Back in March, a duplicate outline planning application for Toads Hole Valley, a green sliver of land beside King George VI Avenue, in Hove, went to the Planning Committee and was refused in line with the officer recommendation.
The application for outline permission – to agree the schematic general principles – is coming again to the Planning Committee.
This time it is likely to go through, now that National Highways (formerly Highways England) abruptly dropped a long-standing objection.
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way. It is not the job of National Highways to look after the interests of the residents of Brighton and Hove. That job belongs to esteemed councillors in the city.
Second, the development, if it goes ahead according to current plans, will have a detrimental impact on residents’ amenity in the Goldstone Valley. Residential amenity is not defined in law but it articulates the experience of residents in their neighbourhood.
In planning terms, amenity is often used to refer to the quality or character of an area and elements that contribute to the overall enjoyment of an area.
Residents and groups including Friends of the Earth in the city believe, rightly, that residential amenity will be negatively impacted by developing this site in this way and that therefore the application should be refused by councillors on this occasion.
In some councils, senior officers, including the chief executive, would have been heavily involved in decisions on once-in-a-lifetime development sites in a city like ours with constrained supply.
As things stand, it is only councillors that have and will have to step up.
Let’s look at Leeds where Citu, a £250 million Climate Innovation District, is harnessing the latest technology to create 800 low-carbon homes alongside manufacturing, office and leisure space.
This is not what will be delivered at Toads Hole Valley if this application is approved this week – and members of the Planning Committee must act in the best interests of the city and its residents and future residents.
In March, I said at the then Planning Committee that I have serious concerns about the delivery of affordable housing on this site given the model of delivery and the approach adopted by the land promoter and officers for this site.
Outline planning applications are 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 for all parties on their side.
Reserved matters applications (detailed ones) will be needed if outline permission is secured – and these are likely to come as parcels of 60 to 100 homes at a time given that no builders have been identified for the site.
The promoter’s agents gave a very strong indication at the Planning Committee in March that they intend to sell the site if permission is secured.
When the detailed applications come to committee, developers who will have by then bought parcels of the site will argue against building affordable homes and will offer to pay the council money instead.
The council has shown itself unable, and has not prepared social housing providers, to take on the management of affordable homes coming through major sites like this one. This has weakened the hands of officers when negotiating with developers.
Not only will the city lose affordable housing when, if, this site is ever built up this way, it will also have lost the opportunity to create a climate innovation zone that would help meet the city’s climate aspirations. For that, councillors and senior officers will bear responsibility.
Councillor Samer Bagaeen is a Conservative member of Brighton and Hove City Council. He represents Hove Park ward.
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