The latest plans for blocks of flats at Brighton Marina were dismissed as a “Poundshop Dubai” when the council’s Planning Committee debated the proposals yesterday (Wednesday 30 September).
The scheme includes nine blocks containing a thousand flats in total. The tallest of the tower blocks would be 28 storeys high.
Councillors were told that planning permission had already been granted for a scheme which included a 40-storey tower on an eight-acre site at the western end of the Marina.
And the latest proposal is due to be decided by an independent planning inspector because Brighton and Hove City Council was unable to deal with the complex scheme within the statutory 16 weeks.
Had the decision been left up to the council’s Planning Committee, it would have been refused – in line with advice from officials.
The committee’s verdict, reached during a “virtual” meeting yesterday, could be included in the evidence submitted to the planning inspector
Members criticised the design, lack of balconies, limited public space, low-quality gardens, lack of play areas, limited “affordable” housing and insufficient parking.
Labour councillor Nick Childs said that the plans could not be further away from what the city needed. He said that the design was ugly and the failure to provide affordable housing insulting.
Councillor Childs said: “There are very good examples of redevelopment of areas, such as the Eastbourne marina development, which is a nice development.
“This is nothing more than a Poundshop Dubai which is an insult to residents.”
The developer, the Outer Harbour Development Company, part of the Brighton Marina Company, was criticised for not including enough affordable housing in its proposal.
An independent valuation suggested that 12.5 per cent of the flats should be affordable because any more could render the scheme financially unviable. The council’s policy is to aim for 40 per cent.
Conservative councillor Mary Mears, who represents Rottingdean Coastal ward, said that the Marina was turning into “a concrete jungle”.
She was concerned about the lack of a second exit from the Marina and said that the sewage system was becoming overloaded.
Councillor Mears said: “None of those properties will be affordable. Anyone who knows our tall buildings in the city, anyone living on those top floors knows that buildings will move so I hope they don’t suffer from seasickness.
“There is also a serious issue around the retail units. There will be no independent retailers because of the cost. If you check with the businesses there, the running costs are too high.
“This is absolute overdevelopment of the site.”
East Brighton resident Nicholas Dunlop, who is also the secretary-general of the Climate Parliament, said that the scheme was a “very attractive replica of a London housing estate” built on the seabed.
Mr Dunlop said: “It is unwise to build on the seabed at a time when nobody knows what the sea level will be 30 years or 50 years from now.
“What we do know is sea levels’ rise is accelerating and we are seeing ever more powerful storms and storm surges doing enormous damage all around the world.”
But the developer said that a platform would elevate the site to 9m above sea level and a planning officer said that climate change and rising sea levels had been taken into account.
Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh said that the scheme did not meet Brighton and Hove’s housing needs.
She said: “We shouldn’t kid ourselves that this will go to local people. It’s going to go to investors and holiday lets.
“One of the existing blocks, Sirius, has only 10 per cent owner-occupiers at the moment. The Marina at the moment doesn’t have the facilities residents there need such as a doctor or a play park.”
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that the proposals would be an overdevelopment of the site and the buildings would be too tall.
She said: “The density would be too much, especially with extra 342 more dwellings. There are too many tall buildings on this and a lack of space between buildings.”
Independent councillor Tony Janio gave his support to the scheme. He said: “I remember the Marina in the 1980s. What a dump it was then following bankruptcies.
“People have done some sensible developments over the years and deserve a medal – and I don’t see why they shouldn’t for this as well.”
Labour councillor Tracey Hill and Green councillor Sue Shanks also voted in favour of the plans but the other seven members of the committee would have refused the scheme if the decision were theirs to make.
The appeal was submitted a fortnight ago and no date for a hearing has yet been set.