A bitter dispute about the boundary of two rival neighbourhood areas was settled today (Thursday 18 September) in a meeting at Hove Town Hall.
At stake is the chance to produce a neighbourhood plan for the land to the east of Sackville Road between Old Shoreham Road and the railway line.
It includes plots around the Goldstone Retail Park and the Sackville Trading Estate.
Hove Park councillors Jayne Bennett and Vanessa Brown said that the land was in their ward and people living in the ward on the other side of Sackville Road, for example, should have an input.
But the rival Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum will instead have the chance to prepare a neighbourhood development plan for the area in dispute.
The Hove Park Neighbourhood Forum, supported by hundreds of residents, will be able to draw up a plan for rest of the ward apart from the disputed land.
Interest in neighbourhood plans in the area was initially prompted by proposals by property firm Matsim. It hoped to redevelop several acres of land including the Conway Street bus depot and surrounding sites.
The chairman of the Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum, Mike Gibson, addressed a meeting at Hove Town Hall about the matter.
He said: “The ward boundary should not be relevant to planning.”
Councillor Brown said: “A neighbourhood forum by its very name is meant to represent well-defined neighbourhoods.”
She added that she and her colleagues had always expressed a willingness to work with other neighbourhood forums where relevant.
A senior planning official Rob Fraser said: “Officers have tried to broker a compromise. Unfortunately an agreed position could not be reached.”
Councillor Carol Theobald proposed an amendment which would have made the Hove Park Neighbourhood Forum boundary the same as the ward boundary.
Councillor Christopher Hawtree said that it was timely that he and his colleagues were settling this issue on the same day as the Scottish independence referendum was taking place.
He spoke about human groups and their sense of place at every level and added: “Wards are an artificial construct. Most residents can’t name their ward.”
Councillor Alan Robins said that he felt as though he was being asked to interfere in a private dispute, adding that it was “like two bald blokes arguing over a comb”.
Councillor Theobald’s amendment fell on the casting vote of the committee chairman Councillor Geoffrey Bowden.
He said that anyone looking in on this dispute between warring neighbours might be put off from trying to set up a neighbourhood forum.
Labour opposition group leader Councillor Warren Morgan said: “Scotland just texted and said, we thought we had it bad.”
On a more serious note, he said that neighbours on all sides of a development ought to have an equal opportunity to influence the shape of that development.
He added: “This policy is not working as intended.”
Councillor Bill Randall, the former Green leader of the council, praised the way that different parts of the East Brighton ward were working together in Whitehawk.
Councillor Bowden said: “Every person who has spoken today has come at this from wanting to do well for their communities.
“It’s unfortunate that this policy has set people at each other’s throats.”
The matter was settled by six votes in favour with none against and four abstentions.
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