Councillors raised concerns about future housing for people living in former shipping containers.
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee asked for reassurances during a “virtual” meeting on Thursday (8 October).
They agreed to allow negotiations for a development agreement on the land at the corner of New England Street and New England Road, subject to a business case.
The land is the site of the old Cobbler’s Thumb pub and includes Richardson’s Yard, home of scrap metal merchants George E Richardson and Sons, as well as eight small business units.
Investment company QED Estates owns the freehold of half the site where 36 shipping containers operated by Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) provide housing for previously homeless people.
The report before councillors said that all tenants would be offered somewhere else to live.
Labour councillor Gill Williams was concerned that the current tenants would be “thrown off” into the private sector without any support.
She said: “I would like some reassurance because these people have lived there for quite some time. What we don’t want is people ending up homeless because of this. We’ve got quite enough of those already.”
Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said that there was a political commitment to ensure that residents did not end up homeless.
Green councillor David Gibson, who co-chairs the council’s Housing Committee, said that he shared Councillor Williams’s concerns. He said: “We need more than a reassurance about the move on. We need reassurance about not losing 36 units of homeless accommodation.
“QED is working closely with Brighton Housing Trust and (there is) a process in place for relocation.
“I’m interested in having more detail on the future provision, where people are going to be relocated to and a guarantee that 36 units are relocated and replaced not just people absorbed within the existing and already highly pressed provision of emergency housing.
“I’m looking for that to be completely signed and sealed by the time we get to the business plan in six months.”
Nick Hibberd, the council’s executive director for the economy, environment and culture, said that a “clear and appropriate” move on plan for people living at the site was part of the process.
He said that the priority was to ensure that people were rehoused.
Conservative councillor Joe Miller said that the development agreement should not be signed until the business case was approved.
Councillor Miller said: “I do find it strange that the council, on one hand, has a housing crisis and wants to build more housing across the city.
“We’re looking here to set in train that one company will buy our land as market land when we are struggling for sites.”
He received unanimous backing as councillors agreed that more time was needed to make sure the business case “adds up”.
The site was said to have potential for almost 600 square metres of commercial space and up to 64 homes in an eight-storey building.
If the business case is agreed, QED would have a development option until the end of August 2024, with an option to sign a 250-year-lease on the site.
Councillors were told the site was not considered suitable for the council’s housing needs but a third-party developer could be more likely to deliver more affordable homes on the site.