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Brighton Society Objection to the Marina Development

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Brighton Society objection

BH2019/00964 Land At Brighton Marina Comprising Outer Harbour,
Western Breakwater And Adjoining Land Brighton Marina

The Brighton Society strongly objects to this proposal on the following grounds:

1. It will dominate both the landscape and the existing historic townscape

This development in visual terms will be by far the most massive housing development Brighton has ever seen. Besides containing the highest building in Brighton (apart from the i360), and nine other tall bulky blocks of flats, all densely packed on to a tight site reclaimed from the sea, its enormity, its height, and its massing will have a severely detrimental effect on Brighton’s seascape and landscape, as well as the irreparable loss of important views of the sea, the Sussex coastline and cliffs from the east, west and north, as indeed from the sea itself.

When huge buildings dominate the landscape and block important views, we lose vital aspects of our city’s heritage which is defined by the character and scale of our coastline, the sea, the hills and valleys, the chalk cliffs, the South Downs – all the natural topographical features which give our city its unique character and are part of its attraction.

These proposals are driven not by respect for our existing landscape and seascapes, but by a commercial decision to cram as much building as possible on to a cramped, exposed and extremely prominent site.

Any new proposals for our seafront should respect not only the scale of the landscape, but also its urban heritage, its historic buildings, especially the Grade 1 Listed Kemp Town estate just to the west, which in terms of its urban scale and character is the inspiration for and culmination of those other historic buildings lining Marine Parade.

This massive development will have a severely detrimental effect on the many listed buildings along Marine Parade as well as on other aspects of the East Cliff and Kemp Town Conservation Areas within which they are located.

Should it be approved, it will inevitably set a gravely unfortunate precedent for any future development proposals for the Black Rock site immediately to the west which would further compromise the appearance, the value and the importance of Brighton’s historic seafront.

2. Impenetrable design

In searching for an adequate description of the nature of the design characteristic, the word ‘solidity’ seemed to be the most appropriate we could think of.

Synonyms for solidity include ‘closeness, clot, concentration, heaviness, density, compactness, fatness, stiffness’. As a peculiar contrast, the architects in their presentation to us, used the term ‘playful’ to describe the design of their buildings.

The design of the buildings is very different from the previous scheme. The curved individual residential blocks have been replaced by much more solid rectangular blocks and the 42 storey tower has been replaced by a lower tower of 28 storeys – but still very high by Brighton standards, given that Sussex Heights is (only!) 24 storeys – 334 feet high.

The designs of all the buildings including the tower, appear to be of a very bland rectangular appearance. The word “iconic” was often used by the developer of the previous scheme, and that design certainly included some interesting shapes. The word “iconic” could not possibly be used for the new scheme.

Is this a suitable design for a marina development in that sensitive transition zone between the land and the sea? We think it could hardly be worse. Look at the image below viewed from Black Rock which shows an impenetrable wall of buildings. At our consultation meeting the architect used the term ‘playful’ to describe the design of their buildings!!

It does not seem to have been recognised that the development is essentially part of a marine landscape. In that interpretation of a marine situation, words like transparency, open-ness, lightness of touch, and yes, playful, would seem to be appropriate aims that any designs should aim to achieve. Does this design do that? Our answer is emphatically NO.

The architects used the term “urban” to describe some of their projects in London and in many respects their proposals for the Marina would be more suitable for an inland metropolitan inner city location. The grid layout and the repetitive design of the elevations will certainly bring an urban feel to the development. But the blocks will also bring a very domineering presence to this part of the Marina.

The joining up of the southern buildings to provide one central intervening avenue results in the loss of previously proposed views through from the north; and although the western open spaces are supposed to include horticulture suitable for an exposed marine setting, the designers acknowledge that much of the open space – particularly in the many areas directly exposed to the sea and the gale-force winds – will necessarily be hard-surfaced and completely unsuitable for any green landscaping.

3. Loss of important views

The sheer scale of the proposals, the height and massing of the buildings projecting prominently into the sea results in irreparable loss of existing views of the sea, the coastline and cliffs from the east, west and north, as well as from the sea itself.

One of the most regrettable features of the existing Orion & Sirius buildings was the way that they blocked views of the chalk cliffs from the west. This proposal will block even more views.

How bad it will be was confirmed during the presentations for the latest scheme, when the architect said that when viewed from the cliff top, the height of the blocks will block any view south up to the level of the horizon. The development will be so bulky that it will remove any view of the sea for anyone walking along the cliff top. This is a very significant and detrimental change, and a severe loss to the amenity of the city and its residents and visitors.

4. Our conclusions

We strongly oppose this planning application. The design dominates the landscape, and it blocks views. Its urban character is the opposite to what a marina based, edge of sea concept should be – which is open and transparent, creating views and vistas of the sea from the land behind it.

The proposals blatantly maximise crude development potential at the expense of precious public realm.

Furthermore, given the example of the housing blocks already built at the Marina which have an enormous proportion of foreign owners, this scheme is unlikely to help Brighton’s over-riding need for low-cost and affordable housing.

If one refers to the common current formula which is applied for not granting planning applications – “where the adverse impacts of doing so (granting permission), would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits“ – we would strongly argue that this proposal would have major adverse impacts which would considerably outweigh any benefits to the city.

Yours faithfully,

Jeremy Mustoe MA (Cantab), Dip Arch
Chaiman, Brighton Society

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