Gasworks redevelopment: Brighton Society response to the 2nd public consultation
Berkeley/St. William recently introduced their second public consultation on their slightly revised proposals for redevelopment of the Brighton Gasworks site.
The public consultation closes on Friday March 5. It is important that as many individuals and community groups respond before that deadline with any concerns they may have about the proposals.
Berkeley provide an on-line form which they would like you to fill in. But this just asks you the questions they want you to answer. For example, the first question asks you “what do you like about our design proposals for the architecture?”
It would be far better to respond directly with your concerns.
You can email those concerns and comments directly to Berkeley at the following address: email@example.com
You can view Berkeley’s proposals at: https://brightongasworks.co.uk/consultation/
Or you can download the proposals in PDF format at:
The latter is a more accessible and user friendly method.
As the information pack is not very clear about the number of buildings and their relative heights here is a brief guide to the number and height of the buildings proposed in the visualisation above:
Block A – 8 storeys
Block B – 11 storeys
Block C – 11 storeys
Block D – 12 storeys
Block E – 4 & 7 storeys (NB the drawing says 6 but 7 are shown)
Block F – 13, 10 & 7
Block G – 10, 8 & 10
Block H – 10 (mostly) & 8 (a bit in the middle)
Block I – 7 & 10 storeys (with a tiny bit of 8 storey on the southern face)
Brighton Society Response” Gasworks 2nd consultation
Our response to the first consultation in July 2020 was scathing.
Since then we have become much more aware of the environmental issues relevant to this site as well as the important planning issues. Our views have also been conditioned by further criticisms of this development, in particular from the residents of East Brighton, and a wide range of amenity societies and community groups across the city.
The overwhelming consensus amongst all these is that this proposal in its current form is unacceptable and must go back to the drawing board.
Our concerns about this proposal can be summarised under the following headings:
1. the desperate attempts by the Council to maximise its housing target figures regardless of all other considerations;
2. the lack of affordable homes to be provided;
3. concerns about Berkeley/St. William’s and the Council’s ability to guarantee the safety and effectiveness of the decontamination process;
4. the unsuitability of the Gasworks site for tall buildings;
5. the unsuitability of tall buildings to provide the types of homes and open spaces which the community really needs;
6. the failure to create a truly sustainable housing development in terms of eco-friendly construction techniques, or use of sustainable materials and energy saving design.
1. Desperate attempts by the Council to maximise its housing target figures regardless of all other considerations
We condemn the role played by big development companies – like the Berkeley Group – exploiting and manipulating the planning system by proposing unacceptable developments, in the full knowledge that if the Council fails to approve their applications they can appeal the decision on the grounds that the Council cannot guarantee a five-year housing supply.
This is utterly unnacceptable behaviour. Councils should act in the interests of their residents, not forced into acting as proxies to promote the interests of big development companies.
2. Lack of affordable homes to be provided
This development fails to guarantee any affordable housing. Yet that, overwhelmingly, is the type of housing most desperately needed in the city.
47% of the homes needed in the city are for family homes of 3 – 4 bedrooms – not one or two bedroom flats mostly located on the upper floors of tall blocks of flats. There are enough of those in other development proposals recently approved in the city.
3. Concerns about Berkeley/St. William’s and the Council’s ability to guarantee the safety and effectiveness of the decontamination process
The Berkeley Group does not have a good track record in ensuring a sufficiently safe and effective process to meet the concerns of the local community.
There have been well-documented problems in Southall – which we note has not been included on the list of eighteen development sites which appear on the Berkeley/St.William website.
We have not seen to date any proposals from Berkeley/St.William which give any reassurance that the issues experienced at Southall will not be repeated at Brighton. In fact, given the apparent eradication of the Southall record as noted above, there seems to be a total lack of transparency on the part of Berkeley/St William in either recognising or responding to the concerns of the local community and residents.
We suggest that Berkeley/St.William offer to underwrite the cost of an independent specialist advisor with a proven track record of experience in gasworks remediation, to be selected and appointed directly by the Council.
This independent advisor should be commissioned not only to advise and comment on the remediation procedures, but also should actively supervise the remediation work, just as would a Clerk of Works on a conventional building project.
4. Unsuitability of the Gasworks site for tall buildings
This site is completely unsuitable for tall buildings because of the visual impact it would have over a wide area. it would occupy a very prominent situation on the clifftop above the Marina, and be close to important heritage assets such as the Grade I Listed Kemptown Estate and other listed heritage buildings.
The sheer height and bulk of several tall buildings closely packed together in the form of an inner-city type of urban conglomeration would dominate its surroundings and all the other buildings around it.
An attempt was recently made by the Council Planning Dept to extend the area considered suitable for tall buildings into the Gasworks site and the area immediately to the east behind Marine Gate as part of a Draft SPD. We understand that this provision will now be removed from the draft SPD.
There is therefore no official Council policy which would permit tall buildings (ie above 18m tall), on the gasworks site.
This supports our view that development of the Gasworks site – which we support in principle – should be low-rise high density, not high-rise high density.
In a recent post on our website we look at four case studies of low-rise high density housing developments – two of which were RIBA Stirling Prize winners – and ask why options similar to those precedents have not been considered for the Brighton Gasworks site. This is the link:
5. Unsuitability of tall buildings to provide the types of homes and open spaces which the community really needs
“Development of our cities is all too often shaped by top-down developers and funders rather than local authorities and local people with a long term outlook. Land is treated as a commodity and development primarily as a mechanism for extracting wealth rather than providing homes. Value is judged on profit generated, not social benefit.”
This quotation from a recent article on community-led housing, sums up the approach taken by the Berkeley Group acting in conjunction with our helpless City Council.
Here is another quote – from Simon Jenkins, journalist, author and President of Brighton’s Regency Society, taken from an article he wrote recently in The Guardian:
“The customary claim that cities need to build high to cram in more people is simply untrue. Except at Hong Kong densities, towers rarely house more people than “high-density low-rise”. London’s new council estates in the 1960 and 70s housed fewer, not more, people than what they replaced. Most of London’s highest densities remain in the Victorian seven-storey terraces of Kensington and Bayswater. But planning should never pursue density at the expense of community. Community should be the sole arbiter of urban renewal…..
The fashion for high-rise urban living has passed from public housing to towers of luxury flats. These are sold not to families – let alone neighbourhoods – but to transient single people and overseas investors seeking anonymous bolt-holes. Such ugly structures do nothing to house people or promote communities. They are social excrescences.”
And yet another quote from him:
“Tower blocks are the enemies of social vitality. They are silent stakes driven through a city’s sense of community”
Need one say more.
6. Failure to create a truly sustainable housing development in terms of eco-friendly construction techniques, or use of sustainable materials and energy saving design.
There is no way the conglomeration of tall, bulky buildings proposed on this site could be described in any of the terms set out above.
In the consultation documents we can see no firm proposals for any of these environmentally-friendly attributes. Instead we see a concrete jungle with a massive carbon footprint completely at odds with current thinking on the environment and recognition of sustainable and energy saving design policies.
It is an ecological dinosaur whose future viability has already been superseded by current political priorities.
Brighton & Hove has a council which is run by the Green Party. It has the country’s only Green Party MP. The last thing it needs – or should be promoting – on an important brownfield site is this ugly and massive urban conglomeration of inappropriate tall buildings with absolutely no community or ecological benefits.
It has to go back to the drawing board.
Brighton deserves better