Plans to turn a language school in Hove into a guest house with 10 bedrooms were turned down by councillors yesterday (Wednesday 7 April).
The owner, Avante Ltd, denied that the property was intended to be a party house but councillors were told that the planning permission would apply to the property not the owner.
So if the premises in Holland Road were sold or leased – with planning permission to be used as “visitor accommodation” – it could end up becoming a party house.
The proposal went before a virtual meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee, with officials backing the proposed change of use, despite neighbours’ fears that it would host stag and hen parties.
Avante’s director Robert Webb, 73, is also a director of Stagfleet, a “management consultancy” best known for buying the Brighton gay club Revenge for £1.5 million in 2004.
One objector, David Shaw, who lives next to the old Sprachcaffe language school, had no faith in the promise of a noise management plan.
He said that it would need to be policed but there would be no staff on site to police it. And he said that short-stay visitors with no stake in the community would be less likely to follow the rules.
Mr Shaw said: “Planning policy can help bring about changes for the better – or the worse. This change of use would be for the worse. It can be so – but it doesn’t have to be so. Please exercise your judgment.”
The change of use made sense for the owner, Mr Shaw said, but not for the community, adding: “Party houses don’t make good neighbours so they have to be in the right place – and this is not the right place and will lead to foreseeable problems.”
Green councillor Hannah Clare, who represents Brunswick and Adelaide ward, which includes Holland Road, said that she received a flurry of emails after Brighton and Hove News reported Avante’s plans.
Neighbours and community groups were worried, not least because noise from the gardens in the area tended to echo.
Councillor Clare said that noise and disturbance at weekends was unlikely to be followed up until a Monday when it would be too late for those who had had their weekend ruined.
She said: “Residents have concerns that a noise management plan might not be adequate – and so do I. It won’t be enforced and won’t be enforceable.”
The transport options were woefully inadequate, she said. People would come by car but the property was next to a busy junction.
Alex Legendre, who runs the Igigi shop in Western Road, Hove, spoke for Avante, which has been based in Brighton and Hove for about 20 years.
She said: “We work very hard to restore old buildings. The project that we want to work on in Holland Road is not a party house. It’s about creating a beautiful venue for family gatherings and weddings.
“None of our properties have ever been party houses (but) no one even came to us and asked. People have let their imaginations run wild.”
She said that she lived in Palmeira Square for 18 years, behind the language school for a while, adding that the students didn’t go at 3pm and they held parties including at weekends.
“Be careful what you wish for,” she said, adding that the goal was to restore the Edwardian property and attract wealthy families in groups of up to 16 to 20 for private functions or family gatherings.
She cited the Angel House, in Brunswick Terrace, Hove, opposite the Peace Statue, as an example of what the proposal was intended to achieve.
Labour councillor Chris Henry praised Mr Shaw and said that his argument “really swayed me”, adding: “This set up appears to have all the benefits of a B&B without any of the responsibility.”
He disagreed with the suggestion that a well-off group staying there might not get as drunk or rowdy as a group of teens.
And Green councillor Martin Osborne was concerned about the lack of on-site management and the numbers that could be staying at the property.
Fellow Green councillor Sue Shanks said: “If people drive, they’ll pay to park. They’ll find somewhere to park.
“Whatever we think about Airbnb, it’s a fact that people want to do that sort of thing.”
Independent councillor Tony Janio said: “If we want to welcome tourists, if we want visitors to return, we have to welcome things like this.”
But he added: “I sympathise with the residents.”
Green councillor Leo Littman, who chairs the Planning Committee, said: “This is a somewhat tricky one. Mr Shaw made a compelling case.
“The applicant’s intentions are undoubtedly good but it’s not a personal application.”
He said that the premises could be passed on to someone else and added: “I sympathise with the applicants but I don’t think I can support this.”
Eight members of the committee voted against the scheme, with councillors Shanks and Janio abstaining.
The committee refused the application on the grounds of increased noise and disturbance and the detrimental effect on the amenity.
Members also said that the application was outside the core area where planning permission would usually be granted for hotels, guest houses and comparable visitor accommodation.
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