Spring Meeting

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The Brighton and Hove High School kindly provided the venue for a talk given recently by Dr. Sandy Kennedy. Dr Kennedy explained how the re-emergence of Roman Catholicism in 18th and 19th Centuries Brighton was reflected in the buildings used for worship. An Act of Parliament in 1793 had forbidden bells and steeples in Roman Catholic churches in an attempt to restrict their impact on the local non-catholic communities in an age when the Roman Church was still held in suspicion by many as an agent of foreign tyranny. By the time St Mary Magdalen was built in our area some seventy years later, however, such restrictions had been lifted as the soaring steeple in this picture demonstrates.

Last minute reprieve for tree planting

The Seven Dials elm

MCHA members helped to save the iconic Seven Dials elm

The council’s tree planting programme was given a last minute reprieve last week after the council approved next year’s budget.

The council’s tree planting programme had been slated for the chop, a cut which would have saved £80,000 a year. However, after a deal between the Green councillors and the Labour party tree planting is safe for another year.

However, this is only a stay of execution. The compromise deal only defers this cost cutting proposal and the programme will still be vulnerable to cuts in next year’s budget negotiations.

Axeing the tree planting programme would have a dramatic effect on streets in our area. In the 2013-14 season the council planted 274 trees throughout the city, partly to replace trees lost through storms, the ravages of Dutch elm disease and old age.

In the storms of October 2013 and February 2014 90 mature trees were lost. While in 2013, which was a typical year, 285 trees had to be felled because of Dutch elm disease.

The council had a choice of three budgets. One, supported by the Greens, proposed a council tax rise of 5.9 per cent. Labour supported a tax rise of 1.99 per cent and the Conservatives a tax freeze. As previously reported in this month’s newsletter all three budgets were heavily defeated in votes at the council meeting in February.

Both the 1.99 per cent rise and the freeze budget proposed cutting all tree planting, which would save £80,000 in a full year. A Conservative attempt to amend the freeze budget to save the tree planting programme was also heavily defeated.

The final compromise, which was approved at a council meeting on 3rd March, amended  the 1.99 per cent budget, and saved tree planting for next year by making cost savings elsewhere.

But the tree planting programme is likely to be a prime target for the axe in next year’s budget. According to the budget papers prepared by officers for councillors the prospect of further cost savings was part of the rationale for the cut. They say “street trees…damage  highway structure and street cleansing”.

The officers seem to envisage a tree-free city. “These [costs] would decrease over time as the number of trees declined.” They concede that this will have an impact on the street scene.

Conservation Award

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The MCHA Conservation Award Plate, designed by artist Jill Pryke, was won by Jayne and Simeon Adams seen here with MCHA trustee and award organiser Gabi Tubbs. Extensive renovations were carried out over several years  to this grade two listed house in Clifton Road  culminating in the careful restoration of the canopy above the first floor bow fronted window. Jayne and Simeon were particularly pleased with the painstaking efforts of their builder Mark Draper of Portslade.

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The Alex listed

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One of the distinctive cupolas

The Royal Alex is to be added to the city’s local list of notable buildings. The local list helps to protect buildings to a small degree. If someone applies for planning permission then the planning committee will take into account the buildings significance. For some buildings being on the local list can be a first step an English Heritage listing.

The Alex listing stresses the importance of the Lainson Building to the local townscape, because of the countrast between the red brick and the surrounding sea of white render. The MCHA had nominated the building for inclusion on the local list. The listing also emphasises the importance of the  triangular green space in front of the building, which was one of the key points that the planning inspector made after the public inquiry when he rejected Taylor Wimpey’s plans to demolish the building.

The conversion of the old hospital building into flats continues apace and the first homeowners are expected to move in next month (March).

Ice rink appeal deadline extended

The old ice rink site in Queen Square

The old ice rink site in Queen Square

The planning inspectorate has extended the deadline for comments on the ice rink appeal to 6 February. If you objected to the original planning application last year the inspectorate will already have details of your objection. However, anyone who would like to comment further on this appeal should go to the planning inspectorate website quoting reference number APP/Q1445/A/14/2229118.

Anyone who received formal notification from the council about this appeal should ignore the contact information given in this letter (which is wrong) and click on this link to comment using the appeal number above, and follow the planning inspectorate’s advice on this page.

Ice rink developers appeal

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Frozen in time: view of the ice rink site from Queen Square

THE DEVELOPERS of the old ice rink site have appealed against the planning committee’s refusal to grant planning permission for a block of flats.

Plans to build a six-storey block of flats and offices on the site of the old ice rink in Queen Square were thrown into disarray after the planning committee rejected the latest planning application at its meeting in October, against the recommendation of officers.
The appeal is the latest twist in the tortuous tale of attempts to develop this site.

The ice rink closed in 2003 and the site is owned by the council. It was sold to Stonehurst Estates subject to planning permission.
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A worthy winner

Conservation awards winnerTHE owners of this beautiful 1860 house in Clifton Road bought it in a rather sad state around six years years ago when it was seen as the ugly duckling of the terrace, writes Gabi Tubbs

This was the second house in the Brighton area that Jayne and Simeon Adams have tackled, albeit their first experience with a grade II-listed property.

Initially they weren’t terribly daunted by the prospect as it looked a fairly small job on the surface. Their optimism soon changed when it was revealed that a lot of the previous work had been bodged.

As luck would have it, Jayne and Simeon found a brilliant builder. Jayne found Mark Draper when he was working on restoring a house with a  ‘mock Tudor’ façade in Clifton Hill—a previously shortlisted contender for an MCHA conservation award.
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Off the danger list

The Alex: back to rude health

The Alex: restored to rude health

FOR more than four years one of the conservation area’s most distinctive buildings has been shrouded in scaffolding. Now the scaffolding is coming down revealing the imposing facade of the Alex’s main building, one of the most striking features of the conservation area. The building is now being converted into luxury flats. The new owners are due to start moving in early in the new year.

The old Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital finally closed its doors in 2007. For more than two years the future of the building hung in the balance. Initially the developers wanted to clear the whole site. This meant demolishing the much-loved main hospital building, which dates from 1880 and was designed by the noted local architect Thomas Lainson.

But the MCHA fought tenaciously to save the building, persuading the planning committee to reject the demolition plans—against the recommendation of the planning officers, who were happy to see the building demolished. Continue reading

Christmas Party 2014

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St Nick’s: our Christmas Party venue

THIS year’s Christmas party was held on Tuesday 2 December  at St Nicholas Church. About 40 people attended the party, which made a small profit for the association.

The venue also gave members a chance to inspect the recent restoration work on the church. Sussex Historic Churches Trust, awarded a grant of £5,000 towards the cost of refurbishing the fleche and repairing the tower roof.

MCHA forces council bin pledge

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The see-through bin

THE city’s unloved and poorly maintained communal bins will be replaced or refurbished in a programme following pressure from the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association. The chair of the environment committee, Pete West, told the committee on 7th October, that the replacement programme will begin in April next year.

The pledge to replace the bins represents a significant victory for the MCHA. Cityclean, the council’s rubbish department, had no intention of replacing any of the  communal bins for at least a couple of years.

In June the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association’s survey revealed that the communal bins in our area were in a deplorable state. The survey found that 70 per cent of the bins in our area were defective, with two topless bins and one see-through bin. One of the topless bins has subsquently had an amateurish repair job. Although the MCHA survey only covered the 50 bins in our area other parts of the city clearly had similar problems. Continue reading