The 2014 Circus Street scheme includes 486 student flats (increased from 400, some of them in a 14 storey tower, in an area not designated for tall buildings), 142 private and social housing flats, reduced from 200, with sub-standard space standards. This could amount to 900 people (if fully occupied) resident on the site. THESE WOULD BECOME THE NEW CIRCUS STREET TWENTY FIRST CENTURY SLUMS.
THE COUNCIL HAS DRIVEN A COACH AND HORSES THROUGH ITS OWN TALL BUILDINGS POLICY. Will this open the doors for more high rise buildings in the Valley Gardens Conservation Area?
MOST OF THE CIRCUS STREET SITE IS OWNED BY THE COUNCIL, A SMALL PART IS OWNED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF BRIGHTON. THE INSPECTOR OF THE CITY PLAN HAS NOT REQUIRED THE HIGH NUMBERS OF STUDENT FLATS ON THE CIRCUS STREET SITE, THE INSPECTOR HAS REQUIRED A HIGH NUMBER OF RESIDENTIAL DWELLINGS, 16,000-20,000, OTHER THAN STUDENT FLATS, TO BE BUILT IN THE CITY.
SO WHY HAS THE NUMBER OF DWELLINGS, OTHER THAN STUDENT FLATS, BEEN REDUCED FROM 200 FLATS TO 142 FLATS? BECAUSE THE BANKS ARE KEEN TO FUND THE CONSTRUCTION OF STUDENT FLATS, AS MOST STUDENTS WILL SIGN A CONTRACT TO OCCUPY A FLAT FOR 10 MONTHS, THEN THE DEVELOPER CAN INCREASE THE RENT FOR THE STUDENT ARRIVING FOR THE NEXT ACADEMIC YEAR. DEVELOPERS OFTEN USE STUDENT FLAT DEVELOPMENTS TO KICK START FUNDING FOR THE REST OF THEIR SCHEME.
The Circus Street site also includes 3,000sq m of start-up offices. These should be housed instead in the empty Amex building on Edward Street, thereby allowing better space standards for the student, private and social flats. There is no need to build offices on this site.
What is more the Valley Gardens is not a designated Tall Buildings (anything over 6 storeys) Area. The Council are driving a coach and horses through its own Tall Buildings Policy. This would set an unfortunate example to other developers on other sites, that the Tall buildings Policy is there to be ignored. The Council have admitted that the Valley Gardens is at risk, the Circus Street scheme would further threaten the character of the Valley Gardens.
The scheme also includes a new 4,500sq m University of Brighton library, a dance studio, 1,200sq m of shops and a public square (a sunless corridor). Will the precious well lit north facing studios in the existing Faculty of Art building be adversely affected by this scheme?
The architect for the plans are London based Shedkm who won the competition for the scheme. The developer claimed that the architects “answered the brief because they captured the spirit of Brighton”. The Brighton Society does not recognise anything in the design whuch reflects the spirit of Brighton. The black weatherboarded structures imitate the Hastings net huts which are not found in Brighton. There are no black weatherboarded buildings in Brighton. The architects claim to have found one black weatherboarded building in Brighton – the Black Lion Public House in Black Lion Street in the Old Town, but it is hung with grey slates not black weatherboarding.
BRIGHTON IS A SPARKLING CITY IT IS NOT A SOMBRE CITY
The private and social flats should be positioned on the eastern edge of the site to protect the residents of the Milner flats from noise from the student flats. At least the architects have followed the grain of the old street pattern, but the Council have required too much development on that street plan.
The developer, the Cathedral Group, are submitting a temporary application for a pop up market for the creative industries in the redundant wholesale fruit and vegetable market. They claim that it will not delay the final scheme. There is therefore plenty of time for a rethink of this new SLUM SCHEME.
THE COUNCIL WILL DECIDE WHETHER TO GIVE PLANNING PERMISSION FOR ITS CHOSEN SCHEME ON ITS OWN SITE. THE COUNCIL WILL BE THE BENEFICIARY AS WELL AS THE JUDGE AND JURY ON ITS OWN CASE.