The main building of Brighton’s former Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital is set to be given extra protection against developers thanks to Brighton and Hove City Council.
The council has just issued new planning guidance, which will provide the basis of any decision over future development of the site in Dyke Road.
Cabinet councillor for environment Geoffrey Theobald is due to consider approving the document at one of his regular decision meetings, on March 25.
Residents have been demanding that any proposals retain the original buildings. Last June the council turned down plans by landowners Taylor Wimpey to demolish all buildings and create 149 homes there. The company appealed but the decision was upheld by a government planning inspector.
Main principles enshrined in the new brief are to keep the main hospital building, dating from 1881 and ensure joint working between the landowner, the community and amenity societies.
As well as keeping the main building, other key principles include retaining the open space to the south of the site, ensuring new buildings were a sympathetic height limited to five storeys and safeguarding any trees currently under preservation orders.
The report follows extensive public consultation, including a week-long exhibition last October and early discussions with interest groups including amenity societies, residents’ associations, the NHS and Taylor Wimpey.
The results of this consultation showed 93 per cent of residents wanted the old Royal Alex buildings retained “in some shape of form”. The preferred development approach has also been discussed in detail with the city’s Conservation Advisory Group (CAG).
While the main historic building would be retained, according to the report, others in the middle of the site could not be kept without severely limiting development potential. These include the Elizabeth Day Centre, the Laundry Building and the Nurses Home. Keeping them would mean few green spaces and a cramped site.
The report also reflects the District Valuer’s view that the site is currently of borderline profitability for the owners because of the property slump – even if all buildings were demolished.
The council therefore may have to be flexible on issues such as the proportion of social housing units, housing mix and size of residential units and the level of developer contributions towards local infrastructure.
Cllr Theobald said: “Ideally we need a policy which reflects the community’s desire to keep the basic character provided by the current buildings. Preferably it would enshrine the principle that the council, community and developer will work together.
“I favour retaining a site’s existing character where it is valued by local people. At the same time we need to be wary of any policies that might cause buildings to lay empty for years and become an eyesore rather than an asset.”