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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.