There are no two ways about it, building 930 homes on the city’s 16 remaining natural sites on the urban fringe is a disaster for the environment. So why has Brighton and Hove’s Green and Labour coalition council proposed doing so, and how can residents stop it?
To set the scene, the 930 homes figure falls within an important council document called the City Plan, which is the development plan for Brighton and Hove up until 2030. Part 1 sets the broad parameters. Part 2 fills in the detail.
City Plan Part 2 is out for consultation now and it’s imperative that residents respond to make clear that we do care for the environment – that the myriad of delightful and irreplaceable sites which make up the urban fringe are not up for grabs.
The sites include gems such as Whitehawk Hill including Ingleside Stables, the Stanmer Estate in Coldean, Benfield Valley – and Horsdean and Ladies Mile in Patcham. We Conservatives have petitions up and running for all of these sites and are grateful to every one of the thousands of residents who have already added their signatures.
While it is true that our city’s assessed housing need was put at 30,000 new homes by 2030, few felt that such a target was either desirable or realistic. The consequences for quality of life of building so many homes so quickly had to be taken into account and, quite simply, sites are just not available. After much discussion, the government settled on a target of 13,200 homes.
City Plan Part 2 contains provision for around 16,000 homes which means that we are 2,800 homes over the target. There was therefore no need to include 930 homes on the urban fringe.
Being the most environmentally-friendly party locally, the Conservatives of course attempted to amend City Plan Part 2 but were thwarted by Labour and Green councillors. We weren’t happy to sacrifice our environmental principles so ended up voting against the plan despite winning victories on various issues such as the protection of family homes and the construction of homes of all shapes and sizes.
Each site in the urban fringe is special in its own way but they are all rich in biodiversity and rural in feel – a small part of the countryside in a busy city. Slow worms, solitary bees, lizards and butterflies all stand to be killed if building work goes ahead.
I can’t help but feel that many Green councillors must be feeling uncomfortable not mounting a proper campaign against the destruction of the urban fringe. Several have certainly expressed frustration privately. Labour members and supporters have been in touch in the hundreds though with many upset and angry that numerous Labour councillors pledged (and continue to pledge in some cases) to preserve Whitehawk Hill’s precious nature reserve and then voted to destroy it.
While this is clearly a local matter, some Labour and Green councillors have suggested that it is a parliamentary matter and their hands are tied. When questioned about what our local Labour and Green Members of Parliament have done to raise the issue, they go strangely silent.
Let’s not be under any doubt – if Brighton and Hove wishes to be taken seriously as an area where residents protect rather than destroy the environment, councillors must vote to protect the urban fringe.
The consultation is open now at https://consultations.brighton-hove.gov.uk/planning/city-plan-part-two-proposed-submission/consultation.
Be sure to respond to “H2 Housing Sites – Urban Fringe” and make clear that you wish the urban fringe to be removed from the plan. The deadline for responses is Friday 30 October.
Councillor Robert Nemeth speaks for the Conservatives on the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee.