Plans for a housing estate for thousands of people in Hove have been criticised by councillors, with traffic and air quality among their main concerns.
They voted against the outline proposals for 880 homes in Toads Hole Valley at the northern end of the Goldstone Valley, in Hove.
Their views will be submitted to the government’s Planning Inspectorate which will hold a week-long public inquiry in June to decide whether to grant planning permission for the scheme.
The decision was taken out of councillors’ hands after the developer, a consortium known as Toads Hole Valley Limited, appealed against the “non-determination” of its planning application.
Brighton and Hove City Council blamed National Highways for the delay because the government agency had not completed its expert traffic assessment.
Today (Monday 21 March) the council’s Planning Committee devoted almost four hours to a special meeting about the scheme at Hove Town Hall.
Officials advised them to vote as they would have done if they were deciding the application and to vote to refuse it. And they did.
Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen addressed the meeting as a ward councillor for Hove Park where residents are concerned about the scheme’s traffic and road safety implications.
Councillor Bagaeen, a professor of planning, said: “Our residents in neighbourhoods adjacent to this site have concerns about traffic.
“Please therefore do not rule out the application of common sense and local knowledge. If something in the plans seems illogical or erroneous, that’s probably because it is.
“The land promoter and their agents may claim that they have carried out consultation and dealt with local residents’ concerns.
“In 2021, the land promoter held two online meetings where its representatives gave presentations but asked for questions to be sent to them by email.
“There is much better good practice on consultation out there.
“I have serious concerns about the delivery of affordable housing on this site given the model of delivery and approach adopted by the land promoter and officers for this site – an illustrative or indicative one only.
“This application for outline planning permission is seeking to establish the general guiding principles the use, scale and nature – of development.
“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.
Councillor Bagaeen said that further planning applications would be needed to deal with “reserved matters”.
He said: “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.
“We need to build homes for residents – and future residents. However, we need planning which complements our environmental aims, contributes to a more sustainable economic model in which young people have better access to affordable homes and enhances our design style and our local areas.
“There are 195 identified sites on the 2021 ‘brownfield register’ for the city. That’s 81 hectares (200 acres) of land. Toads Hole Valley is 37 hectares (91 acres).
Councillor Bagaeen also urged the council’s senior leadership to take an active role in identifying a master developer for the site so that – among other things – affordable housing and important infrastructure questions could be dealt with in a cohesive and coherent way.
These infrastructure issues would include schools, health care such as doctors’ surgeries and other community facilities.
He said: You have recently seen first-hand as a committee what happens in this part of the city when a developer cannot provide affordable housing on site and offers to pay the commuted sum instead after being rebuffed by dozens of housing associations and the council’s own housing team.
“This is why I believe a different approach to this site is needed if we are to secure in stone the 352 affordable homes, with the council’s senior leadership actively involved to identify a master developer for the site.
“Master developers would be responsible from first conception and planning, all the way through to the implementation of these major projects, either through direct development or serviced land sales.
“This is how we build trust, ensure that local people are listened to, how we guarantee quality and how we guarantee affordable housing.
“I strongly urge you to agree the officers’ recommendation now and double down on it after the outstanding documents come in.”