scheme consisting of 65 flats has already been built, and the 200 flats at Hove Gardens development, south of the railway line, are soon to follow. In the Davigdor Road area the Artisan Flats development has been built. Approvals have been given for adjacent sites at 113-119 Davigdor Road and to build four new blocks at Lyon Close. Applications in course include one for a major development on the corner of Palmeira Avenue and Cromwell Road and another one to extend the overbearing P&H Building in Davigdor Road.
Each of these plans have their merits and faults in isolation but who is looking at the cumulative effect of so much development in such a small area? Does the council really want to meet so much of the city housing target by building in Goldsmid ward?
We are concerned that the objections of the Goldsmid Labour and Green councillors regarding over-development, affordability, housing mix, traffic gridlock and infrastructure are being ignored. Other councillors, representing wards not affected by these schemes, squeeze them through.
Dubious decisions about the future development of our city are being taken in a hurry by exceedingly small margins. Can it be right that a slim majority of councillors can agree decisions that will cumulatively have a materially adverse impact on the local living environment for many years to come? The pressing need for more housing does not justify poor decision making.
It is time for a fundamental look at the planning process in our city.