All changes to council owned buildings could be decided in public after Hove Library row

All planning applications involving council-owned buildings could be decided by councillors in future after a long-running row over controversial changes to Hove Library.

Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee may be asked to discuss any planning applications for the council’s own properties in public.

And all changes to do with the library will now go before councillors in public.

The change in policy was made after the row over the handling of plans to change elements of the historic Carnegie Library in Church Road, Hove, with the basement being converted into a nursery.

Residents and councillors alike were angered by the way in which the planning process was handled.

Criticism centred on the timing of the applications and its associated consultation period – over Christmas and the new year – and a perceived lack of communication with councillors, neighbours and other interested people such as library hours.

The application was open for public comments from Friday 8 December to Friday 29 December but was not subsequently discussed by the Planning Committee.

During the consultation period only four letters of objection were received, with five objections required to trigger a decision by the Planning Committee rather than officials.

The council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee was told this evening (Thursday 21 June) that a further nine letters arrived after the deadline.

Angry residents have since submitted a 222-signature petition complaining about the timing and decision.

Some of the historic radial shelving is being removed although Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said that some other more positive changes were now also being made as a result of the fuss.

Former Planning Committee chair, Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, welcomed the change in policy, describing it as essential in the short term, if not possible to maintain on a long-term basis.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said: “We have to rebuild community trust.

“This ended up in community mistrust of the entire process and has evolved into mistrust where it’s not needed.”

Labour councillor Adrian Morris said: “It’s a great pity that not enough people came forward with objections.

“The problem of the library shelving and removal of books really needed addressing.

”It’s a lesson for the community – to get much more involved.”

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