Red card for former Brighton and Hove Albion footballer’s Portslade tower block plans

Plans to build an 11-storey block of flats on a corner plot in Portslade were described as “ridiculous” as councillors refused to approve the scheme.

They turned down planning permission because of concerns about the height and design of three proposed blocks of flats and a lack of parking.

The scheme was put forward by a property company, Luna Group, which is part-owned by former Brighton and Hove Albion striker Bobby Zamora and West Ham United skipper Mark Noble.

Zamora, 40, and Noble, 33, are also directors of Luna Group which sought planning permission for a scheme in three stages from Brighton and Hove City Council.

The scheme was described as a welcome redevelopment – in principle – of the brownfield site in Wellington Road and Camden Street, Portslade, opposite Shoreham Harbour.

And, at a virtual meeting of the council’s Planning Committee this afternoon (Wednesday 5 May), councillors wrestled with the need for more housing on brownfield sites and the number of affordable homes.

Luna proposed that at least 54 of the 136 flats should be classed as “affordable” housing in line with the 40 per cent required under council planning policies.

But councillors were concerned about the effect that more than 100 new homes – and offices – would have on parking in the area.

The site includes the old Flexer Sacks factory and the corner where the troubled Harbour View pub once stood.

The plot is currently occupied by the Circle Studios, the Underground Gym, a hand car wash and a parking deck.

In the first phase, Luna proposed building an 11-storey block on the corner site where the car wash is based. The block would contain offices and 65 flats – 26 of them classed as “affordable”.

The plans for phase two and three included a nine-storey block and a seven-storey one, containing 71 homes in total and space for more offices and leisure use.

One objector, Simon Page, of St Andrew’s Road, Portslade, spoke for his neighbours, criticising the proposed height of the buildings and the “poor design” which he said would not improve the character of the area.

He also raised concerns about parking because the scheme would be likely to result in an extra 100 cars in an area already at “maximum capacity”.

A visualisation of the plans for Wellington Road in Portslade

Mr Page said that he and his neighbours knew nothing about the application until a news story – which first appeared on the Brighton and Hove News website – publicised it a week before the meeting.

A further 18 objections were sent after the meeting papers were published in addition to the two original objections.

He said: “I live in St Andrew’s Road, immediately adjacent to the industrial estate, and like my neighbours have not been notified of this development. We have not received any information in the form of letters or leaflets.

“Local canvassing of the area by a number of residents has yet to identify a single household in over 30 that has received letters or leaflets.

“Public notices were exhibited at the semi-derelict site that most local people have no necessity to visit and are difficult to see.”

Councillor Les Hamilton

Labour councillor Les Hamilton said that he had spoken to residents across the area and was not convinced that any of the 2,000 leaflets reportedly sent out had reached any homes.

The South Portslade councillor said that the scheme was too tall and too dense. He cited the Joint Area Action Plan, a 15-year blueprint to build more than 1,400 homes on land in the Shoreham Port area.

The blueprint was agreed jointly by the council as well as neighbouring Adur District Council and West Sussex County Council.

Councillor Hamilton said: “The report states that the public benefits outweigh the planning policy conflicts. In other words, planning policies are being sacrificed.”

He said that the proposed scheme’s lack of parking would add to local problems. These were already about to be exacerbated by a nearby joint venture scheme involving the council and Hyde housing association.

Planning consultant David Williams, for Luna Group, said that 30 people had attended an exhibition staged by the company in December 2019. An online consultation drew six comments and 15 requests for more information.

He said that leaflets went to homes in St Andrew’s Road and further north to Franklin Road, west to St Peter’s Road and east to Erroll Road.

Mr Williams said: “Development of this brownfield site could be a catalyst for the regeneration of the South Portslade area.

“The application is not an ill-conceived speculative development. The site and other brownfield sites in the immediate vicinity are identified in the City Plan for providing high-intensity mixed-use development to address the city’s five-year housing supply shortfall.”

Conservative councillor Joe Miller backed the scheme because of the need for more homes and, particularly, for affordable housing.

But, he said, he appreciated the stress on parking in the area, adding: “I personally quite like the design of the buildings. It’s a vast improvement on what’s there, which I think is quite unsightly.

“I think that kind of regeneration of Portslade industrial estates or randomised blocks with replacement office accommodation as well is particularly welcome.”

His Conservative colleague Carol Theobald said that the scheme was “ridiculous”. She said: “It is a ridiculous height. We are not New York.

“This will affect other properties around there from a long way off. They’ll see this big block sitting there.”

Councillor Theobald also said that she knew the area well because she used to go to Circle Health and Wellbeing at the site and was aware of parking problems then.

Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that he was torn because there was a need to revive the area.

He said: “It beggars belief that in an area with such extreme parking stress – and where we know it is highly unlikely that we will be able to achieve 100 per cent of residents not owning or not needing to bring a vehicle in – that we can consider allowing a development to occur where there is no guarantee that the promised parking spaces allocated in the future will occur.”

Bobby Zamora

He was also concerned people felt like a new community was “being dumped” in the middle of an industrial estate next to a community that had existed for more than 100 years.

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh said: “Issues we could use to refuse this application could be the pre-application planning consultation, highways issues, traffic generation and also layout and density, building design and finishing materials.

“This looks really horrible and they should go back to the drawing board.”

The scheme was turned down by seven votes to two.

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