By Roz Scott
Planners have thrown out a hotel scheme put forward by Brighton and Hove Albion in the grounds of the American Express Community Stadium in Falmer.
One councillor dismissed the design as “mediocre” when the plans went before the Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee at Portslade Town hall today (Wednesday 17 February).
The decision was made on the casting vote of Councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the Planning Committee.
It followed an application by Albion Sports and Leisure, a subsidiary of the football club, to build a hotel with 150 bedrooms. The scheme included a restaurant, bar, gym, meeting room, lounge, garden area, 62 car parking spaces and a cancer treatment centre.
Albion Sports and Leisure director Martin Perry, who stood for Labour in the local elections last May, said: “The whole of the basement will be a cancer treatment centre. It is likely the treatment centre will be private, although publicly funded.”
Mr Perry, the former chief executive of the football club and the man credited with creating the Amex Stadium, said: “The site is very constrained. It is a triangle constrained by the football stadium, the railway and the (Bennett’s Field) car park. We do not own that car park. We have considered the objections.”
A report recommended that councillors refuse planning permission because of the design, closeness to the stadium (14 metres) and the inappropriate architectural impact on Stanmer Park.
Councillor Maggie Barradell, a Labour member, said: “The design is mediocre … This has not been a good application.”
Councillor Adrian Morris, a fellow Labour member, said: “There are huge economic benefits. The Albion do a lot for the city but we cannot treat them any differently.
“I have to agree with the officer’s recommendation about design. We need the development but it is what standard of design that we need to achieve.
“The loss of 156 car parking spaces is a big issue. There could have been a softer design. I am sure the applicant will come back with something better.”
Another Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn said: “I do find the building very stark, very utilitarian. It does not fit in with the stadium. I think it is a great pity the applicant did not soften the plans. It is a great idea to have a hotel there but it does have to be of quality.”
Councillor Pete West raised environmental concerns. He said: “We do have a stadium and it does have architectural merit. The visual impact is important and the national park that surrounds this site.
“Stanmer Park does have views of the site. Stanmer Park is listed. We must not overlook this. The game has been raised since Stanmer Park has been set up. A hotel is not inappropriate in itself and the Amex is a huge success. But we do not need to compromise on the design.”
Speaking in support of the development Councillor Carol Theobald, a Conservative, said: “The building has a nice curve. I regret the loss of car parking. 156 spaces is rather a lot. I do see there are only two objections.
“There will be 82 jobs which is a benefit to local jobs and the local economy, football players who do come to the Amex stadium and even parents of students.”
Councillor Cattell said: “I don’t think the design is like the Amex which is spectacular. We need to separate the design from the applicant. I don’t like the message this sends out to other developers that designs that are mediocre are ok.”
Mr Perry said: “Which is better, a hotel or tarmac?”
Given the no vote, the committee appears to believe that the tarmac is more appealing for now.