More than 160 flats are to be built in a prime spot on Hove seafront after planners gave their backing this afternoon (Wednesday 7 November).
Almost 70 of them will be in King’s House, the former headquarters building of Brighton and Hove City Council which was sold for £26 million last year.
Two new blocks will also be built as part of the scheme – one of them ten storeys high – along with an underground car park.
Residents in 15 flats will be eligible for on-street parking permits and the underground car park will have spaces for 80 cars. There will also be extensive bicycle parking.
But the council’s Planning Committee raised concerns about what they said was a lack of parking, as well as the limited number of “affordable” homes and how developer contributions would be spent.
The committee nonetheless approved the planning application for the flats, in Queen’s Gardens, Grand Avenue and Second Avenue.
Members heard from Central Hove ward councillors Andrew Wealls and Clare Moonan – Conservative and Labour respectively. They raised their concerns jointly.
Councillor Wealls spoke about the scheme’s impact on the busy streets.
He said: “Anyone trying to park in Grand Avenue and Second Avenue in the summer or in the early evening will not find a space.”
Councillor Moonan told the committee that the scheme included too few affordable homes. She said: “There should be 68 affordable units but we have only 28.”
She also said that it should be a “car-free” development.
A proposed six-storey block on the former car park in Second Avenue would contain 28 flats – all classed as affordable homes – with 15 of them for rent. The other 13 would be for shared ownership.
Labour councillor Emma Daniel asked why there were not more affordable flats for rent.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn also said that she was disappointed that only 17.5 per cent of the flats would be affordable.
She said: “A lot of people will not be able to afford the affordable housing anyway. Affordable should be affordable for all people.”
Labour councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the Planning Committee, said that officers had negotiated with the developer Morta Nova Grand Avenue.
The developer had said that the scheme would not be viable if it included affordable homes but now included 28.
The developer has also agreed to pay a “commuted sum” of £265,000 to go towards affordable homes elsewhere in Brighton and Hove.
The 1980s office extension in Grand Avenue will be demolished to make way for the ten-storey block of flats.
Neighbours were concerned but the developer said that the new building would be about the same height as the empty offices vacated a few years ago by the council.
One neighbour Melinda Barrett told the Planning Committee that the new block would overshadow and overlook existing homes next door.
She said: “There is an overwhelming loss of privacy. The flats were only looked over during office hours.
“A new ten-storey building with its oversized windows will end up overlooking all ten floors 24-7 and overshadowing.”
Another neighbour Joy Robinson also spoke about overlooking and asked for the developer contribution towards parks and open spaces could be spent nearer the site.
She said that residents should have a say in where the money was spent.
A report said that £13,000 could be spent in Kingsway, Palmeira Square, St Anns Well Gardens, Hove Park, Aldrington Recreation Ground – also known as Wish Park – or Hove Lagoon.
A further £164,000 for parks and gardens could be spent in the same places.
Brunswick and Adelaide ward councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, a Green, asked for a commitment to spending developer contributions on Hove Lawns as the closest site to King’s House.
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald asked if money could be used to repair the railings or go towards restoring gardens in the area.
She said: “Money should be spent near the buildings not some where way away.”
Planning officer Jonathan Puplett said that some of the 69 flats proposed in King’s House were “below par” but allowances had to be made because of the listed building status.
Conservative councillor Joe Miller said that he was disappointed one of the buildings were not used as office space.
He said: “It is regrettable but I understand the issues and the case for housing. I would have liked to have seen one of the new builds as offices to mitigate this loss.”
Green councillor Leo Littman disagreed. He said: “This was the Seeboard building when I was growing up and I thought ‘what are offices doing in that?’
“I am happy to see it go back to its original use.”
Ten councillors voted for the scheme, with Conservative councillor Jayne Bennett abstaining because of her concerns about the height of the ten-storey building proposed for Grand Avenue.