Community Base accuses council of double standards after second billboard refusal

Posted On 10 Jun 2010 at 8:15 am

Brighton’s Community Base says a decision to refuse advertising on one of its walls “flies in the face of common sense”

The building, which leases space to 27 community groups and charities, will miss out on the chance of vital funding after Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee again turned its application for a 9m by 9m sign down.

A similar application was turned down by the committee in February after the majority-Tory committee discussed the Green Party advert which had appeared there during the Labour conference. Community Base has since banned political adverts from appearing there.

Colin Chalmers, Community Base director, said: “This majority decision flies in the face of common sense, fairness and the wishes of local people.

“We and our neighbours are simply baffled that a community centre trying to keep costs down for the charities and community groups it provides a home to by selling ethical advertising is prevented from doing despite having the full support of its neighbours and local community.

“While Brighton and Hove City Council is refusing our charity permission to display one advert on a building specifically excluded from nearby conservation areas, it gives itself permission to make income from a string of adverts on lamp posts across Queens Road from Community Base inside West Hill conservation area. I just don’t think that’s fair or right and I’m amazed it’s allowed to happen.

“We will continue to negotiate with council planning officers and our partners in the advertising industry in the hope of finding a scheme acceptable to the planning committee that will allow us to make vital income from advertising on our building.”

But Councillor Lynda Hyde, chairman of the planning committee, said it is important the council adopts a consistent approach to applications.

She said: “We take the relevant planning issues into consideration for every application, whether it is Community Base, a private business or the council itself.

“We cannot take into account non-planning considerations, however sympathetic we may be to the aims of the applicant. The planning policies are there to protect the amenity of the city including its historic, seafront and countryside areas, together with public safety, and must be applied fairly.”

There were no objections from members of the public and 24 letters of support including letters from the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre next door and the Sundial Clinics, Rolyns newsagent and 3 Jolly Butchers pub directly in front of the advert.

Community Base has displayed adverts from 2004 to 2009 without any objections – including a Brighton and Hove Council road safety advert in 2008, which was ironically one of the reasons for refusal on this occasion.

Despite a council officer at the planning committee pointing out that there was no evidence that the advert posed a danger to road safety, two councillors said they were opposing the advert on the grounds of safety “regardless of statistics”.

Advertising consent on this site has been refused six times before. A similar application was approved in 2004 against the recommendation of planning officers but since then planning policies for adverts within or next to conservation areas have been strengthened.

Community Base is facing a second funding blow as Brighton and Hove City Council reviews its business rate status – at current, as a charitable organisation, it doesn’t pay business rates, but this could change.

As part of its controversial Status Quo online job ad this week, council chief executive John Barradell and council leader Mary Mears stressed the need for the authority to work well with the city’s community groups and charities, many of which rent space from Community Base.

  1. fran Reply

    For the past 4 years I have been great helped by the Carer’s Centre, whose office and meeting rooms are at the Community Base in Brighton. My husband was diagnosed with cancer while I was pregnant with my son and my daughter was 2. A support worker from this charity gave me emotional support and fantastic advice on finances and other matters. I also joined a support group there. Without this strong support, my whole world would have come crashing down.
    Since then I have volunteered with the Carer’s Centre in various ways. One of these was helping with their Young Carer’s project, which allows young people with adult caring responsibilities some relief from their burdens and contact with others in a similar position. I know very well how vital this is to their mental well-being at a very sensitive time of their lives.
    Many charities, like the Carer’s Centre, provide Brighton and Hove residents with services which take a huge amount of pressure off of the council and local government. Unfortunately it seems that the local council are insistant on shooting themselves in the foot.
    Firstly, the charities have not had to pay full business rates, but now it seems that they will have to. Secondly, the council is now refusing to allow advertising on the side of the building. This advertising board has been up for 5 years, with no objections. It provides the community base with a vital revenue of about £18 500 per year, which subsidises these charities’ rents.
    What many people may not realise, is that a great deal of charities and not-for-profit organisations rely on grants and donations. With the government soon to announce dramatic cuts, charities are already cutting back on staff and services. These cutbacks will be a tragedy for those who would have been helped by a charity, but now may not receive that help.
    Without the support of these charities, the NHS and local government will have to deal with much higher levels of mental illness, physical illness, crime, suicide and financial deprivation. The very council who are imposing further financial hardship on the 26 charities will be the ones who will have to deal with the fallout.
    Many of those wonderful teenagers and children who have to care for their ill or disabled loved ones and need the support the Carer’s Centre may soon be forced to face their situations alone. Between the 26 organisations based at the Community Base, 170000 local people were offered help last year. This year, even more people may need help as the financial crisis affects more people and worsens their quality of life.
    Please, please, Brighton and Hove City Council, rethink your decision on the advertising board, and your threat to make these charities pay full business rates – it’s the vulnerable people of our city who will suffer for it.

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