Plans to build a four-storey office block next to the Prince Albert pub in Brighton have been rejected because of the adverse effects on a grade II listed cultural asset.
The pub’s director George Taylor appeared to be on the verge of tears as Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee voted unanimously to refuse the planning application.
The plans were submitted by Patricia Campings, who owns the former Thrifty Car Hire site, at 47 Trafalgar Street, next door to the pub.
She applied for permission to put up a four-storey office building, with a shop or café on the ground floor, and a basement that would have to be dug out.
At the Planning Committee today (Wednesday 1 November) Mr Taylor shared his concerns about the proposed scheme, saying that his family had run the popular live music venue for 25 years.
He said that the Prince Albert “sits boldly on its corner plot” and a contemporary design would have a harmful effect on the grade II listed building.
After the decision Mr Taylor said: “Something will come back. What we’re hoping for now is something for the community that is already there, the residents that are already there, the businesses that are already there, something that incorporates the North Laine Conservation Area and everything we’re about.
“We want to see a development that will bring more people to the businesses that are already here, more of a variety of shops.”
Green councillor Ellen McLeay, who represents West Hill and North Laine, objected to the scheme, raising concerns about the effects of the scale and height of the proposed building – and the excavation of a basement – on the Prince Albert.
Councillor McLeay said: “How does a tall overshadowing building help to preserve a listed building and its features. The excessive scale of the planned development is a major concern for the surrounding properties and does not fit in with the adjoining building.
“The Prince Albert pub is a grade II listed building and a significant landmark in Trafalgar Street. The addition of a basement which would need to be dug out has also raised concerns on how that would impact on the foundations of the Prince Albert.”
Mrs Campings’s agent, Luke Austin, of Whaleback Planning Consultants, told the Planning Committee that his client had responded to concerns by amending the plans to remove proposed holiday lets to make the building solely a commercial site creating up to 100 jobs.
Mr Austin said: “From the outset the applicant has recognised the social and cultural importance of the Prince Albert pub and has been rooted to ensuring its longevity and continued operation in accordance with ‘agent of change’ principle which is why no residential units are proposed.
“A noise assessment was carried out early in the process with a six-day sample period including weekends to ensure accurate and loudest noise levels were captured and accounted for in the study.”
Thousands of music fans have voiced their concerns that any business moving into the site could complain about noise from the pub, placing it under threat.
More than 1,280 objections were submitted to the plans on the council’s website and a petition started last Friday (27 October) had more than 18,000 signatures by the time the Planning Committee met today.
Councillors heard from the council’s environmental health department that the Prince Albert was not currently considered a noise nuisance and would not be considered a noise nuisance if someone new moved in.
But councillors were told that even if a planning condition restricted future occupants’ ability to complain about noise, it would be hard to enforce.
Brighton and Hove Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh said that an officer’s description of the design as “mediocre” was kinder her view – and, she said, she would vote for refusal on that basis.
Labour councillor Paul Nann told the meeting at Hove Town Hall: “Given the value of the music venue, I don’t think enough has been done to protect it.
“I don’t think the design is good enough. It doesn’t add anything to the area. I feel like it doesn’t fit in with the area. It’s not interesting.”
Conservative councillor Carol Theobald said that the existing building was “horrible” but she objected to the application because it was too high.
She said: “Commercial space is better but it has to be the appropriate type – not pilates, yoga or massage. There has to be adequate soundproofing.
“I don’t mind the design but I think the scale and the height needs to be addressed. This listed pub, the Prince Albert, is a much-loved place and I wouldn’t like to see any harm to that. I’d like it protected.”
The committee rejected the scheme because the application failed to demonstrate that the proposed building would not have a “detrimental impact” on a heritage and cultural asset – the Prince Albert – and the scheme failed to respect the North Laine Conservation area.