Councillors have turned down planning permission for 125 homes to be built on a greenfield site in Mile Oak after hundreds of objections from neighbours.
More than 360 people opposed plans by Crest Nicholson for land between Overdown Rise and Mile Oak Road, Portslade.
The company was prepared to pay a “developer contribution” – also known as “section 106” money totalling more than £1.5 million.
The money was to go towards the cost of school places, “pedestrian and public transport infrastructure improvements” and sport and open spaces.
The scheme allowed for parking for 157 cars and 192 bicycles, with 40 visitor car parking spaces and 12 disabled bays.
The buildings were to be two storeys high with a mix of one-bed flats up to four-bed semi and detached houses, 40 per cent of which would be ‘affordable’.”
Councillor Peter Atkinson, who represents North Portslade Ward, addressed fellow members of Brighton and Hove City Council when the council’s Planning Committee met at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Wednesday 12 April).
He said: “Almost 400 letters were submitted with only two actually supporting the proposals.”
Councillor Atkinson focused on the extra pressure that would be put on local infrastructure before the committee voted six to four against the scheme even though it had support from planning officials.
He said: “This proposed development is on the edge of a series of narrow interconnected roads and is hemmed in on three sides by existing housing.
“It can take up to 20 minutes in the morning to get from Mile Oak on to the A293 link road. I note the proposal in the application for Fox Way to be widened as it approaches the link road but, with 200-plus cars from the new development, this could result in virtual deadlock for long periods of time in the morning and evening. This is of huge concern to local people.
“There were mud slides into Overdown Rise and Graham Crescent many years ago when this land was ploughed.
“Both Overdown Rise and the top of the Mile Oak Road have also flooded more recently.
“Southern Water said in their response (to the planning application): ‘The proposed development would increase flows into the waste water sewerage system and as a result increase the risk of flooding in and around the existing area.’
“The council’s own flood risk management officer said: ‘There is a history of surface water and ground water flooding in this area.’ It only needs one extreme event to cause flooding misery as recently witnessed in the Valley Road part of Portslade.
“I recognise that this is covered in the application and paper before you today but local residents remain unconvinced.”
Councillor Atkinson also raised concerns about access to the local GP (general practice) surgery, saying: “Patients already have to use ‘call back’ as opposed to face-to-face appointments at Mile Oak Medical Centre. This facility would need major additional investment to cope with the extra demand that this development would inevitably create.”
He added: “Buses are often full by the time they get to central Portslade from Mile Oak at peak times so any more passengers getting on in Mile Oak would impact significantly on passengers further down the route.
“We need new housing, I recognise that, but this is simply the wrong place for it.”
One of the scheme’s neighbours, Roger Harper, said: “The need for new housing is clearly appreciated (but) the development raises numerous questions on sustainability.
“The demands on water supply have been a struggle over the past 20 years with several hosepipe bans.”
He said that there would also be extra pressure on the drainage system from the top of a valley, adding: “The current NHS GP provision is struggling. How will a further 400 people be supported?
“This development will devastate local wildlife and will be another step towards the extinction of many species locally.
“This city deserves better.”
Crest Nicholson was represented by Peter Rainier, the director of planning at DMH Stallard. He said: “The application site is part of the urban fringe and has been identified by the (council’s) Urban Fringe Assessment as being suitable for housing.
“This application represents an excellent opportunity to provide a significant number of desperately needed good-quality family homes within Brighton and Hove – 50 of which will be affordable – which Crest are keen to start delivering at the earliest opportunity.
“In addition it also provides an opportunity to bring the Mile Oak Fields SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) into positive management and improve and formalise links from the urban area to the South Downs National Park for the benefit of existing and future occupiers.
“While we do acknowledge the concerns raised by residents, the application will also provide a range of measures which will include widening of the approach arm to the Fox Way/A293 roundabout, a contribution of over £700,000 towards schools and over £460,000 towards open space and leisure facilities.
“The proposals will result in the development of just under half of the site area.
“The Mile Oak Fields SNCI has been gradually degrading, caused by the lack of management which has led to the encroachment of scrub taking over the chalk grassland.
“The application includes a comprehensive ecological appraisal and sets out measures to bring the SNCI back into active management and facilitate the return of good-quality chalk grassland with benefits to local wildlife.
“The application also provides an opportunity to formalise public access to the SNCI and connect the site and surrounding urban area with public footpaths linking to the national park.
“This is a sensitively designed scheme that has been based on a significant amount of background studies to ensure that the proposals are appropriate for the area.
“It will provide an important contribution towards the council’s housing supply.”
Councillor Lynda Hyde, who formerly chaired the Planning Committee, said that she would prefer developers to build on brownfield sites before looking to greenfield sites.
Having visited the site, she said: “What I saw was a quiet neighbourhood with narrow roads that already had trouble coping with the number of cars.”
She said that there were adders, slow worms, grass snakes and hedgehogs “which are known to be massively diminishing in numbers” – and “the site supports a number of breeding birds which are threatened by the reducing number of hedgerows”.
Councillor Hyde said: “I can’t agree with the ecologist that they have no objections, having visited the site, and I wonder what they would object to.
“How can you maintain the ecology and develop that site? Everything will be destroyed.
“People move to the urban fringe to enjoy the countryside (but) the character of the whole area will now be changed.”
Councillor Carol Theobald said: “I am conscious of so many objections and so many unhappy residents.”
She said that she was worried about the pressure on infrastructure such as the doctors’ surgery. And she had concerns about “the wildlife – there seems to be a lot there – birds, lizards, bats and all sorts. I’m really not happy to be losing this lovely green space”.
Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “I’m quite concerned about the ecology. Some of the contradictions … about our endangered species are not being fully recognised in this.”
But, he said: “Heavy use of the buses may be a positive. The bus company could put more buses on.
“It may keep some of those primary schools going that may in five or ten years’ time be struggling.
“The principle of development, I have no problem with.
“While Councillor Hyde saw a beautiful ecologically diverse site, I saw scrubland that was poorly managed.”
This scheme, he said, would enhance the ecological management of the site.
Councillor Jayne Bennett said: “The area will be flooded with cars.”
She also criticised the timing of the traffic surveys which excluded school traffic.
Councillor Dan Yates said: “There are some very difficult balances in all of this. It’s a poorly managed SNCI although that doesn’t stop it being an SNCI.”
Despite better management, he said: “I see it as a loss of SNCI.”
Councillor Leo Littman said: “It is a really difficult balancing act. I don’t like the idea of building on our urban fringe sites.”
He said that he knew the site as he went to school just down the road and conceded that it was a “poorly managed” nature conservation site.
He was mindful of the need for affordable housing, adding: “It’s something we need on the edge of our city. We may not particularly want it.”
Councillor Joe Miller said that the South Downs National Park Authority had not objected to the plans, adding: “Homes are needed for people as well as creatures. Rough sleepers are an endangered species as much as any of these.”
He wasn’t keen on building on greenfield land and said: “These are the wrong sites and we should be building more densely on brownfield sites. I don’t generally agree with building on the urban fringe.”
Councillor Penny Gilbey, the deputy chair of the Planning Committee and a North Portslade ward councillor, said: “We welcome housing and 40 per cent affordable is good.”
All the schools in North Portslade were good or outstanding but they were not full, she said.
Flooding, though, was a concern. She said: “About 30 years ago we did have a flood there that came down from those hills because those bushes were cut down at one point.”
There was water running all the way down to Graham Avenue, she said, with the ponds unable to hold all the water.
And last year surface water came rushing down all the way to Valley Road. She said: “On the flooding issue, which I’m really worried about, I won’t be supporting this.”
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, who also formerly chaired the Planning Committee, raised concerns about the corn bunting, a species of bird which is endangered.
He said: “This is really difficult. There are serious concerns that there might be an extremely rare species that should be respected and protected. This is a greenfield site.
“On the other hand we’re in the middle of the worst housing crisis the city’s ever seen.”
Councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the Planning Committee, said: “We need homes. People need homes.”
The formal grounds for rejecting the application included the effect on surrounding roads, the harm to the ecology including threats to endangered species, transport and parking displacement, flooding, including from surface run-off, and sustainability.
Crest Nicholson said that it would give serious consideration to lodging an appeal.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.