Pubs, shops and music venues offered protection from developers

Councillors have approved protections for the pubs, music venues and independent shops that give Brighton and Hove some of its character.

The protections were put forward as part of the council’s planning blueprint for the next 10 years.

They are intended to help independent shops in The Lanes and North Laine as well as smaller shopping parades outside the centre of Brighton.

The policies – approved at a “virtual” meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council last night (Thursday 23 April) – would also make it harder for developers to turn pubs into homes.

They would have to show that a pub was no longer economically viable, the community no longer needed it and there was an alternative to meet the local need.

Labour councillor Alan Robins said: “During the current lockdown we’ve come to appreciate even more how important our local shops are.

“Being able to pop to the local shop for essentials has been vital in helping to keep us all safe.

“Equally, I know we are all missing the independent shops and pubs in our neighbourhoods that have had to close at this time.”

Councillor Robins, who chairs the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee, added: “A significant number of pubs have been lost to other uses in Brighton and Hove over the last few years.

“Our new public house policy will protect pubs in recognition of their contribution to local communities.”

Councillors were told last night that Brunswick Town, in Hove, would be among the areas where local shops would be protected.

It is included in the latest version of the council’s 10-year blueprint, known as the City Plan Part Two.

The plan is intended to keep half of all premises open as shops in a list of local shopping parades.

The aim would be to retain general grocery stores, post offices, hairdressers, pharmacies and newsagents, etc, rather than turning over shops to housing, takeaways or other uses.

Green councillors asked for a parade of shops in Preston Drove, near Preston Park, to be included in the list of important local parades. This was agreed.

Other parades to be given protection include those in Goldstone Villas, Hove, Valley Drive, Portslade, and Cowley Drive, in Woodingdean.

Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth said that his party welcomed the proposals but added that the policy would need revisiting in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Fellow Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown said: “Employment and the retail sector are obviously going through unprecedented times. The corona shock in the UK is of a speed and scale never seen before.

Councillor Vanessa Brown

“Some cities and towns are being hit harder than others. University cities like ours have been hit twice – they have lost all their students and their tourists.

“Brighton, in particular, has seen massive spending falls, plummeting around 60 per cent during the first week in April compared to last year.

“One of our great strengths as a shopping destination is the fact that we have so many unique, individual shops, particularly in The Lanes and on the seafront promenade.

“It would be catastrophic to the tourist industry if we should lose this vibrant mix of interesting shops.”

Music venues should also have extra protection once the City Plan Part Two is formally adopted.

Councillor Alan Robins

The plan includes “agent of change rules” so that if an existing business was likely to affect, say, new homes, it would fall to the developer to prevent any nuisance.

If appropriate, covenants could be put in place to make it much harder for people living in new developments from complaining about the activities of existing businesses.

Conservative councillor Joe Miller, who chaired the council’s Live Music Policy Panel, asked for the protection specifically to include live music venues.

He said: “New neighbouring developments could, as we have seen before, subsequently moan to environmental health about noise disturbance coming from venues that have been there for years, resulting in closure.”

Councillors unanimously agreed the request.

A further public consultation is expected to run online for six weeks from early next month – at consultations.brighton-hove.gov.uk.

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