The owner of Brighton’s “ugliest building” was given permission for a “build to rent” scheme this afternoon (Wednesday 10 June).
Anston House is expected to be demolished and replaced by three tower blocks up to 15 storeys high, containing a total of 229 flats.
The owner First Base was granted planning permission for an almost identical proposal in 2016 although many of the flats were originally intended to have been for sale.
Today councillors once again said that they were concerned that First Base still planned to build too few “affordable” homes on the site, opposite Preston Park.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy is for 40 per cent of the homes in bigger schemes to be classed as “affordable”.
This would mean more than 90 flats in the Anston House scheme – but First Base said that it could only manage to build 30 affordable homes for rent.
The council’s Planning Committee reluctantly accepted the offer, having been told that an official independent valuation of the scheme supported the developer’s estimates.
Two councillors – Conservative Joe Miller and independent Bridget Fishleigh – asked whether the costs estimates would still be accurate given the changing economic landscape since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
They were told that it was as up to date as possible and that the council’s estimates of the scheme’s viability were similar to the developer’s.
If the scheme proved to be more profitable than anticipated, the scheme could be reviewed and the number of affordable homes increased.
The derelict office block, described by one councillor as “a blot on the landscape”, has stood empty for more than 30 years – since 1987.
The committee was told that First Base and its building contractor Henry Construction need to start work by early November or the planning permission would expire.
First Base is understood to be preparing to start work in time on the £70 million scheme which, according to one economic analysis, could give the local economy a £140 million boost.
Councillor Miller said that the building had been empty his entire life – a comment that he made when First Base was granted planning permission for the original scheme nearly three years ago.
Green councillor Sue Shanks said that she used to live in the area and wanted to see the site redeveloped.
She said: “I do think we should pass this now. Hopefully, they’ll get on and do it because it’s taken a long time and it’s been through various different iterations.
“Build to rent is a good idea at the moment.”
Labour councillor Daniel Yates said: “It is sensible to review the existing proposal. I just hope something happens.
“It has been vacant for the whole of Councillor Miller’s lifetime and a little bit of time before.
“It’s been a blot on the landscape in that part of the city for many decades.
“Unfortunately we’ve seen schemes come and go. We have to be welcoming but cautious and recognise that build to rent is the way of the future to deliver affordable and quality housing.”
Half of the 30 affordable homes would be one-bedroom flats and the other half would be two-bedroom flats. At least three of the affordable flats would be wheelchair-accessible.
Some of the affordable rents are expected to be set at 80 per cent of the local market level, with the others capped at the “local housing allowance” rate – the amount paid in housing benefit to people renting from private landlords.
The scheme is also expected to generate “developer contributions” worth about £1.3 million for the council.
The money would be used to fund school places, open spaces and transport measures. The site has permission for 111 car parking spaces and 432 bikes.