Hove developers may take planning battle to court

Posted On 01 Nov 2011 at 6:22 am

The battle to build a showcase zero carbon development at the Hove end of Shoreham Harbour has become more heated.

The company behind the PortZED scheme, Harbour View Developments, is considering taking legal action against Brighton and Hove City Council.

Harbour View Developments and sister company Boho Green made key changes to their plans after the council raised concerns on behalf of the scheme’s neighbours.

Opposition to the scheme has been led by the Kingsway and West Hove Residents Association (KAWHRA).

Residents living in Kingsway object to the scale of the scheme, which has a Basin Road North address but also fronts Kingsway. They fear that they will enjoy less sunlight if the project goes ahead.

They were also unhappy with plans to include 55 helical wind turbines, with concerns about the potential noise.

Harbour View Developments and Boho Green had offered to accept planning conditions governing when the wind turbines could operate.

The developers also noted that they could be prosecuted if they breached noise pollution laws.

But now the turbines have been dropped from the plans at the council’s request.

To address concerns about scale, the two end buildings out of six in total are now planned to be one storey shorter, reducing the scheme’s total number of flats from 67 to 62.

After the developers made the changes at the council’s behest, the council wrote to them to say: “The plans you submitted amount to a fresh application.”

A new application would cost the developers more than £20,000, payable to the council.

A leading planning lawyer brought in by Harbour View Developments has recommended that the developers take a tough line.

The solicitor wrote to the council and said: “The plans and information provided to you were to address concerns and issues raised by you.

“There is therefore no basis for your assertion that this should amount to a fresh application.

“The position which you have adopted is in fact contrary to the case law clearly established in BT v Gloucester City Council.

Perverse

“Taking account of both the circumstances in which the plans and information were produced and provided to you and the fact that the public is not prejudiced in any way by the reduction in development, it would both be incorrect and perverse for the council to continue to refuse to accept and validate the amended plans.

“In the event that you refuse to accept the amended plans we will be advising our client to seek a judicial review.”

KAWHRA, the residents association, has written to members to tell them about the latest consultation on the plans.

It sent the letter in the belief that the plans could not be treated as amended but as a fresh application.

KAWHRA chairman Mike Sharman posted a further letter on the association’s website saying: “The main bulk of the homes in the six apartment blocks (PortZED) is bolted on to the Kingsway in West Hove and rises 18 metres above the pavement level, looming over and dwarfing the 1920s style houses just 25 metres across the road.

“The 55 wind turbines would have been untried and untested in this situation and were withdrawn because the developer could not disprove that they would cause a nuisance to the area.

“Even with the removal of damaging wind turbines and the reduction by one floor of the end blocks, the developers’ own figures show that local residents would be deprived of much sunlight in the winter months.

“This would affect our existing solar panels and remove passive heating to our south-facing front rooms and increase the cost of heating and electricity.

“Our houses currently benefit from excellent amounts of sunshine.

“The developers’ application should be rejected in its present form and also in its promised altered form.”

Context

In an earlier post on the KAWHRA wensite Dr Sharman wrote: “Quite simply this is the wrong site for this development which continues ignores its residential context on its north side.”

He said that PortZED would be a bad neighbour and would blight people’s lives and added: “PortZED boasts of apartments well lit by light and sunshine to reduce winter SAD (seasonal affective disorder – a form of depression).

“Of course they fail to mention the SAD effect on local existing residents!”

Another opponent of the scheme is West Hove resident Christopher Hawtree who spoke out against it at a public meeting called by KAWHRA earlier this year.

He has since been elected to the council and has become a member of the council’s planning committee, which is expected to decide the application in the coming months.

Colin Brace, of Boho Green, said that even without the wind turbines, the scheme would be a zero energy development – the ZED in PortZED.

Mr Brace, who is keen to create a dozen or so apprenticeships for young people in Brighton and Hove through the project, said: “After considering the residents objections to the PortZED scheme in some detail and discussions with local politicians and stakeholders, we have taken on board the recommendations of planning officers and have made some significant changes to the proposed scheme.

“Although we are still strongly of the opinion that the use of vertical axis wind turbines is appropriate in this situation and signals a significant advancement in building integrated renewable energy systems, we understand that the residents still harbour some concerns which may require a significant amount of extra acoustic information which is not immediately available.

“We have therefore taken the decision with a heavy heart to amend the scheme by removing the turbines form the current application.

Feast

“Although the removal of the turbines is in our opinion a missed opportunity, they were the cherry on an exceptionally fine cake.

“By making this gesture, we are enabling the city to enjoy a sustainable feast at the earliest opportunity and averting the need for protracted negotiations which could continue to delay the project.

“We have also taken the advice given to us by the planning department and reduced the height of the most easterly and westerly buildings to create a gradual wave-like effect which we feel relates well to the marine setting and other natural features.

“These changes have resulted in a reduction in the total number of residential units while maintaining the same level of car parking as proposed originally.

“The development’s sustainable ethos will be underpinned by the continued use of building integrated photovoltaics, solar thermal, biomass CHP (combined heat and power), rainwater harvesting, exceptionally high levels of both thermal and acoustic performance, utilising natural cross flow ventilation and the abundance of natural daylight to provide a demonstration project to underline the city’s commitment to sustainability.

“We will continue to develop our prototype wind turbine together with a variety of other renewable energy devices which we intend to manufacture within Shoreham Port providing employment opportunities for the local workforce.”

The council’s head of planning Martin Randall spoke at a Chamber of Commerce meeting last week at which the difficulties of balancing the wishes of developers and existing residents were explored.

At the same meeting others in the public and private sectors touched on the challenges around building the number of homes that we need and creating sustainable jobs.

One audience member pointed out afterwards that the increasing pressure to build sustainable homes was adding to the costs.

This was one reason, along with the high cost of land in the South East, he said, why developers on brownfield sites often wanted greater height and density.

Mr Randall’s job – and that of his team – will be to balance all those competing demands over the coming few months.

  1. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    It would be a mistake to concentrate all attention on the Kingsway side of this proposed development.

    On the south side, the buildings would rise from lower ground than on the Kingsway and constitute tall buildings in an area that is not a designated Tall Buildings area.

    The development site is just 18 metres wide at its widest point and would sit atop the existing Magnet Showroom site. To really appreciate the bulk and massing on this mind-bendingly narrow strip (narrower than Kingsway itself), one needs to drive or walk along Basin Road North and look at the open carpark bit that is also part of the development site – beside Magnet.

    The Shoreham Port Masterplan suggests that its 400 units of housing for the Port could wrap round the end of the canal behind the Western Esplanade. Mackley’s Wharf area is not owned by the Port.

    The three owners there SHOULD be doing a joint development to include the Portzed site with that site’s owners. No reason for not doing a building over Basin Road North leaving a tunnel for road use beneath it that could extend to Kingsway.

    But with much lower Kingsway Road elevations that are currently proposed. Three storeys max. The current plans seem doomed on their own.

  2. M Jenkins Reply

    Dear Editor

    I read your article on the PortZED development and I wanted to give you my thoughts on this.

    I was unable to attend the Chamber of Commerce event last week, but understand that the council was defending its reputation on encouraging investment and stimulating jobs within the city.

    As a West Hove resident myself, I was not particularly in favour of the original design of PortZED, but I do feel that the greater good for the city will be achieved by developing this site. It appears there is a hard core nuclei of residents who would prefer nothing to be built and their views to be maintained forever. I suppose if I lived directly opposite the development, I might also resist the development of land opposite my house. However I think this is why it’s important that both parties are encouraged to compromise, otherwise nothing will ever get done and our city will remain in a vacuum held back by personal self interest.

    It certainly appears that the developers of this scheme are listening to the local community and the advice from the planning department and have made considerable attempts to alter the scheme to remove the most offending parts i.e. the wind turbines.

    Whilst not everyone will agree that these changes have made a perfect development, but then nothing is ever perfect and a compromise has to be sought.

    This appears to be some sort of bureaucratic technicality which you would hope that in these times of austerity, the council would take a more pragmatic view upon.

    This is why I can not understand how the Head of Planning, Martin Randal, can stand boldly in front of an audience addressing the city on how his department is working to attract investment and stimulate jobs etc, but appear to be refusing to allow these positive changes to be made which could allow the development to proceed. As I have to commute to London due to the lack of suitable opportunities within our city, I’m particularly keen that the council encourages hi tech employment opportunities locally.

    If the developers do decide to pursue the council at a judicial review or public enquiry, then it will probably cost our city tens of thousands of pounds which is not the planning department’s money, but is in fact our council tax that has to pay for this.

    With the prospect of redundancies within the council, it appears that they are happy to play fast and loose with money which supports the salaries of a number of their fellow staff.

    Where is the green party leadership on this? They should not allow this to happen and should take charge of this and other important issues within the city by positively promoting all developments which will lead to stimulating jobs and much needed housing for the city.

    In the absence of any constructive leadership, perhaps the best we can hope for is that the redundancies start first within the planning department which will hopefully be a wake up call to encourage them to act more responsibly when dealing with future opportunities for the city.

    The council’s refusal to even consider these amendments as part of their decision making process at its best displays a level of arrogance and intransigence and certainly does not demonstrate the sort of commitment to working with investors and developers which they so proudly promote.

  3. J Galvin Reply

    I live right opposite the site of this proposed development. We would not merely enjoy less sunlight – for several months of the year we would be deprived of sunlight for most of the day. How will the residents of PortZED’s flats feel when another tall building is built to the south of them (as is quite possible), blocking their sunlight and solar panels? The developers propose a traffic light system on the outside of their buildings to show how much energy their residents are saving. Can we put traffic lights on our houses to show how much extra energy we will have to use when in their shadow? The amended plans reduce the scheme only by one storey on the two end buildings – this will make very little difference to the overshadowing.

    Surely, such a substantial change to the plans as removing the wind turbines requires a new set of technical reports to be submitted to the council, hence a new application? For example, the council needs to ascertain whether the removal of the turbines will lead to wind tunnels. These buildings were specifically designed to speed up the wind for the turbines, which were then supposed to “decelerate” it.

    The amended scheme still fails to address many other issues which local residents and the council have raised. Being zero-carbon does not give it the right to inflict damage on its neighbours.

  4. Jackie Corbett Reply

    The Green Party leadership is not all about being green. It is also about protecting people’s rights and living areas…in an appropriate way. They are not stupid and will see through the plans for this vast over development design within a residential area.

    As for the turbines…not ever tested as a design …..so no information about what noise levels or on the light dappling effect etc -that is the real reason why these developers have taken them out of the planning application.. They have always known that the residents
    have had concerns about them.It was obvious that they had not done their homework.

    This development is not in the tall buildings area so that is why the Caffyns site development( at the end of Roman Road) is not that high. There is not a rule for one and a rule for PortZED…They also have the information about the Caffyns plans that have been accepted by Brighton & Hove Council..when they palnned their development.

    This is an over developed site (Too high) with no schooling in the area for any families.All schools now are over subscribed and have to cope with 30+ units being built on the Caffyns site at the bottom of Roman Road.PortZED were aware of this development before they planned PortZED.

    Jobs for locals etc are not the main part of this development plan that is being built one block at a time and people will not be swayed by this.Is a Kingsway address part of the Shoreham Port Masterplan? Let us have an answer from them please.

    Brighton & Hove planning Dept will do their job.Let us see their result.Planners for PortZED should not threaten. B & H Council will not be bullied like this! They will stand up for local people’s rights.

  5. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    M. Jenkins’ comment is naive at best, and perhaps even mischievous, with tongue firmly in cheek in a display of haughty disapproval concerning the way the Portzed planning application is being treated.

    To fully understand the problems concerning acceptance of this application as fit for purpose and fit for a recommendation to the planning committee to agree this project, Jenkins should contact City Direct, give the planning application number, and request sight of the planning officer’s working case file. Sit with it and learn the facts before sounding off rather grandly and without the courtesy of providing an informed view.

    BHCC has a duty of care to the city and its residents first and foremost – at least until the Coalition Government finalises its dumbed-down and irresponsible revision of the planning laws which threaten to turn this country into a hodge-podge of Banana Republic-level built-what-and-where-you-like intrusive jumble.

    Something must be built on this sliver of land along the Kingsway – just 18 metres deep at its widest point – but, sadly, this idealistically conceived project will not be it – at least not in its present or amended form.

  6. Jackie Corbett Reply

    Hear, Hear. Totally agree.

  7. Mrs R M Knox-Peebles Reply

    I agree this strip of land, that appears next to derelict, should be developed – but this should be as part of the development of this end of the harbour. It would be a mistake to build these blocks in their present form (and outrageous to take the sunlight from residents the other side of Kingsway) and then find that they prevent, or distort mixed development to the South and West. It is a great opportunity – for green buildings but even more, for lively and productive use of the site. It is essential that any kind of suitable manufacturing, artisan work shops, the Fish market are retained and increased – we need to re-balance our economy while retaining the kind of quirky, individual district that is the delight and life force of Brighton and Hove.

  8. antonia lister-Kaye Reply

    West Hove is a particularly good example of an interwar housing development built for the expanding managerial class, who wanted and could afford more space and less
    density. (1928-35) Its historical integrity has already been breached by the unfortunate on-going Caffeyns building, but the possibility of Portzed going up on
    Kingsway with all the already well documented impracticalities would be a disaster.
    Surely there are other more suitable brown-field sites where Portzed could rise up and not be such a total incongruity. To state that the area was “seedy and run-down” as Portzed apparently did, is untrue and insulting to us homeowners who take pride in living in West Hove with its eighty year old history.

  9. Polly Reply

    Having only recently seen the Portsed plans I was surprised by the scale of the development. Claims of NIMBYism simply do not apply. There is a separate development beginning directly opposite the proposed Portzed site, which will result in a four story block of flats, larger than the total proposed Portzed development. I object to the way the Portzed scheme is portrayed as some sort of unmixed good as a supposedly green development. A little digging soon reveals the naked greed at the heart of the project. This is simply a revenue exercise clothed in some fairly flimsy eco talk. For the developer to threaten legal action is an outrageous affront to the idea of democratic representation. Already they have spent a small fortune on various marketing events, schmoozing various parts of the community with partial facts and pure marketing fantasy. They are showing their true colours now with this threat. They have the money and are I suspect hoping they can bully our representatives into submission. In business terms I’d say this move is a clear sign that the relationship between the developer and the council has irredeemably broken down. Another irony that seems to be lost on them is that less than a mile away is a perfect site for their original plans, beside the King Alfred, available since the collapse of the Frank Gehry vanity project. Not overlooked or close to other housing. This threat reveals the almost child-like attitude of Boho Green that the act of making an application assumes it willk be approved. Boho and Bedzed are at serious risk now of damaging their brand badly. A good thing if you ask me, even the name Boho smacks of a self regarding smugness. It says “Look at us, aren’t we so Bohemian?” Someone once wrote a song about that. The developer equivalent of the Dandy Warhols hapless fashion victim.

  10. John Welsh Reply

    Threatening legal action is a desperate tactic by greedy developers who must sense that their ill-conceived scheme is falling apart. Hopefully B&H Council will remain resolute and stand firmly by their principles.

  11. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    …..uhhhhh, Polllleeeee! Please note that the King Alfred/RNR site is ADJACENT to St. Aubyns Mansions and directly opposite Viceroy Lodge and these are very much lived in and any development there would definitely “overlook” and be “close to other housing”. Stay calm and carry on. No need to get carried away by fashioning embroideries.

  12. Ian Reply

    Polly and John Welsh are quite right . The Portzed proposal appears to be motivated by the financial exploitation of this location specifically – to the detriment of the neighbourhood . The Green credentials ( smoke and mirrors ?)appear to be a secondary motivation and a possible means to making the proposal seem more acceptable to the Planning Authority . Indeed , that the Developer now threatens legal action against the Local Authority may well indicate a financial desperation and fear of losing financial backers in the face of the growing opposition against this unreasonable proposal . A much reduced scheme is unlikely to attract green incentives and may well be financially unviable to the Developer.
    The proposed buildings are completely inappropriate at this location , are too tall , too many and out of keeping in this location . Frankly , the scheme as offered would impose an unacceptable and irreversible blight at this location .
    Any development here should reflect and enhance the amenity and position , be no taller than the immediately adjacent buildings already here , be set back from the road the same distance as the dwellings opposite , not reflect road noise and traffic pollution , not disturb the pleasant views South from many positions , not reduce natural daylight at any time of year , not increase burden and demand on local amenities , schooling , street parking etc etc .
    On the other hand a low rise improvement of the strip of land below Kingsway , that is Basin Road North , could surely enhance the Harbour area without adversely imposing upon , and crowding , Kingsway and West Hove dwellings .

  13. Polly Reply

    Valerie, I think you’re wildly exaggerating when you say Viceroy Lodge looks across at the King Alfred. Viceroy Lodge looks obliquely at the King Alfred across what is effectively a dual carriageway with a total of five lanes at that point, not directly across at it as you suggest and the vacant part of the site at the moment is absolutely not adjacent to St Aubyn’s. The King Alfred leisure centre is adjacent to St Aubyn’s but the vacant part of the site, the car park I’m referring to – large enough to easily accomodate Portzed’s modified plans, is 180 metres from St Aubyn’s at it’s closet point. The building which would look straight across at it is Lancaster Court. The impact on which could easily be minimised by careful use of the site. Even here the closet point of the car park at King Alfred is 30 metres away and the farthest point of the car park is approximately 100metres from Lancaster Court. Remember this was to be the site, which had been approved, of much larger development with a pair of crazy high rise blocks. Which we were only saved from by the global financial crisis. Seen here;
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gehrys-163290m-vision-for-hove-scrapped-1019542.html
    The car park area at King Alfred could easily accommodate the modified PortZED project and would, as I’ve said above, be a reasonable distance from the surrounding properties. It would also not require any demolition of existing buildings.

  14. Ian Reply

    What an interesting suggestion Polly .

    Could Portzed become KingAlfzed ? Sadly not likely to be viable or financially attractive to the Developer due to cost of the land , lack of mutually beneficial partnership arrangement with Magnet Joinery and other likely backers. Where would King Alfred users park ?

  15. Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE Reply

    The King Alfred/RNR site is owned by the Council and treated as a single site for the purposes of redevelopment within the Local Plan as SR24. This is a ‘saved’ local plan policy which is now being taken forward as the City Plan and Local Development Framework is sorted (which will replace it).

    The Karis/Gehry project was, from the BHCC perspective, primarily about replacing the current King Alfred centre -for free – with a new one. The deal was the developer provided it in return for surrounding space on which to build and profit from flats.

    The District Valuer’s Report gave chapter and verse about why this was a loony, “borderline unviable” plan. And financial unviability killed it.

    It’s fun to speculate about use of land, but, in theory, every proposal is site-specifically designed (!) and the untested experimental helical turbines would be just as problematical on the Kingsway at King Alfred and the architecture just as out of keeping as it is seen to be at Aldrington Basin.

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