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Edward Street development – Local residents complain about First Base underhand tactics

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Local residents living in the streets around the development proposals made by developers First Base have voiced their concerns about the way First Base have tried to hi-jack and misappropriate public consultation procedures for their own advantage.

This follows on from our own bad experiences with First Base’s public consultation procedures about their proposals for the Edward Street development on the former Amex site. 

These highlighted the total lack of clarity – right up to the last public presentation – about the heights of the proposed new buildings. Read all about here – http://www.brighton-society.org.uk/edward-street-quarter-an-exercise-in-public-obfuscation/

You can also read our own objections to First Base’s proposals at Objection to First Base’s Edward Street proposals

The local residents group is drawn from the neighbouring streets of White Street, Blaker Street, Carlton Hill, St John’s Place, Dorset Gardens, George Street, Edward Street and a few others.

The charges against First Base are:

concealing important facts about their proposals in particular the height of the proposed new buildings; 

misleading residents (and even the former Mayor, Mo Marsh, who attended), claiming that a ‘Charity Roast’ event promoted by First Base was for the benefit of the local community when the local community was not in fact invited;

– to make a blatant attempt to elicit support in the form of 18 messages from students from the University of Brighton which were uploaded to the Council Planning Dept Register without fully explaining the implications of how those messages would be used, or the wider implications of the proposals they were being asked to support.  

The Council are in possession of a letter from one of the students concerned confirming how First Base representatives approached them to elicit support for their proposals.

eliciting messages of support from passers by in Jubilee Square which were then also posted by First Base on to the Council Register of Comments.  

We understand that the 18 comments from students have been subsequently removed from the register, but the ones taken in Jubilee Square are still there.

The residents claim that ‘harvesting’ comments in this way contravenes the Localism Act and have requested that the Council re-start the whole public consultation process from the beginning.

All this confirms our own previous view about the lengths First Base are prepared to go to drive through their proposals in the face of strong local opposition.  They did it at Anston House – see our previous article Anston House: Adding insult to injury  – which attracted hundreds of objections and thousands of signatures against.  They succeeded there and they are trying to do the same at Edward Street.

Other concerns

The residents have other concerns too.  

Height Restriction covenant

Residents have heard there is a Private Legal Agreement between Amex and First Base which restricts the heights of new buildings directly in front of the Amex office building.

They say the Council claim “to have no documentation in a respect of a restrictive covenant and do not know the details of it”.

This raises serious questions about how a planning application can be considered without knowing the extent of any legal restrictions on the site and the effect these might have had upon the design, the heights and the locations of the buildings proposed.  If it exists it could explain why some of the higher buildings tower over the existing 2-storey terrace housing on White Street.  Look at the illustration at the top of this article.  That says it all.

Affordable Housing

The residents also want to see 40% affordable housing as required by Council Policy CP20 for of 15 or more (net) dwellings, but First Base are only offering at this stage 20%.

But the Council is so desperate to show it is providing the numbers of new dwellings set out by the City Plan, it carries on regardless of the effect these high and ugly buildings are having on our city, our heritage assets and the adjacent residential streets, together with the public opposition they generate.

It seems determined to ignore the underhand behaviour of some property developers, allow the public consultation procedures to be misused, ignore the views of local residents and increasingly ignores its own requirements for large developments such as this to provide 40% affordable housing. 

Who wins from this sorry state of affairs?  Only the developers.  Not the city.  Not the local residents.  

And even some councillors might suffer too – there are local elections coming up next year and it will be interesting to see which councillors vote for this overbearing development.  We will let you know.

Alternative Plans based on the Planning Brief for the site

The residents rightly draw attention to the planning issues too, pointing out that the designs proposed by First Base go way beyond the scale of the designs envisaged in the 2013 Edward Street Planning Brief which was accepted by the local community.

The diagrams they have drawn up below show this clearly.

This is an extract from the 2013 Planning Brief viewed from Edward Street – on which the projections in the City Plan are based

This shows First Base proposals viewed from Edward Street – vastly increased from the 2013 agreed planning brief, far higher, over-developed and out of scale, particularly with the housing on White Street to the east.  The new Amex building is shown in light blue behind.

These high new buildings will be very prominent, very visible from the Pavilion Gardens and overbearing from Dorset Peace Park Gardens to the south. The height of the buildings will overshadow the open spaces proposed between the buildings resulting in dark, gloomy spaces where the sun never shines.

View from Edward Street – this diagram shows the residents proposals in terms of height and scale.

These are much more closely related to what was envisaged by the Edward Street Planning Brief.

The full residents’ schematic ‘Edward St Neighbourhood Plan’ can be viewed at: https://planningapps.brighton-hove.gov.uk  Type BH2018/00340 into the search box;  go to Documents; scroll down the list to June 14 and you will find the Edward Street Quarter Neighbourhood Plan.

The residents’ proposal aims to:

1. Rebalance the development away from existing housing i.e. towards John Street with the taller buildings in the north-west corner. 

2. Proposes more sensibly proportioned buildings. 

3. Reduces the height of the proposed residential blocks whilst spreading these into the site (thus retaining scope for at least double the housing targets for this site set out in the City Plan). 

4. Creates sunlit, green public space on Edward Street thereby improving air quality and providing an innovative ‘green bridge’ link to Dorset Gardens Peace Park. 

Their proposal seems eminently reasonable and sensible.  It recognises that the City Plan requires a fairly intensive level of development but it has to be one which respects the original planning brief, respects the views from important public spaces, and respects the views of local residents.  

This is what public consultation is all about.

The First Base proposals fail badly on all three counts.

The residents state in conclusion: 

…..the proposal First Base present is very simple – it asks the Planning Committee to sweep aside a raft of agreed policy and usher through a proposal so lacking in merit the results will stand for generations as a monument to missed opportunities.

The planning application seems likely to be considered by the Planning Committee on July 18.  We understand that the officer recommendation will be to approve.

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