A planning inspector has given a reprieve to just one of the “contested urban fringe” sites on the edge of Brighton and Hove, leaving 15 others allocated for housing.
The outcome was criticised by the Conservatives. They said that Brighton and Hove City Council should not have allocated the “greenfield” sites for housing when there were still “brownfield” sites that could be used.
But Labour and the Greens gave their backing – with some reluctance – to the prospect of more than 900 homes being built on the other 15 green spaces.
The reprieve was given to land next to Horsdean Recreation Ground, in Patcham, after a campaign by local residents and their ward councillors.
Only a small number of properties looked likely to be built there, after the council came under pressure from the government to find more sites for new homes to meet housing targets.
But a report to the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee said that it had now been ruled out on ecological and biodiversity grounds.
The committee met at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 10 March) to discuss the council’s 10-year strategic planning blueprint, known as the City Plan, which has been put together in two parts.
The government has already approved the City Plan Part One – and yesterday councillors were given an update on the draft City Plan Part Two which contains more detail.
The update follows a series of 13 public hearing sessions last November when a planning inspector listened to a range of views from officials, other professionals and the public.
There were 169 representations from residents, environmental and wildlife groups objecting to the inclusion of the greenfield sites in the City Plan Part Two housing allocations.
There were calls for more housing to be allocated in Benfield Valley but the allocation currently remains unchanged.
About 100 new homes have been pencilled in for north and south of Hangleton Lane on the east side of the A293 Link Road.
In Saltdean, a site on the northern edge, bordering downland, is likely to have fewer new homes after “boundary issues” were taken into account.
Councillors agreed to the planning inspector’s “main modifications” and to carry out a seven-week public consultation on the latest iteration of the draft City Plan Part Two.
Conservative councillor Dee Simson said that her party could not support City Plan Part Two because of the inclusion of urban fringe sites.
She said: “I’m afraid as far as the other urban fringe sites are concerned – Whitehawk Hill, the racecourse and some of the others – I know the strength of feeling. There were 169 representations against them. I cannot support the recommendations.”
Green councillor Leo Littman said that most councillors wanted to protect the urban fringe sites but there would be no protection without the City Plan.
He said: “That ship has sailed long ago because a government inspector told us we had to look under every rock and down every rabbit hole for building sites on the edge of the city that weren’t part of the national park.
“All of those sites that Councillor Simson mentioned I would like to protect as well. The best way of protecting those other sites on our urban fringe is, unfortunately, by having a workable City Plan.”
Labour councillor Amanda Evans said that the members of her party had had “difficult conversations” about the urban fringe situation.
She said: “One of my colleagues pointed out that she had received representations from a ‘silent majority’ telling her how desperately they needed housing in one of those areas.
“They didn’t care it was an urban fringe site. They would be happy to see some council housing built on it. I don’t necessarily agree with them. But it is a situation we are forced into anyway.”
The plan also identifies seven strategic sites for housing. They include Brighton General Hospital, in Elm Grove, the engineering depot, in New England Road, land in Lyon Close, Hove, and the Sackville Trading Estate and coal yard, in Hove.
The plan also includes 39 brownfield sites that are expected to provide more than 1,500 new homes – and business opportunities.
The committee voted to accept the changes to the plan and to hold a public consultation although Councillor Simson abstained from the vote.