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THIS WEEK : Selma Montford: The hope that the £1bn schemes will all disappear

TALKBOARD : Step Back in Time – A History of the Argus

LATEST IN DIRECTORY : Preston and Patcham Society launches new web platform



THE ANSTON HOUSE SCHEME WAS REFUSED PERMISSION AT THE MEETING OF THE PLANNING COMMITTEE ON 24 APRIL. The voting was 4 for the plan, 5 against with 3 abstentions. THE APPLICANT IS NOW CONSIDERING ALTERNATIVE DESIGNS. The Brighton Society would like to present their ideas for the site first.

The site, which has been derelict for 25 years, is now owned by Investec – a South African asset management bank, who have appointed Urban Splash to act as joint applicants.

The plans, reference planning application BH2012/02205, had previously been dropped from the agenda of the meeting of the planning committee on 13 March following a claim by the Brighton Society that the shadow plots submitted by Savills were inaccurate.

The applicants then submitted revised overshadowing plots which proved conclusively that the originals were inaccurate, and that our own studies were correct. Having established that the Council had not itself checked Savills’ diagrams (and apparently were not intending to), we carried out our own checks on their accuracy.

The Brighton Society was promised further public consultation if the latest plots were significantly different from the earlier ones, which they are. But no further public consultation took place.

We have compared the original diagrams with the revised ones. We attach our diagrams showing both the original and the revised overshadowing profiles, which clearly show the extent of the inaccuracies. We think Savills should be required to provide an explanation.

We support of the use of the Anston House site for a residential development, particularly social housing, but not in the form of towers, up to 15 storeys high, replacing Anston House which is only 9 storeys.

This is fundementally flawed scheme which would cast a shadow over the Rose Garden and the Rotunda in Preston Park, turning them into miserable places for 7 months of the year. At present people enjoy sitting in the sun outside the Rotunda and in the Rose Garden throughout the year.

If this inappropriate scheme goes ahead the roses are unlikely to blossom. Preston Park is a listed Grade II park and that gives it a special status and value which requires particular protection from inappropriate developments which could affect its value to the community and users of the park’s facilities.

The Council’s own Tall Buildings Strategy recognises this: Para 7.4.11 states that:
“Tall buildings over a certain height can adversely affect the environmental quality of surrounding areas …. through the overshadowing of adjacent residential buildings including public/private garden spaces….the impact of shadows at different times of the day will need to be assessed….. Individual proposals should seek to create well orientated and lively spaces that contribute positively to the wider public realm.”

These, and the interests of the wider community all have to be taken into account in interpreting the guidelines, and should take precedence over proposals which only result in benefit to the applicant.

The reason for the Council recommending approval of this wildly inappropriate scheme is that the site is required to help meet the Council’s housing targets. However the reason for the applicants scheme is to inflate the value of the site. Urban Splash’s debts have now risen to £234.4million.

The Council’s Tall Buildings Policy states: “there are other means of achieving increased densities by, for example, a denser form of low or medium rise developments, which should not be overlooked”. Was this ever considered for the Anston House site? If not why not? Just as an example, a building of 3 storeys around a square would provide as much accommodation as a 20 storey block located in the centre of a square of the identical area.

There is no need for any commercial uses to be included on the site. There is ample available commercial space in the Preston Road area, both to meet current demand and the demand in the foreseeable future. The inclusion of this element just makes the problems of providing housing in a low rise family friendly environment just that much more difficult. The commercial element in the scheme should be scrapped.

The Anston House plot was previously the site of a line of grand Victorian and Edwardian villas which stretched from the Rose Garden at the south end of Preston Park all the way to Patcham. They provided a wonderful backdrop to the Park.

The present proposal for 2 high rise blocks, one of them of 15 storeys, would dominate and enclose the Park. The Preston Road valley may be designated for tall buildings, but the Council’s definition of a tall building is 6 to 15 storeys. Anston House is 9 storeys, the other buildings in the Preston Road valley from the Rockery to Preston Circus vary in height from 2 to 9 storeys. The present Anston House site proposal is for a VERY tall building.

This scheme would be built right up to the pavement edge, with an overhanging storey, and would hem in the park – listed grade II, dominating it at its narrowest part. It would also be built up against the back garden walls of the houses in Dyke Road Drive, placing these houses in a gorge and depriving the inhabitants of sun and light.

As James Breckell, representing the Conservation Advisory Group, stated at the Planning Committee meeting : “We felt that [the plan] should never have got this far. We see a building born out of targets, not promoting good architecture”. “All other considerations have fallen by the wayside: the overshadowing of the Rose Garden and the Rotunda, the total lack of consideration for the residents of Dyke Road Drive, and a lack of any attempt to create a neighbourly scheme”.

The applicants’ target is to create a scheme which will grossly inflate the value of the site. All other considerations have fallen by the wayside: e.g creating a neighbourly plan of low and medium rise houses and flats of acceptable space sizes fit for families, respect for the residents in Dyke Road Drive and as a complement to the Rose Garden and the Rotunda.

An inflated value of this site would make it yet more difficult to find a buyer able willing to develop the site, which means that the site would continue to lie derelict and the City would still be unable to achieve the affordable housing it so badly needs. Council officers and the applicants of the scheme are both playing a dangerous numbers game, one with housing targets, the other with financial targets.