Councillors went against advice and granted planning permission for a seafront venue’s roof extension.
Rockwater’s owner Luke Davis can now add a glazed first-floor extension, along with a lower-ground floor pergola and fire pit area to the Hove venue.
Brighton and Hove City Council planning officers recommended the application was refused as the building would be too prominent and would contrast starkly with neighbouring buildings in the Sackville Gardens Conservation area.
Planning consultant Ian Coomber spoke on behalf of Walsingham Road Residents Association who were against the plans due to concerns about noise and people leaving the venue in the early hours of the morning, as it has a licence to open until 3am.
Rockwater’s operations director Lee Wilson explained the venue would not open until 3am seven days a week, but the late licence is an option for special events.
Westbourne ward’s Labour councillors Carmen Appich and Chris Henry spoke in support of the scheme which had 588 letters of support.
Independent councillor Tony Janio said it was interesting officers opposed the scheme because of the quality of the architectural value whereas the residents objected because of noise concerns.
He said: “If you were going to stick this in Pavilion Gardens I think it would drag the architectural average value down.
“But sticking it along Hove seafront – has anyone driven or cycled as I do along Hove seafront? If you’re heading towards the west and look to the buildings, they’re not exactly architectural splendour. I think the architectural reasons are a nonsense.”
Conservative councillor Joe Miller said the scheme’s level of support was “unprecedented” and praised Mr Davis’s public relations campaign.
He said: “I went to the place before and it was filthy, and the service was terrible.
“It has got so much potential, and it’s putting that part of Hove seafront on the map.”
Councillor Miller said the committee should approve the scheme for the social and economic benefits it offers to Hove.
Labour councillor Daniel Yates seconded Councillor Miller and said he remembered the venue as the Babylon Lounge, describing it as one of the seafront’s ugliest buildings.
He said: “The transformation of the site over the last year to 18 months has been considerable.
“It is certainly much more attractive than it was. Clearly, the consideration we have to give is the impact of further transformation.”
Committee chair Green councillor Leo Littman grew up in West Hove and said he remembered the building when it was the West End Café.
He said: “It is a landmark on the seafront for those of us who grew up in West Hove.
“I find this really tricky. I understand why officers have made their recommendation and fully understand why the applicants have put in their application.”
Green councillor Sue Shanks was the only member of the committee to vote against the scheme.
She said she knows the area well as she walks there nearly every day and thinks the improvements so far are positive – but said a roof extension would make it too high.
Councillor Shanks said: “I do think it will now be too high in terms of that seafront. Of course, Channings behind is a lot higher, but you’re not looking that way.
“There is not anything wrong with what they’re doing. I’m just concerned it’s just setting a precedent for being higher.”
Luke Carter, director of Lewis & Co Planning, said he was delighted councillor granted permission despite the officer’s recommendation to refuse and opposition from Walsingham Road residents.
He said: “The committee was strongly in favour of granting planning permission and almost all agreed that Rockwater is a fantastic improvement on the previous uses and buildings on the site, and in a difficult year for everyone has become a new jewel in the crown that is the city’s seafront.
“This decision today will enable the team at Rockwater to realise the full potential of the site and to continue to provide a great destination for locals and visitors.”
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