The outcome of the planning appeal hearing, held before Christmas, that rejected the proposal to impose a 94-unit seven-floor monolith on to the community in Cromwell Road, Hove, was a real victory for our city.
It was also a vindication for the hundreds of local people, Labour ward councillors Jackie O’Quinn and John Allcock – and Peter Kyle MP – who have campaigned tirelessly for quality housing in the ward rather than the dull and unimaginative tower blocks attempted.
The planning inspector agreed with the formal motion put by Councillor Fishleigh, Councillor Theobald and I, along with a majority of the council’s Planning Committee in September 2020, that the proposal was inappropriate in scale and design for the area.
The views of Councillors Allcock, O’Quinn and Ebel were critical in representing their community.
And they spoke eloquently and passionately about the importance of good urban design and respect for local community need as opposed to the fawning permissiveness to any development that has become the norm of the Tory government and their Brighton and Hove hangers-on.
I note with disappointment the support for the project provided by Tory councillor Joe Miller and the former Tory, now Independent, councillor Tony Janio.
In September 2020, I argued that the proposed development offered little for our communities.
It was ugly, out of keeping with the area and scandalously included no affordable housing in a city that suffers some of the largest housing shortages in the UK.
The developers offered little by way of sustainability in build and proposed heating.
The proposal felt like an insult to our city because it was.
We desperately need new housing but we must not make the mistakes, albeit well-intentioned, of the permissiveness of 1960s and 70s urban planning.
We must instead ensure that we create high-quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and places. Places that we feel proud to live in and proud to house people in. Places that will sustain and stand the test of time. That will add to our communities, not wreck them.
We want developers to build great homes alongside those being erected by the council, under Labour’s 2019 commitment to commission or build 800 council homes by 2023.
But we have a right as a city to demand the best both in terms of sustainability and design. And we also have the right to tell big business developers that we will say no if they come to our city to extract maximum profit with nothing to offer our residents in return.
We did so with the Poundshop Dubai offering at the Marina and we did so again on this occasion.
As politicians, there must be no fear or favour when it comes to big development – unlike the Tory government, we must place our residents and not property developers first.
Affordable, energy-efficient homes that are sympathetic to local character and history and create places with good facilities – shops, cafés, green spaces, community rooms, playgrounds and bicycle storage – must be demanded even in the face of national government deregulation of planning laws.
If this means a few less units and marginally less profit then so be it.
If you want to build in our city the message is clear – we will only accept the best for our citizens and fight anything less.
Councillor Nick Childs speaks for Labour on Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee.
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