Hove Park cafe developers ditched survey objections, ombudsman report finds

Posted On 14 Jun 2019 at 1:21 pm

Hove Park Cafe by Simon Carey on www.geograph.org.uk

Objections to controversial plans to demolish Hove Park Cafe which could have triggered a public hearing were not sent on to the council by developers according to a newly published report.

Gino Fox’s plans to knock down the old cafe and replace it with a modern, Japanese-inspired building were approved by officers a year ago.

The plans were publicised by two site notices, one of which was placed away from the cafe and the other around the back where customers did not pass it.

And the developer’s agent also held an exhibition one weekend, giving customers the chance to fill out a form with comments which were then uploaded to the council website.

The agent uploaded 80 comments of support – but just one objection.

Many residents and users of the park were aghast when they heard about the scheme for the first time after the decision had already been made.

One park user took his complaint about the lack of publicity to the local ombudsman, which this week made its report public.

It said that although the council had not been at fault, it is possible that if the agent had submitted all the objections, it could have gone before Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee. 

The report said: “This suggests to me the agent did not upload the objections that were received as part of their consultation exercise…

“Mr B’s concern is that if all the comments made had been submitted, including those objecting to the proposal, then it would have triggered the requirement for it to be considered by the planning committee.

“There needs to be five objections for that to happen. The agent [told the complainant there had been] two or three and with the one the council refers to in the report this would still be under the five needed.

“I understand that the comments on the number of objections may have been an under-estimate and if they had all been submitted it might have triggered the need for consideration by the committee.”

The report also notes that the big influx of supportive comments online over a short period of time prompted a planning officer to contact one of those commenting, who reassured him they had been encouraged to do so on a computer in the cafe.

When the ombudsman investigated, the agent explained they had also given out paper forms with a consent section saying any comments left would be uploaded to the council website by the agent. 

The report says: “I note the council’s comments that the canvassing of support is not unethical.

“However this went further than canvassing support as the comments were not submitted by the individual but by the agent.

“The council cannot police the submission of comments but an officer was rightly concerned and did contact one of the commenters.

“I think it would have been better if the council had made further enquiries of the agent when the submissions were made but I do not consider the decision not to do so amounts to fault.

“This was an unusual situation, there was no guidance or policy for the officer to refer to and they exercised their judgement and took action.”

Mark Pellant, director of Koru Architects which organised the consultation, said: “The public consultation was carried out in the appropriate fashion.

“I understand from the cafe owner that the complainant who triggered this complaint with the ombudsman does not even use the cafe, which might explain why he was not aware of the proposed development.

“Even if he had objected and the application went to committee, it is unlikely that it would have been refused.

“He appears to be concerned about the loss of trees when in fact there is only one tree being removed. Any harm will be outweighed by the huge benefits to park users of having a new enlarged cafe building and the council agrees.

“The ombudsman has found no fault, the new cafe will be built and Mr B will find something else to complain about.”

Chris Hawtree, who was one of those objecting last year after the decision had been made, said: “I think it shows that the developer did not have confidence in the proposal if it was all being done in this on-the-quiet manner.

“To take something to the committee can bring good debate, as we recently saw with the proposed extra floor at Hove Manor.”

The original application indicated two trees, an elm and a cherry, would be felled and there were concerns that another cherry and a sycamore could also be affected.

Work on the new cafe has not yet started, and the old cafe is still open. 

  1. Cam Reply

    MANY have opposed the new design for the cafe – it will look completely out of place.

    • Rolivan Reply

      Yes a bit like The Royal Pavilion.

  2. Mat Reply

    sigh MANY fear change and want to let it rot like the west pier.

    The current buildings is not fit for purpose and the new one looked fab in the pics i saw.

    • Matthew Reply

      Who is paying for the cafe. Why is the lease not put out to tender every five years and how do these planners and agents get away with their dodgy actions… Its tantamount to defrauding the council by skewing decisions

  3. Gruff Reply

    It’s irrelevant whether you support or not the application this is about how the application was managed

  4. saveHOVE Reply

    The Council were negligent in their placement of planning site notices on the BACK, wedt-facing cafe wall and at the western end of the park on Old Shoreham Rd – and nowhere else. This disenfranchised park users who arrive from north and east sides of any opportunity to know that this significant change to Hove Park was now a planning application.

    As bad was the negligent and deliberate decision by the so-called “Friends of Hove Park”, who HAD been informed, to allow notification on the public information board. Their excuse was that telling people it existed would show bias. The ignorance of such high handed behaviour is hard to understand.

    That ward cllrs also knew & said nothing is also pretty sad testament to usefulness!

    Some disabled & frail elderly cannot access the current pavilion (steps) and its capacity is small but the drastic design change between it and what is proposed needed far more scrutiny than it got.

    This considerable change to how the park will look and be used should not have been sneaked past park users – which it was.

  5. Billy Reply

    Is there anything significant about the architecture of the existing building that makes local people want to keep it?
    And is there an architect’s drawing in the new building we can look at?
    (I’m in Hove but this is not my nearest park).
    Planning laws should not be flaunted, but what is the underlying issue here?

    • Gruff Reply

      The underlying issue is that if a Brighton and hove resident objects to an application then this should be listened to by the planners the architect chose not to advise the council of any objections this is wrong

    • Valerie Reply

      Go to the Brighton & Hove City Council website planning register to look up the application for Hove Park

  6. bradly Reply

    the requirement for it to be considered by the planning committee requires 5 objectors is one of the problems = why 5? it used to be 1 only! = bent municiple law …

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