Brighton students’ neighbours demand action

People living in a block of flats who have put up with building works and now noisy student neighbours just yards away are demanding action from the council.

Milner Flats resident Alicia Mackie has sent an open letter to Brighton and Hove City Council cataloguing the issues that people have faced during redevelopment of Circus Street, in the centre of Brighton.

Her letter follows recent revelations by two councillors, Amanda Evans and Mary Mears, about the anti-social behaviour experienced by people in the flats since the first student tenants moved into their rooms in September, after years of misery during construction.

Councillor Evans and fellow Queen’s Park ward Labour councillor Nick Childs are working with the area’s MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle to find a way forward to put legal pressure on the developers and management company Kaplan to do something.

Ms Mackie’s letter to the council’s executive director for neighbourhoods, communities and housing, Larissa Reid, said: “The council … has let tenants down, both as landlords with a duty of care and as project partners in partnership with what must be one of the worst construction companies any of us has ever heard of.

“Until the recent actions of neighbourhood activists, local journalists and finally our MP/newly elected councillors, a whole 18 months went by with what can only be described as a period of blatant verbal abuse and bullying by site staff towards tenants (including myself) and the complete indifference of our landlords who knew of these incidents all along.

“I’m very glad every time council officers and elected representatives admit these errors and promise to make changes, but actions speak louder than words.

“The changes never come. The indignities persist.

“After you yourself attended your first ‘liaison’ meeting (at Millwood) in May and stated very clearly that the council had ‘got it wrong’ (you issued a sharp rebuke to Henry Construction and we were glad of that), I’m sad to say there was no improvement.”

Ms Mackie detailed health issues that she faced and her worries for her children, and said: “Based on my family and those I know of in the flats around me, I think it’s fair to say that it’s highly likely that many other families and individuals have been suffering in ways we can only imagine these past two years.

“Myself and others I know have discussed these matters with one another.

“When Circus Street was in its midway stages with excruciating noise and choking dust, some tenants of Milner/Nelson/Ivory have been to all intents and purposes held captive inside flats with windows shut and blackout curtains in place.

“Every time I speak to a different nearby neighbour, I hear of more lives damaged.

“Our MP mentioned compensation. My feeling is that the council should carry out a health and wellbeing audit as a matter of urgency based on its duty of care to its tenants (but also based on equalities legislation and the Clean Air Act surely?).

“Yes, we need immediate action (no more warm words please) – action on privacy in relation to the student accommodation, arrangements made for trades deliveries, parking, repair to roads and kerbs caused by construction trucks.

“However, what people here really need is a concrete demonstration of some basic respect accorded to us, be it the cancelling of service charge, fixing of damp interiors, fixing of pointing, resumption of basic cleaning services (hallways/stairwells), TV aerials (where are they?), any or all of these measures should be happening right now.

“Don’t you agree? Frankly, families with GP and social service verification of deteriorating health over this shameful period need a substantial compensation payout and I can tell you that there are families in a far worse state of physical and mental ill health than mine.”

A council spokesperson said: “We’re deeply sorry that Ms Mackie’s and her neighbours’ quality of life has continued to have been severely affected as a result of the Circus Street development. This is simply not acceptable and we’ll take this up directly again with contractors.

“The council’s Community Engagement Team is meeting soon with Ms Mackie to discuss how to better support the residents in Kingwood and Milner flats.

“We’re also working with local people to produce a Neighbourhood Action Plan for the Queen’s Park ward which will outline how improvements to health and wellbeing, community safety, the environment and transport can be made.

“We will also be working with the Millwood Management Committee to see if there are opportunities for community activities that will address some of the issues of social isolation and low level mental health in the area.”

  1. Valerie Reply

    University students should have to behave normally and not antisocially or face being expelled – sent down. Loss of their university places should be an absolute and non-negotiable consequence of making the lives of residents a misery.

    The bizarre abandonment of the Milner residents needs explanation.

  2. Catherine Greene Reply

    This isn’t a statement from all the residents we have a tenants group and have regular meetings this was not known by the tenants she has gone off on one on her own we ad residents love our community and there’s always problems with new builds especially when it’s so big as this one is I’m a member of the committee we all try our hardest to work with contractors council etc and we will continue to do so as a community not as witch hunter working with no one else knowing what she’s doing!

    • Kristy Reply

      In most other cities in the U.K. landlords are struggling to fill their properties with students because the universities have built adequate student accommodation. Not Brighton. Here, the universities accept the student numbers first and then think of where they will live as an after-thought.

  3. Chris Reply

    Sounds as if it’s the usual “Students Rule OK” and everyone else is ignored.

  4. Ian Powell Reply

    Please be aware, the upgrade to that area will improve the value of the properties.

  5. Liz Reply

    Ms Mackie’s letter shows real restraint when it sounds like she and other residents have faced such a nightmare. I hope the powers that be listen to her and things improve for the tenants.

  6. Diane osborne Reply

    Too much student accommodation is invadibg our town, and it is a town, not a city. We are being dwarfed by ugly, buildings, and students who have no clue what manners and courtesy,are.(espessially on the buses,)
    Brighton was always a beautiful place, with character cottages and houses.
    People would come for miles to see our quaint and unique, way of living,
    The beauty of the pavillion, churches and victorian history.
    It is now a mish mash, of beauty battling ugly, and as a local am finding negotiatibg my way around the hundreds of ugly cones and plastic orange barriers difficult, and unnessesary road works which this council are obsessed with, and we are paying for. Enough! Go and destroy somewhere else. We have had enough.

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