Brighton and Hove council drops opposition to university’s plans for 4,000 student homes

Posted On 08 Jul 2015 at 10:20 am

Brighton and Hove City Council has dropped its opposition to plans by Sussex University to build more than 4,000 homes on its Falmer campus.

The council said that the decision was taken after receiving legal advice in light of information presented during the planning appeal public inquiry currently taking place in Brighton.

The university said: “We welcome Brighton and Hove City Council’s decision to withdraw its reasons for refusal.”

The 4,000 homes along with classroom and laboratory buildings formed part of the university’s masterplan.

The masterplan was turned down by the council’s Planning Committee last year despite official advice that it should be approved.

Sussex University campus masterplan 2013Concerns were expressed by councillors about the university’s growing student numbers and the effect that this was having on Brighton’s housing problems.

The university submitted its masterplan as a way of enabling more students to live on campus.

Opponents said that there would still be a rise in the number needing a place to live off campus.

Significant details of the masterplan, including the layout and design of new buildings, are expected to come before the council’s Planning Committee.

In a position statement submitted to the planning inquiry at the Hilton Brighton Metropole yesterday (Tuesday 7 July) the council’s barrister Robert Williams said: “I am instructed by Geoff Raw, executive director of environment, development and housing, exercising the powers delegated to him within the constitution of Brighton and Hove City Council, to withdraw the council’s objection to the appeal, including withdrawing all four reasons for refusal.

“This decision has been made following the receipt of legal and professional advice.

“In coming to its decision the council has taken into account

  • all evidence heard at the inquiry to date, including from its own professional witnesses, those called by the university to give evidence and third parties
  • in particular, an offer by the university to treat the layout of the scheme as a reserved matter, enabling the council further to consider effects on heritage and landscaping at a reserved matter stage
  • in relation to housing issues, recently updated evidence regarding the likely availability of the Falmer released land site for the university’s use and amended government guidance indicating that the council must plan for sufficient student accommodation as part of (its) housing needs assessment
  • in relation to the tree loss, while acknowledging landscaping is a reserved matter, the university’s latest indicative plans which show very limited loss to trees which have a heritage interest and an indication that semi-mature tree planting will allow approximately 70 per cent of trees to be replaced with trees of a similar height

“In light of the above the council accepts that the benefits of the masterplan outweigh any negative effects and therefore no longer contends that permission should be refused, subject to conditions and a section 106 agreement which have been agreed.”

Mr Williams said that Mr Raw had consulted the chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Julie cattell.

He added: “We cannot withdraw the evidence that you have heard but we can withdraw reliance on the evidence.”

Geoff Raw

Geoff Raw

Caroline Lynch, representing the Coombe Road Local Action Team (LAT), said that the university should not expand its student numbers before new homes were built to accommodate the extra students.

She said: “If it does it that way round, we will only lose more family homes.”

She said that that would be irresponsible and no one could build enough homes to cope with the university’s expansion. She added: “We are becoming a campus.”

The university’s barrister James Strachan said that, while she represented the LAT, only 10 residents had officially objected to the scheme.

He added that if this application was refused, more students would end up looking for a place to live off campus in Brighton. This would, he said, worsen the problems that she had identified.

The inquiry is expected to end today (Wednesday 8 July), two days earlier than scheduled.

Despite the council withdrawing its objections, the planning inspector Ken Barton will still decide whether to allow the appeal.

He said that he would consider the evidence that he had seen and read, including the views of individual objectors, in reaching his decision.

No date has been set for publication of his decision.

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