Councillors agreed that they would have refused planning permission for an 880-home scheme in Hove had the applicant not already submitted an appeal to the Secretary of State.
They raised traffic and wildlife concerns in a four-hour meeting devoted to an outline planning application for Toad’s Hole Valley, next to King George VI Avenue, known locally as Snakey Hill.
As well as homes for more than 2,000 people, the scheme includes plans for a secondary school, doctors’ surgery, offices, light industrial units and shops.
And in line with Brighton and Hove City Council’s policies for a scheme of its size, 40 per cent of the proposed new homes would be classed as “affordable”.
The council’s Planning Committee held a special meeting at Hove Town Hall today (Monday 21 March) with just hours before its submission to the government’s Planning Inspectorate was due to be filed.
A planning inspector will decide the immediate future of the 91-acre site after the applicant – a consortium consisting of Toad’s Hole Valley Limited, Pecla Investments Limited and Robert Simon – submitted an appeal.
The appeal was submitted because the council had taken more than three years to consider the application.
But the applicant had not been able to provide a transport assessment within that time that proved acceptable to National Highways, formerly Highways England.
And National Highways, a government agency, also opposed the plans because an audit of highway modelling was incomplete. The agency was concerned about the effects of the scheme on the A27 Brighton bypass.
Goldstone Valley Residents’ Association chair Thomas Fallon told the Planning Committee that neighbours were worried about the scheme’s effect on road safety, traffic flow and pollution.
He said: “We remain concerned that the transport assessment is flawed by underestimating traffic volumes and air pollution (and) by assuming that little traffic will be generated by the industrial estate, school and houses.
“We remain astonished the queue at Goldstone Crescent junction with King George VI Avenue of at least 29 vehicles is considered by the developer, in their own traffic assessment for a narrow residential road, as being acceptable.”
Mr Fallon was also concerned about damage to Three Cornered Copse and the beech hedge along King George VI Avenue to make way for a “bus gate” when there was no service.
Goldstone Crescent resident Gareth Hall, who has campaigned against the development, shared his concerns about how the scheme would affect residential roads and wildlife in the area.
Mr Hall said: “The developer’s traffic assessment shows that Nevill Road, which runs parallel to Goldstone Crescent and is designated an A road, had a very small increase in traffic and in places a decrease.
“Why is Goldstone Crescent – and associated roads designated as local traffic roads – taking the full brunt of the increase in traffic when roads better able to cope with an increase show a negligible rise?
“This illustrates to me that no real consideration has been given to access routes to Toad’s Hole Valley and that there are better ways to get traffic more evenly distributed around the area.”
Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen, whose Hove Park ward borders Toad’s Hole Valley, shared his concerns about some of the hard realities behind the application.
He said: “Outline planning applications are generally cheaper to pursue than detailed ones and I suspect that the push by the applicants at this point in the process for securing permission is driven by the need to secure a cash win after years of attempts to secure permission.
“(More) applications will be needed and these are likely to come as parcels of 60 to 100 homes at a time given that a developer or developers have not been identified for the site.”
Councillor Bagaeen also warned that the developer would try to give the council money rather than build affordable housing on the site itself.
Martin Carpenter, from Enplan, the applicant’s agent, said that the applicant had submitted a duplicate application which will “hopefully be considered” on Wednesday 4 May.
He said that Toad’s Hole Valley was a major greenfield mixed-use scheme allocated in the council’s strategic planning policy document, City Plan Part 1.
Mr Carpenter said: “It is clearly important the site comes forward. All the planning matters are resolved to the satisfaction of officers.
“Save for the outstanding auditing and road safety audit matters and associated air quality issues, all matters are agreed with officers.”
He said that the necessary detailed planning applications that would follow would ensure the necessary “checks and balances” – as would the 69 conditions agreed with council officials.
If the planning inspector backed the scheme, Mr Carpenter said that the landowners would sell the site to a property developer who would submit a detailed planning application.
Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett, who represents Hangleton and Knoll ward, said that lack of support or sign-off from National Highways was a “red flag”.
She said: “Snakey Hill is dangerous as it is and this development would add many cars to the A27 and Dyke Road junction roundabout.
“It would impact on residents in Westdene and Hove Park in particular. It’s not clear how the local transport infrastructure will cope.”
Councillor Barnett said that the plans were a “gross overdevelopment” of the site, “packing people in like sardines”.
Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn was concerned about potential gridlock, with so many new homes being built in Hove at the moment.
She said: “People talk about the cumulative impact, including Sackville. I hope they’re including KAP and Ellen Street, and there are numerous developments in Lyon Close as well.
“This is all increasing the amount of traffic that’s going to be flowing out of this area.”
Councillor O’Quinn said that the number of pedestrian crossings with traffic lights proposed for King George VI Avenue would “slow traffic to a crawl” and lead drivers to use neighbouring streets as rat-runs.
Her fellow Labour councillor, Clare Moonan, said that the process was being rushed and taking the application to a national planning inspector might seem like an “easier route”.
Green councillor Sue Shanks said that she recalled the site being used for motocross and was pleased that the council had included it in the City Plan.
She said: “We need to refuse it today to sort the traffic proposals out. In terms of noise, we’ll all be in electric cars by the time they build this anyway, so the noise won’t be so bad on the A27. I am concerned it’ll be sold and brought back as something else.”
Another Labour councillor Nick Childs said that the scheme added the equivalent of a large village or a small add-on town to the edge of Brighton and Hove.
He said: “There is a dire housing need in our city and, in principle, development has been agreed for this site, whatever we may feel about that and the impact on the South Downs.
“There are many positives about the application despite my concerns about the affordable units as it currently stands. With such a large proposal, we have to look in detail about what it will bring to our city and be careful about the impact it has.”
Councillor Childs won backing for a couple of suggestions which will be included in the council’s submission to the planning appeal.
The council will ask for two of the proposed five-bedroom homes to be affordable housing and for the developer to consider bridges and tunnels for some of the crossings so that they would not all be light-controlled crossings.
Green councillor Leo Littman said that the scheme should be a nice place to live but he voted to refuse permission because traffic could “grind to a halt” without a satisfactory transport assessment.
He said: “It has been mentioned we should be building on brownfield before greenfield sites and this is, of course, the case.
“If you look at City Plan, 88 per cent of development is on brownfield. We were not allowed to make it 100 per cent, or our city plan would not be passed by the government inspector. Development of this size will help limit the amount that has to be done.”