Brighton’s ugliest building to be demolished and replaced after standing empty for 30 years

Posted On 14 Dec 2016 at 5:48 pm

Brighton’s ugliest building is to be demolished after standing empty for 30 years after planners approved a scheme to build 229 flats in three tower blocks.

The scheme to replace Anston House, in Preston Road, Brighton, includes shops, offices or cafés at ground floor level and underground parking for 111 cars. There will also be parking for five motorbikes and 432 bicycles. Work could start in the next few months.

Some 470 people objected to the new scheme – up to 15 storeys high – with just 13 people writing in to Brighton and Hove City Council in support of the plans.

The Brighton Society said that the reasons for rejecting a previous scheme still applied – the overbearing height, density, bulk and form – and that the new scheme was worse.

Councillor Kevin Allen, who represents Preston Park Ward, which includes Anston House, said that the previous scheme was also thrown out because it contained too little affordable housing.

The new scheme contained less, he said, and well short of the council’s policy of 40 per cent for schemes of this size.

Besides, he said: “Affordable simply means marginally less unaffordable.

“Are you telling me it won’t suck in richer commuters from London? And investors?”

Anston House 1
He told the council’s Planning Committee: “Most people want to see this site developed.”

But he criticised the proposed tower blocks as “the three sore thumbs” and condemned what he described as the Manhattonisation of the area.

Councillor Allen said: “The three sore thumbs are grotesquely high for the surrounding area.

“The towers will help to frame Preston Park and give it a sense of place, the developer said, like Central Park.

“I know we don’t make planning decisions by plebiscite but when public opinion is so overwhelming and so unanimous it really should be taken into account.

“They have not given their permission to change the nature of Brighton and Hove.

“They have not given their permission for the Manhattonisation of the area.”

Elliot Lipton

Elliot Lipton

Elliot Lipton, from the developer First Base, said: “The height is very sensitive.

“We have to find the right balance between respecting Preston Park, respecting our neighbours in Dyke Road Drive and coming up with a scheme that is viable.

“Every time you come forward with a scheme you’re always trying to get the right balance between design, affordable housing and massing.

“The building has been designed to complement Preston Park with a landscaped frontage and new elm trees.

“We’re very pleased that the Friends of Preston Park do not believe our scheme has any detrimental impact.

“We will be bringing forward much-needed homes and jobs.

“We have a generational opportunity for change. Our plans are deliverable. We are ready to start.”

He accepted concerns about the number and percentage of affordable homes being provided on the 15-acre site.

An artist's impression of the First Base plans for the Anston House site opposite Preston Park in Brighton

An artist’s impression of the First Base plans for the Anston House site opposite Preston Park in Brighton

Mr Lipton said that he would have liked to have included more but the mix of affordable housing demanded by the council had affected the total.

He said: “We want to deliver more affordable homes as part of that if we possibly can.”

There would, he added, be a review mechanism so that if the scheme made more profit than expected, more flats would be let or sold as affordable homes.

Mr Lipton added that the scheme had been drawn up by the internationally renowned design studio Conran and Partners after a great deal of consultation with people living and working in the area.

He also said that the scheme would create almost 300 permanent jobs as well as the much-needed housing and would include a contribution of £1.3 million to local services.

A report to councillors set out the contribution to local services under what is known as a section 106 agreement. It included
• Open space, recreation and indoor sport: £592,664 towards improvements in Preston Park, Dyke Road Park and Blaker’s Parks and the Withdean Sports Complex and Prince Regent Swimming Complex
• Education: £397,780 towards nursery (various nurseries in the locality and/or start-up funding for a new provider), primary (Stanford Infant School and Stanford Junior School, St Bartholomew’s CE Primary School, Downs Infant School and Downs Junior Schools and St Bernadette’s CE Primary School) and secondary education (Dorothy Stringer School and Varndean School)
• Transport: £125,115 towards sustainable travel and public realm improvements in the vicinity of the site and to improve access for all, by all sustainable modes, to but not limited to Preston Park, local railway stations and other local amenities.
• Public realm enhancement £120,000
• Local Employment Scheme £69,900
• Training and employment strategy using a minimum of 20 per cent local labour during the demolition and construction phases

Councillor Leo Littman, who also represents Preston Park Ward, said: “We desperately need a replacement for Anston House and we desperately need more housing in the city but it’s important we don’t let desperation guide our decision.

“It will affect a number of people very directly in the short term and it will affect literally millions in the long term.

“I had hoped I would live long enough to see a good replacement for Anston House. I don’t think this is it.”

He said that plans were rejected three years ago and the latest proposal failed on exactly the same basis.

Anston House gv
Councillor Joe Miller said: “This needs to be right and something needs to happen here.”

The building had been empty since before he was born and he didn’t want it to be empty for another 30 years.

He had concerns about the red facing of some of the proposed buildings on the site but added: “There are only so many times developer will try to develop this site.

“We have asked developers to go higher and when they come we reject it.

“There will be an impact on the residents of Dyke Road Drive but the developers have done as much as they can by lowering the back of the development.”

Labour councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle quoted his political rival – the former Conservative council leader Mary Mears – in lamenting the shortage of affordable housing in the area.

He said: “We do not have the balls to uphold our policy of seeking 40 per cent affordable housing.”

Anston House 2
People will live with an imperfect scheme “if it’s for the common good”, he said, adding: “If not, there is no sugar to coat a bitter pill.”

Going for a miserly proportion – lower than 20 per cent – was “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.

He also criticised the council and developer for withholding figures shared with the district valuer to enable him to assess the level of affordable homes.

Councillor Carol Theobald said that the height of the scheme took her back to the 1960s and 70s and also criticised the lack of affordable housing.

“It’s an eyesore,” she said, “and it’s been empty for far too long.”

Councillor Jayne Bennett said that the scheme was too high but we needed the housing.

An artist's impression of how Anston House may look

An artist’s impression of how Anston House may look

Councillor Lynda Hyde, who used to chair the Planning Committee, said: “Some affordable is better than none. And housing is being provided. Some people think housing is only about affordable but it’s not.

“If we ask for too much from developers, it will not be viable and then we won’t have anything at all.

“The only reason we have this here today is because the economy is buzzing.

“It is too tall. I would prefer it to be shorter but it does comply with our tall corridors policy.

“I love the quality of materials … and I wouldn’t want to swap quality materials for three or more affordable units.

“I’m very sorry to the people who live in Dyke Road Drive. There will be an impact on you. I’m sorry about that but we need the housing.”

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty said that the scheme would be a big deal for the people living in Dyke Road Drive.

But he said: “We do need to get on with things like this. If we can better than this, where is it? If there’s something out there, it has managed to evade this particular spot.”

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty

The proposal in front us represents something very bold, he said. It represents hundreds of jobs although we have to push harder on affordability.

Councillor Mac Cafferty, a former chairman of the Planning Committee, added: “We need more affordable homes in the city but we have an application in front of us and we have to say yes or no. I will be voting for.”

Councillor Dan Yates said: “I don’t have a problem with tall buildings (and) it’s quite clear we’d all rather something else. It’s not the bees knees.

“I don’t think that Aston House is the ugliest building in Sussex. At least Anston House has the excuse of being empty but Telecom House next door is even worse – and that’s occupied and people have to go to work there.”

Regardless of the number of affordable homes, 229 flats is better than none – “and the sold mouldering away for another 30 years”.

“There is a recourse to getting more affordable units in there if that’s possible as it gets nearer to completion.”

Jim Gowans, representing the Conservation Advisory Group, said that the group recommended refusal because of the harm that the scheme would do to the grade II registered Preston Park.

Councillor Julie Cattell

Councillor Julie Cattell

Councillor Clare Moonan said: “It is big. It is huge. But we have a tall buildings corridor in our City Plan and we have it for a reason.”

She said that if we are to provide enough housing, we are going to have to go up.

Councillor Moonan said that she would have preferred to have seen more affordable housing but accepted the plans before her.

Councillor Penny Gilbey said: “To me, it’s just to overbearing. This is much much taller than anything around it.”

Councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the Planning Committee and also represents Preston Park Ward, said: “What I struggled to find was a sustainable reason for refusal (but) it does meet all the policies.

“I want to see the site developed. It is hideous. We do need new houses and, as Councillor Moonan said, we’ve got to go up.

“Having said that, I like the design. It has a playfulness about it.”

The scheme was agreed by nine votes to three by the Planning Committee this afternoon (Wednesday 14 December) in a meeting at Hove Town Hall, with dozens of neighbours in the audience.

Afterwards Mr Lipton said that he was delighted with the decision but was mindful of the concerns of people living in Dyke Road Drive. First Base would try to be a good neighbour during construction, he said, adding that he hoped preparatory work could start in the first few months of next year.

  1. Joseph Miller Reply

    Not once in this article does it mention that over 15 breeding pairs of Tawny Owls are roosting in this building. Does the council expect them to find affordable houses as well? I am a representative of a local bird group and feel that our local birds have been greatly neglected.

    • Rolivan Reply

      They are getting à brand new set of boxes to roost in.

  2. Harry Groves Reply

    You must be a wind up Joseph Miller! Who cares about 15 pairs of owls when you can house 229 families. I’m sure the council could put in a condition to rehouse the birds elsewhere if they were that special.

    Typical shortsightedness.. constant progress is needed to keep the wheels of our economy and country moving.

    • Kate Reply

      If you think 229 families will be housed there you are indeed taking a very myopic stand point. These properties will be unattainable for families on modest incomes which is where housing is desperately required.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      Oh, dear, me. You really believe that don’t you. I feel sorry for you. How many families can afford £500,000 for a one-bed flat? That will be minimum, honey. Your use of the word progress to describe what is happening is obscene.

      The flats at “One Preston Park” (do they intend to build a Candy Bros style One Hyde Park on the Anston House site?)will be bought by wealthy foreigners and the mega-wealthy incomers and people wanting a second home they can use for retirement when the time comes. It was noted very expensive materials are being used to construct it. You think your bog-standard families in need will get a look in????

      • james Reply

        Valerie Paynter: From your previous posts I understand you don’t want housing full stop. Do you have a home? If so why can’t other people have a home? How long must they wait? All these delays increase the risk to the green belt being build on and push up house prices.

  3. Cllr Michael Inkpin-Leissner Reply

    Unfortunately I could not be part of todays meeting of the planning committee. But I would have agreed with Chair Julie Cattell and Cllr McCafferty. The planners followed the rules, which is for the planning committee to check and in years not hinging better came up. Of course I would have loved to see a bigger share of affordable housing. But we do need housing, and as Cllr Moonan rightly stated, in the limited space we have in Brighton and Hove, we have to go up with the buildings.

    • Valerie Paynter Reply

      Yes. We need housing, not boltholes for wealthy incomers, AirBnB investors and foreign investors looking for a safe haven to park money in

      • james Reply

        Do you support a ban on 2nd homes, empty homes, sales to non-resident overseas investors or to shell companies? That’s what we need, not a ban on building homes that you don’t like.

  4. Benny Reply

    I’m with Harry. Progress is needed not compaints about every single change. 432 cycle places! Go out and find 432 cyclists on the roads if you can. If it rains, go out and find 4. Lunatics & asylum ….

  5. U Reply

    Another scam for locals… similar to this we heard we they allowed new flats in marina. How many can afford to buy there?

  6. Deborah Reply

    Just knock the ugly building down ,get the owls out , I’d live in Hove for twenty six years and always thou why don’t thay just knock that building down and put a park there ,or something for the children ,

  7. Diado Reply

    “Brighton’s ugliest building to be demolished and replaced after standing empty for 30 years” I didn’t realise the i360 had been up that long!

  8. Rolivan Reply

    So who was your substitute Cllr Inkpin-Leissner and how did they vote?It is all very well you saying how you would have voted,however you didn’t.How many meetings is that you have missed now,I suggest if you haven’t the time you step down.Why stand in the first place and what have you actually achieved?You might say it is easy to criticise,well if you put your Head above the parapet what do you expect.By the way Coldean is not à Village.

  9. Rolivan Reply

    There is lots of Space in Brighton and Hove to build,it is just not being utilised when I spoke to Liz Hobden recently with à proposal She Saïd that people would protest,well what is new,however it is not her job to second guess anyone.

  10. L Reply

    Great. We’re denied planning permission for a loft conversion for our house on Dyke Road Drive, and they pass this monstrosity in our back garden? We’ve got two children in a two bed house so now we’ll have to move to Worthing because our family can no longer afford to live in Brighton. Nice work making more space for families to live- morons. And I bet this development will make it bloody hard to sell.

    • Harry Reply

      But having a derelict building dubbed the ugliest in Sussex would have pushed up the price?! Personally I think it would help getting rid of the eyesore.

  11. Sam Reply

    Couldn’t we do something forward thinking and progressive like these vertical forest high-rise buildings which deals with air pollution from the busy road too…

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