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PLANS to build a six-storey block of flats on the old ice rink site in Queen Square have been thrown out by a government planning inspector.
Developers Stonehurst Estates wanted to build a block of 31 flats on the site with offices and other commercial uses on the ground floor. The council’s planning committee narrowly rejected this proposal in October last year, but the developers appealed..
The MCHA has consistently objected to a six-storey building on this because of the damaging impact it would have on both the conservation area and the listed buildings Wykeham Terrace, the churchyard of St Nicholas and the church itself.
Now David Prentis, a government planning inspector, has thrown out the appeal on precisely these grounds. His report was published last week. “In my view,” says the inspector, the height, scale and horizontal emphasis of the proposed building, combined with its proximity to the site boundary, would result in a very dominant presence on the edge of the churchyard…This would have a harmful effect on the relatively open nature of the churchyard, detracting from the quality of the green space and the contribution it makes to the character and appearance of the conservation area. Given that the churchyard forms a key element of the setting of the Church, it follows that the setting of the Church would not be preserved.”
He also heavily criticises the impact on Wykeham Terrace. “The height of the new building would be well above that of the terrace and it would be in relatively close proximity. I consider that the new building would dominate the skyline in such views, competing with and distracting from the dramatic roofline of the terrace. This would be harmful to the setting of the listed terrace.”
He also condemns the impact that a six-storey building would have on Wykeham Terrace. “On the second main issue, I conclude that the proposal would be harmful to the living conditions of nearby residents at Wykeham Terrace, in that it would cause an unduly overbearing and enclosing effect, and at No 10 Queen Square where there would be a loss of privacy.”
“In conclusion,” says the inspector, “the proposal would be harmful to the significance of the listed church, the listed terrace and the conservation area.”
The MCHA is concerned by the lack of protection for St George’s House. This council owned building at the corner of Clifton Terrace and Dyke Road is neither listed by English Heritage nor on the local list of heritage assets. Although it is encouraging to see that it is currently undergoing roof repairs, it remains as vulnerable as the former Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, a local landmark which was only saved from total demolition after a six year campaign led by the MCHA. Efforts are now being made to ensure that the valuable contribution made by St George’s House to the character of the conservation area is properly recognised.
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.
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.
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.
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).