A developer plans to build more than 200 flats in an 18-storey block just west of Hove railway station.
The £67 million “Hove Gardens” scheme would provide homes for about 500 people, jobs for more than 300 people and a makeover for a rundown plot opposite the 10-storey Clarendon Estate flats.
The developer Watkin Jones said that the site had the potential to be “a catalyst to kickstart future development” in an area earmarked by the council for new homes and businesses.
But the planning application submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council includes a “financial viability assessment” that justifies including no “affordable” housing among the 216 proposed build-to-rent flats.
The council’s planning policies call for 40 per cent of new homes to be classed as “affordable” in larger schemes – and Watkin Jones said that it was committed to including “affordable” homes in the scheme.
The viability report was based on official “standard viability assessment methodology”, it said, to provide the district valuer with a fair assessment of the scheme ahead of negotiations.
Watkin Jones development director Kenny Oke told Brighton and Hove News: “As highlighted throughout the consultation on this application, Watkin Jones remains absolutely committed to providing on-site affordable housing.
“And we will be entering into discussions with council officers once the district valuer has produced a response.”
The previous owner, Matsim, was refused planning permission to build 186 homes on the one-acre site in Ellen Street three years ago.
The council’s Planning Committee wanted 47 of the flats to be affordable – or 25 per cent – but Matsim said that it could only manage 35 affordable homes – or 19 per cent.
The property business, owned by the Lambor family, offered more affordable homes if the scheme proved more profitable than estimated but the Planning Committee turned down the offer.
Matsim appealed and the scheme was approved last year, with a planning inspector ruling that rising costs meant that it should include just 19 affordable homes – or 10 per cent.
The fresh plans submitted by new landowner include an assessment by the Turley planning consultancy. It said: “The proposed development should not contribute any affordable housing units – or a payment in lieu of on-site provision – or any sums towards planning obligations.”
The “planning obligations” – also known as developer contributions – for a scheme like Hove Gardens would be expected to put about £2.8 million into the council’s coffers. These are also likely to be the subject of negotiations between the applicant and the council.
But if the scheme is built – with completion pencilled end in for late 2022 – it should generate more than £500,000 a year for the council in business rates and council tax alone.
Watkin Jones, a long-established developer, said that it wanted to build 31 studios, 101 one-bed flats, 73 two-bedroom flats and 11 homes with three bedrooms.
The plans, drawn up by London architects CJCT, also known as Carey Jones Chapman Tolcher, include two roof terraces and office space totalling just over 2,000 square metres.
The scheme is intended to be “car-free” as the site is well served by public transport and close to Hove station, the Conway Street bus depot and Hove’s main shopping area.
There would, though, be 36 car parking spaces in the basement – about half for blue badge holders – and room for 323 bikes.
Watkin Jones, which is based in Bangor, in North Wales, said that its plans would create up to 126 jobs during construction and more than 190 jobs once work was completed.
The business, which was started in 1791, also said that it would brighten up local roads, including Ellen Street, Ethel Street, Conway Street and the bottom of Fonthill Road.
It would work with the council to widen pavements, resurface roads, put in new pedestrian crossings, include new seating and plant trees.
The Hove Gardens scheme is likely to draw comparisons with the build-to-rent proposals for the nearby Sackville Trading Estate.
The landowner Coal Pension Properties and developer Moda Living were initially refused panning permission for 800 tower block homes on the site.
Councillors criticised the size of the proposed flats and the rents that Moda wanted to charge for them. They also said that the plans included too many poky studios.
But last month the Planning Committee approved revised plans with a different mix that included fewer studios and more one, two and three-bedroom flats.
Moda said that a one-bedroom flat was likely to be rented for about £1,250 a month, a two-bedroom flat for £1,600 and a three-bedroom flat for £2,100.
Watkin Jones, which lets its flats through its Fresh Property subsidiary, has budgeted on rents of just under £1,000 for a studio to just over £2,000 for a three-bedroom flat.
A couple could expect to pay just under £1,200 or just over £1,400 for a one-bed or two-bedroom flat.
The flats alone are expected to generate almost £3.4 million a year in rent – and the commercial premises are expected to generate a further £400,000 a year.
Watkin Jones, a public limited company which is listed on the London Stock Exchange, made a £50 million pre-tax profit on turnover of £375 million in the year to Monday 30 September 2019.
The company described itself as a market leader in purpose-built student flats and a relatively new entrant in the build-to-rent sector with more than half a dozen schemes under way or completed.
It said that it had already invested almost £15 million in the Hove Gardens project and hoped for planning permission to be granted by or in July.
If permission is given in the summer, two years of building work is scheduled to start in the autumn, with the first tenants moving in by the end of 2022.
The scheme has been designed to make use of a small neighbouring car park owned by Brighton and Hove Buses, should the site become available.
Last week Watkin Jones said that the covid-19 coronavirus crisis was causing significant disruption to its business operations but that it was resilient, with enough cash to withstand the problems for now.
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