Toad’s Hole Valley site

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IMAGE CREDIT: Toad’s Hall Development Project
aerial sketch of buildings merging with landform
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Youtube presentation, Brighton and Hove City Council
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Toad’s Hole Valley site: Brighton Society Response to Brighton and Hove City Council

We fully support the principle of publishing an SPD to guide potential development on the Toad’s Hole Valley site which will reduce the risks of potential developers coming up with inappropriate proposals, and provide more certainty for them in formulating proposals which will be acceptable.

It will also inform the existing community and residents of the design parameters which are seen as being appropriate for the site, and help realise the opportunities in making this site – which is the last site of a significant size within the city – an exemplar of good design and good practice and which has the potential to set a precedent for future development proposals both locally and nationally.

There are many good ideas within the draft SPD, but we would like to make the following comments.

1. Scale and form of the development
2. Transportation
3. Infrastructure
4. Court Farm

1. Scale and form of the development
The draft rightly avoids being too prescriptive in describing specific solutions to this topic and concentrates mostly on suggesting appropriate numbers of new dwellings and anticipated densities. But it is specific in suggesting higher buildings (up to 6 storeys) in the lower areas of the valley. We disagree strongly with that suggestion for three reasons:

(i) higher buildings are not the only, or the best way of providing higher densities; we have proved that high densities can be achieved with low rise buildings laid out (loosely or formally) around courtyards. This solution also creates highly usable open space for either public or private use. If any form of higher density development is proposed in the SPD it should include other options other than just six-storey buildings.

(ii) the height of development within the site should respect the scale of the existing housing bordering the site to the east of King George VI Avenue – which as the photograph in the draft SPD shows – is a maximum of four storeys. We consider that lower buildings should be located towards the eastern, southern and western edges of the site, only rising higher if necessary in the central part of the east/west axis through the site – perhaps to relate to the location of the commercial and community hub.

The possibility of locating higher density residential over office and retail commercial development should also be suggested where appropriate, to ensure that the available land is used as efficiently as possible.

(iii) we think the policy of suggesting higher buildings in the lowest part of the site is wrong – this will have the effect of concealing the considerable dramatic level differences of the existing topography. The existing landscape features should be emphasized not disguised.

2. Transportation
The SPD needs to insist more emphatically upon a comprehensive traffic and transport analysis being carried out. Ideally we would have thought that this should be initiated by the Local Authority, as all the information in terms of likely traffic and people numbers can already be estimated. 700 new dwellings, a school and commercial developments will generate an enormous number of new journeys and have a major effect on the already busy existing arterial and local residential road network, particularly at rush hours.

The options for access to and exiting from the THV site are very limited – perhaps only two possibilities exist, one a shared entrance with the Court Farm development near the top of King George VI Avenue, and another at the bottom near the already dangerous junctions with Goldstone Crescent and Nevill Road. It must be possible for the Highways Authority and the Council to come up with some sensible solutions to a very real problem which can be discussed with the local community rather than relying on a developer coming up with proposals which inevitably will seek to minimize his own commitment to resolving what are potentially serious traffic safety and congestion issues.

Public transport to and from the site is also something which we consider should not be left to the developer to deal with. The site is only served by the fairly infrequent 21 and 21A services via Goldstone Crescent. It seems to us that this too should be the subject of discussions between the Council and the relevant bus companies. There is no reason why this should not be done now so that the results can inform a potential developer and ensure that adequate proposals are incorporated into his designs at an early stage.

3. Infrastructure
The drainage run-off from the steeply sloping site will be considerable once hard surfaces are introduced. We note that SUDS are proposed, which is fine, except that they will be unlikely to deal adequately with the amount of extra water run-off likely to be generated. What will the effect be on the existing drainage infrastructure in the local area, particularly the Goldstone Valley? This needs to be investigated in advance by the Water Authority and the Council, and once the results of that study are known, a decision will be needed on who pays for the drainage improvements in the adjacent residential areas should they need to be upgraded?

4. Court Farm
Now that the proposals for 74 new dwellings at Court Farm have received planning approval, it seems strange that this is not yet acknowledged or mentioned in the draft SPD. This scheme, and any subsequent amended proposals, will have quite a major effect on many of the issues discussed above. This has to be a factor which should now be included for discussion in the final version of the SPD.

We trust that you will take account of the points made above in formulating the final version of the SPD.

Jeremy Mustoe
Chairman, Brighton Society
on behalf of the Brighton Society

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