Objection from The Brighton Society : Planning Application Ref. BH2021/04167 – Gasworks development

Objection from The Brighton Society : Planning Application Ref. BH2021/04167 – Gasworks development
Image showing how massive this conglomeration of tall buildings will be in relationship to its surroundings

The Brighton Society objection has now been lodged on the Council website.

Our objection is a lengthy document running to 30 pages, so although you can read the full objection below, you can also read the objection via a series of separate links from each section heading which will take you to the text of that particular section.  The objection itself, listing the 12 section headings, appears just after the Campaign update below. 

Gasworks Campaign update

We have been working closely with the other members of the Gasworks Coalition since the planning application was lodged in mid-December. Our main aim has been to get as many people as possible to lodge objections. 

So far as we can tell at the time of writing (24 January), there have now been over 600 objections lodged with the Council and they are still coming in.  If you would like to lodge your own objection, here is the link to our page which tells how to object:  https://t.co/nXZccRGDQs

For comparison there were about 130 objections lodged against the huge Marina development which was recently turned down at appeal.

Objections can be lodged right up to the date of the planning hearing, though the sooner they are lodged the more likely it is that account will be taken of them in the Planning Officer’s report to the Planning Committee.

There are two very important issues which have come up in the last week or so.

The first is the issue of affordable housing.  There is no affordable housing proposed in the planning application.  This contravenes Council policy.  Under Council rules the application should never have been validated in its current form. You can read more about this under section 9 below.

The second issue is Fire Safety.  The Health & Safety Executive has lodged its strong concerns as it appears that the building designs do not comply with new Fire Safety policies introduced in August last year, partially as a consequence of the Grenfell disaster. Section 5.5 of our objection provides more information.

Letter to councillors

The Gasworks Coalition has written to all councillors requesting that the planning application be withdrawn as it should never have been validated.  We are waiting to see what response we get before making a decision on whether to ask the Secretary of State to call in the application on the grounds that planning issues of national importance are involved in both cases.

We have also been in contact with Historic England and Save Britain’s Heritage to inform them of our concerns about heritage issues.  We are currently awaiting their responses.

The Objection

The Brighton Society’s objection as set out in the following pages is our response to the Berkeley/St William Homes planning application for the Gasworks site BH2021/04167

We do not object to the use of this brownfield site for new housing.

We are fully in favour of redevelopment on this site, and recognise why there could be a degree of support for any proposal which cleans up the site and is an improvement on the current eyesore.  No matter how bad that proposal might be.

There is no doubt that in its current condition, the Gasworks site is a blight on the appearance and quality of the local environment, the local community and the wider city as a whole.

But the Berkeley St William proposal is not in the interests of the city or the local community. There is an opportunity here for Brighton to set an example to the rest of the country for a community-led sustainable design which,

– responds to the national policies set out in the NPPF and its aspiration for beauty and good design;

– relates sympathetically to its heritage setting and,

– provides the housing types needed and wanted by the community, in particular a high proportion of affordable housing.

The Berkeley St William proposal does none of these things.

The Brighton Society therefore objects to this particular proposal as explained in the sections set out below.

Headings. Our objections and concerns are discussed under the following headings:

1.      The Kemp Town Estate – a Conservation Area of National Importance

2.      Importance of Heritage Assets – and the Harm caused by the Gasworks proposals

3.      City Plan Policies – and the Urban Design Framework SPD

4.      National Planning Policies

5.      Design issues – height, bulk, quality, fire safety, sunlight, daylight, overshadowing, open space and an alternative vision

6.      Landscape – views and viewpoints 

7.      Lessons from the Marina Appeal

8.      Decontamination and Public Health issues

9.      Affordable Housing

10.    Community Involvement

11.    Sustainability Issues

12.    Traffic, Pollution, Parking and infrastructure

1.      The Kemp Town Estate – a Conservation Area of national importance

1.1    Kemp Town is unique amongst Britain’s Conservation Areas in that virtually all the buildings within the conservation area are listed.  

1.2    Because of the exceptional character of Kemp Town as a unified estate of Grade 1 Listed Buildings, that status demands that it is given exceptional protection against harm from developments that could threaten and be detrimental to the quality of its existing character and historic quality.

1.3    It is located towards the eastern end of Marine Parade, the finale of a continuous virtually intact array of Regency terraces and crescents stretching all the way along Marine Parade from near Brighton Pier over a distance of more than one and a half miles – see section 2 below.

1.4    The proposed Gasworks development, comprising as it does an urban conglomeration of densely packed tall blocks of flats, less than 100m from the Grade I Listed buildings of Lewes Crescent, will have a profoundly detrimental effect on the character and the quality of the Kemp Town Estate.

1.5    This concentration of unacceptably tall buildings will be very visible as one travels along Marine Parade in either direction.  They will tower above the existing buildings at the end of Eastern Road where it passes through Sussex Square, it will be very prominent from high level viewpoints in the South Downs, and from the high land above and to the east of Marina Way, and from the seafront below Madeira Terraces and the cliffs.

1.6    It will have a highly detrimental visual effect on the elegance and historic character of the Grade 1 Regency terraces and Crescents of Kemp Town.

2.      Importance of Heritage Assets and Harm to those assets caused by the Gasworks proposals

2.1    From Brighton Pier in the west to Marine Gate in the east, Marine Parade is one of the longest stretches of seafront in the country with a consistently high architectural quality along the whole of its length of about 1.6 miles.

2.2    We estimate that there are some 216 Listed buildings and structures along its length, plus four locally listed, up to and including the Grade II listed French Convalescent Home on de Courcel Road.

2.3    It forms the country’s most impressive marine façade.  At the upper level it includes the East Cliff Conservation Area with many listed buildings along its frontage.  The occasional modern buildings such as the Van Alen building are of high architectural quality too.

2.4    The eastern end is included within the Kemp Town Conservation Area which incorporates the Grade 1 Listed Lewes Crescent and Sussex Square, and the Chichester and Arundel Terraces.

2.5    At the lower level on the southern side it incorporates the Grade II Listed Madeira Terraces built into the side of the cliff below the road.  Its architectural quality is enhanced by mostly original railings, lamp standards and cast iron structures along its length.  All these are to be restored over the decade.

2.6    Marine Parade with its magnificent setting overlooking the sea and the high class developments along its entire length, was built between 1790 and the end of the nineteenth Century, when the Grade II Listed French Convalescent Home was built in the French Renaissance Revival style just to the east of Lewes Crescent. 

2.7    The parade of excellence continues further to the east to include the locally listed Marine Gate immediately to the east of the Gasworks site. Marine Drive then continues this heritage route, bordering on open downland adjacent to the South Downs National Park, before passing the Grade II listed Roedean School buildings set on the hillside to the north, and yet further on past more open land to the Grade II Listed St. Dunstan’s.

2.8    The only blemish in architectural terms along this whole route, is the Courcels building just to the east of the French Convalescent Home.  This was built in 1971 on the site of the 19th-century Madeira Mansions.  A big planning mistake if ever there was one. But heritage concerns were not perhaps given the same importance then as they are now – or perhaps should be.

2.9    It could be claimed that the Brighton Gasworks site just to the east of Courcel’s could also be described as a blemish, and certainly it still is, but the site is now effectively redundant and vacant.  There is now a once in a lifetime opportunity to repair that gap in the consistently high quality of architecture along this stretch of Brighton’s coastline.

It is important that another mistake like the Courcel building approval should not be made again. 

The Berkeley Group’s proposals don’t come remotely close to achieving that aspiration.

2.10 Its development proposal, comprising 11 densely packed tall buildings between 7 – 12 storeys with some smaller blocks of 3 -6 storeys is just 100m from the Grade 1 Listed terraces of Arundel Terrace, Lewes Crescent and Chichester Terrace.  And much of this distance is occupied by the Grade II Listed French Convalescent Home.

2.11 That’s why it is very important that whatever new buildings are built on the Gasworks site are of extremely high architectural quality and respect the scale, height and character of the continuum and consistent architectural quality of the whole length of Marine Parade from Brighton Pier in the west right through to Roedean School and St Dunstan’s in the east – a distance of over three miles.

2.12 If this massive densely packed urban conglomeration of tall buildings is allowed to go ahead, the whole experience of that continuous 3 mile section of quality listed and locally listed buildings will be irreparably damaged.

2.13 This view is reinforced by an extract from the Appeal Decision rejecting the similarly massive buildings of the Marina development which states: “…the Secretary of State has paid special regard to the desirability of preserving those listed buildings potentially affected by the proposals, or their settings or any features of special architectural or historic interest which they may possess.”  (IR para 12 p.3)  This applies even more to the effect the Gasworks development will have on the setting of those nearby listed buildings.

2.14 It is totally misleading to claim – as the developer does – that it will not result in damage to important heritage assets.

2.15 In its eagerness to comply with the government’s housing targets, the Council should not neglect its duty to protect, conserve and enhance Brighton’s architectural and urban heritage. 

It would appear from the recent Housing Delivery Test Measurement published on 14 January, that Brighton & Hove no longer appears on the list of Local Authorities which have a Presumption in Favour of Development imposed upon them.  Though this has only just been published and needs further examination, it would appear on the surface, that the Council now has more freedom to make its own independent planning decisions.

2.17 The Council in its Heritage Assessment comment lodged on the Council website, has failed to recognise the importance of Marine Parade to Brighton’s urban heritage.  There can be few coastal routes of similar distance in the world which could lay claim to such a high standard of architecture along its entire length – with (currently) only one blemish.

3.  City Plan Policies and the Urban Design Framework SPD  (Supplementary Planning Document)

3.1 The City Plan 

The City Plan sets out the problems facing the city. Para 2.11 says:

Brighton & Hove is a tightly constrained, compact city situated between the South Downs National Park and the sea. With a limited legacy of derelict or vacant sites these ‘natural boundaries’ define and limit the outward expansion of the city. The spatial strategy needs to achieve a balance between accommodating the city’s development needs, particularly for jobs and homes, with the continuing need to protect and enhance the city’s high quality environments and the nationally designated landscape that surrounds the city.

Does this planning application achieve that balance?  We think not.

The City Plan does not include the Gasworks site within an area of the City where Tall Buildings (ie buildings over 6 storeys) will be permitted.  It is not included within the Marina Tall Buildings zone. 

As part of the draft Urban Design Framework SPD, there was a proposal to extend the Marina Tall Buildings zone on to the Gasworks site, but that was withdrawn in the final and approved UDF dated June 2021.

The Berkeley St William’s Homes proposals include 11 tall building elements which range from 7 – 12 storeys, most of them way higher than 6-storeys:

Buildings B & C – 11 storeys + link of 7 storeys

Building D – 12 storeys

Building F – 11 storeys and 7 storeys

Building G – 10 storeys and 8 storeys

Building H – 10 storeys

Building I/1 – 7 storeys

Building I/2 -10 storeys.

These cannot be described as anything other than a “conglomeration of Tall Buildings”  They occupy about two thirds of the built area on the site.

3.2    The Urban Design Framework (approved June 2021)

The  approved UDF SPG15 includes the following policy statements relating to the development of the Gasworks site:

Para 5.1 (p.43) of the current UDF SPD notes that “There are particular sensitivities for development due to the relative proximity to Kemp Town conservation area and housing on the adjacent hillside, which provide challenges for designers.”

This is further emphasised by a statement accompanying the Marina Area map that, “Building heights will be largely determined by visual impact on views from hillsides to the north and from historic Kemp Town enclosures.”

Para 5.1 goes on to recommend that the following design priorities should be considered in proposals.  The first of these is:  “Design priorities should have regard to visual impact on heritage assets and the residential areas to the north of the cliffs and overall composition when viewed along the coast.”

The accompanying plan (also on p.43), in the SPD shows an indicative area of the Marina with potential for tall buildings.

The gasworks site is not included within that area.  Tall buildings are defined as buildings of 18m or taller, (approximately 6 storeys) above existing ground level.  (SPG15 –Tall Buildings para 1.4).  The vast majority of the buildings comprising the Gasworks proposal are much higher than that.

The Planning Inspector (Mr D.Prentis) for the recent Appeal Hearing on the proposed development at Cromwell Road/Palmeira Avenue noted that, “The UDF states that sites outside the areas so designated [for tall buildings] may also, potentially, be suited for tall buildings. However it also states that “the threshold to prove the positive contribution of a tall building to the local townscape and community outside these areas is higher”.

The Gasworks development fails to respond to Mr Prentis’ views that “the threshold to prove the positive contribution of a tall building to the local townscape and community outside these areas is higher.”

Let alone 11 of them.

Nor does it attempt to answer the requirement in the UDF that “There are particular sensitivities for development due to the relative proximity to Kemp Town conservation area and housing on the adjacent hillside, which provide challenges for designers.”

Nor does it take account of the statement in the UDF that. “Design priorities should have regard to visual impact on heritage assets and the residential areas to the north of the cliffs and overall composition when viewed along the coast.”

Nor does it comply with the requirement that, “Design priorities should have regard to visual impact on heritage assets and the residential areas to the north of the cliffs and overall composition when viewed along the coast.”

These statements are discussed further in Section 6 – Landscape, below.

3.3    We know why they have been ignored.  It is because the draft UDF introduced in October 2020, included a draft policy to extend the Marina Tall Buildings zone on to the Gasworks site above the Marina.

That was soon after the Berkeley Group issued its first proposal for public consultation (including a 15-storey tower and other tall buildings) in July 2020.  It is obvious that the UDF was being prepared at the same as Berkeley were preparing its development proposal for the Gasworks.  And the Council and Berkeley were talking to each other. We know from an FOI request that there are 836 emails on file.

3.4    Failure to answer our FOI requests

But the Council have consistently refused to release the content of its correspondence with the Berkeley Group despite several FOI requests and letters to the Council from the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO).

At the time of writing the ICO has given Brighton & Hove City Council five working days from now to provide details of 300 emails we suspect might relate to those discussions.

In the meantime we have to infer from those discussions between Berkeley and the Council that the Berkeley Group assumed that they would be allowed to develop the site with tall buildings.

But it turned out that the UDF, being a subsidiary planning document, could not over-ride the City Plan 2016 – which did not propose that tall buildings would be permitted outside the Marina area itself.

So the final version of the UDF approved in June 2021, did not extend the Marina Tall Buildings zone on to the Gasworks site.  

But by then it was too late for the Berkeley Group to make any significant changes.  That’s why we are now saddled with this unacceptable conglomeration of tall buildings.

These 11 tall buildings are not a minor breach of the City Plan policies for the suitability of tall buildings on this site. They represent a massive breach.

3.5    There is no justification within the City Plan or SPG15 for such a massive departure from the planning policies set out within these approved Council planning documents.

The Gasworks proposals fail to comply with the planning policies set out in the city plan and the current UDF SPG.

3.6    This interpretation is reinforced by the recent Appeal Decision on the Marina development which noted that,

“the proposal at issue would undoubtedly be a major intervention that would have significant status this being in respect of those designated heritage assets nearer the appeal site, that is Lewes Crescent (Grade 1), Chichester Terrace (Grade 1), Arundel Terrace (Grade 1), and Sussex Square (Grade 1), the Kemp Town Enclosure (Grade II Registered Park and Garden), and the the Kemp Town Conservation Area, and the linked Esplanade Cottages (Grade II), Old Reading Rooms (Grade II, and Temple (Grade II), and the Madeira Terrace , Madeira Lift and Shelter buildings (Grade II),and the East Cliff Conservation Area.  He [Secretary of State] also agrees with the Inspector in that the proposed development would have a very strong visual presence in some views of, and/or from, these important buildings and spaces, with implications for how they are experienced as heritage assets”.  (IR para 27 p.5)

3.7    All of these heritage assets are much closer to the Gasworks site than they are to the Marina, so it would be fair to assume that the view of any Planning Inspector reviewing the Gasworks application in the future would come to a similar conclusion. 

Those statements are even more relevant to the Gasworks site as the buildings are built on the cliff top at a much higher level than the Marina at sea level. The visual impact is consequently going to be even greater from a wide variety of viewpoints. 

The Gasworks proposals will have a major detrimental visual impact on adjacent Heritage Assets and the South Downs National Park, and utterly fail to respond to the design aspirations defined (by the Council), in the final version of the Urban Design Framework.  

4.      National Planning Policies

4.1    The NPPF (para 195 p.56) states that, “Local Planning Authorities should identify and assess the particular significance of any heritage asset that may be affected by a proposal (including by development affecting the setting of a heritage asset) taking account of the available evidence and any necessary expertise.  They should take this into account when considering the impact of a proposal on a heritage assets, to avoid or minimise any conflict between the heritage asset’s conservation and any aspect of the proposal”.

It goes on to say that the greater the asset, the greater the weight should be given to the asset’s conservation (para 199 p.57).

4.2    It is hard to imagine anything greater in conservation terms than the Grade 1 Listed buildings of Arundel Terrace, Lewes Crescent, Chichester Terrace and Sussex Square just 100m to the west. 

Para 200 states that “Any harm to, or loss of the significance of a designated heritage asset (from its alteration or destruction, or from development within its setting) should require clear and convincing justification.” (Our emphasis)

It goes on to say “ …assets of the highest significance… grade 1 listed buildings…etc. should be wholly exceptional.

This is the national planning policy measure that applies to the Gasworks proposals. 

4.3    This planning application fails utterly to meet those requirements.  In fact it just dismisses them as of no consequence.

It says “There will be no effect on the heritage significance of the listed buildings or the ability to appreciate it” – para 7B.18 Vol.2 HTLVIA Part 10 Ch.7B – Listed Buildings.

4.4    The NPPF – balance of harm and benefits

The Planning Inspector for the Cromwell Road/Palmeira Avenue development   (previously mentioned), made the following comments:

“Applying the approach set out in paragraph 11(d) (ii)) of the Framework, [NPPF] I am mindful that the Framework seeks to boost the supply of homes.  However it also states that the creation of high quality, beautiful and sustainable buildings and places is fundamental to what the planning and development process should achieve.  Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development.  The Framework goes on to say that developments should add to the overall quality of the area, be sympathetic to local character and history and create places with a high level of amenity. For the reasons given above I consider that the proposal would conflict with those requirements of the Framework.  To my mind the adverse effects of granting planning permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of housing delivery, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole.”

This test applies perfectly to the Gasworks proposal too.  And it fails the test.

The Gasworks coalition commissioned an alternative proposal which would result in a far more appropriate balance – see para 5.9 below.

5.      Design issues – height, bulk, quality, safety, sunlight, daylight, overshadowing, open space, density and architectural design quality, an alternative vision

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) places great emphasis on quality of design.

In our view (and many others), the proposed  buildings are too high, too bulky, out of scale and character with its surroundings, are of low quality design, will create deep canyons in shade most of the day, and will overshadow the residential areas to the east and west.  Most of the open spaces within it will be windswept and sunless.  And above all their appearance is ugly and bland.

It could be anywhere, in the centre of any ordinary city in the country.  But it isn’t.  As we point out in Sections 1 and 2 above, it is part of a unique array of architectural excellence stretching from Brighton Pier through to the Listed St Dunstan’s, over 3 miles to the east.

5.1    We are very keen to see this redundant and unattractive site redeveloped for housing which will make a valuable contribution to resolving the Council’s housing targets.

5.2    The site is important and is very prominent on the cliff top, just to the east of the Grade 1 Listed Kemp Town Estate. It requires a design solution which is sensitive to its urban heritage and landscape settings and which has the support of the local community.

5.3    The Berkeley/St William proposal for a densely packed conglomeration of tall blocks will completely dominate its surroundings by its sheer size, height, scale, density and massing.

The site area is 1.46ha.  The density will be about 378 dwellings per hectare (dph). (553 ¸1.46ha = 378).  That is extremely high by any standards including central London, and significantly higher than any recent development proposals in the city.

For example the recently approved Sackville Road development in Hove is 230 dph.

This massively overdeveloped proposal for the Gasworks site doesn’t have the support of the local community or indeed the 16 city-wide amenity societies and community groups (the Gasworks Coalition), which have united in their opposition to the proposals.  These groups are listed at the end of this objection.

It doesn’t provide any affordable housing for local people that the community wants. 

These topics are discussed in more detail in Paras 9 and 10 below.

This image of Block D shows the sheer mass and height of the building – and this is only one of the 11 tall buildings (over 6 storeys) proposed. The double-decker bus at bottom right clearly demonstrates how massive this complex of tall buildings actually is. If you look carefully you might just pick out the figure of a man standing just to the left of the bus. Is this really an appropriate solution for the eastern outskirts of Brighton?

The sheer scale, massing and height of the proposed buildings do nothing to minimise the risks of deep excavations into highly contaminated ground to construct the massive concrete foundations required for the tall, heavyweight buildings above.

The lower and lighter the buildings, the less remediation and consequent risk of contamination there will be.

5.4    Design Quality

Besides being out of scale, out of character and unsympathetic to its neighbours, this design is poorly conceived.  It looks like a typical urban conglomeration of tall blocks of flats which could be found anywhere in the country.  It has no relationship to Brighton, let alone to Kemp Town or the low-rise residential streets around the site. It is not good design whatever the claims made in the planning application.

Would it deserve to be even locally listed, let alone be fully listed?  Yet this is the standard that it has to live up to, as argued in the preceding sections.

For example, the two types of cladding used are simply dull, with no architectural virtues. It looks as though the buildings are built down to a cost and not up to the levels of distinction or quality its situation demands.  There is no indication of design quality whatsoever.

5.5    Fire Safety

This lack of design quality in other aspects of the design is demonstrated by the comments of the Health and Safety Executive posted on the Council website. It has issued a “Substantive Response” which sets out its concerns that the proposed design is unsafe in terms of Means of Escape, Fire Service Access, and External Fire Spread.

The HSE’s concerns relate to the following:

  •   Single staircase accesses
  •   Fire separation between car park areas and other areas
  •   Effectiveness of fire compartmentation
  •   Access for emergency vehicles (e.g. fire appliances, ambulances, etc)
  •   Availability of water supplies for sprinklers + fire service
  • Need for easy and speedy access for fire crews       
  • Hose laying distances/routes
  • Sharing of escape routes with fire crews/equipment
  • Assumption that lifts can be used for fire service access
  • The risk of fire spread may become more critical, when combined with the “wind tunnel” effect, in an exposed coastal location
  • The town houses have direct access to the underground car park.

The response adds the following comment in the case of several of these deficiences, “Resolving this issue may affect land use planning considerations such as the appearance of the building and layout of the development”.

Coming at a time when the Grenfell disaster is still a highly contentious issue, this is a very damning criticism of the scheme. Would any local authority feel able to approve a planning application given the concerns expressed by HSE in the light of Grenfell?

In other words, it needs a fundamental rethink. Following Grenfell, the government has required that fire safety issues be resolved at the earliest stage possible in preparing a tall building application. That has not happened.

There is a Fire Strategy document included in the planning application documentation prepared by Elementa who are Fire consultants.

It seems to be a purely advisory document presumably prepared in advance of the plan preparation stage.  There appears to be no indication that it is a response to the actual proposals made in the planning application.

Nor does it make any references to the issues experienced at Grenfell which seems surprising.  

In fact it seems to assume that all Fire Safety issues would be sorted out at Building Regulation stage.  It recommends that “in the exceptional event that the Fire Authority propose to require physical changes to the building, Building Control should make the applicant aware”.

So its value as a document in support of the actual design set out in the planning application is effectively zero.

Key to understanding the issue are the new planning requirements on Fire Safety which came into force in August 2021. They are known as planning gateway one, and they are designed to ensure that high-rise developments consider fire safety at the earliest stages of planning.

Developments involving high-rise residential buildings must demonstrate they have been designed with fire safety in mind before planning permission is granted – including through their site layout – and with access provided for fire engines.

This information is to be submitted as part of the planning application in a fire statement.  There is a document submitted with the application called “Fire Gateway One Form”.

This is mostly a tabular schedule of fire safety measures proposed for each of the buildings.  It confirms that the “stay put” policy (now being questioned after Grenfell) will be relied on for all the tall residential blocks.  Some layout drawings showing fire access routes are shown too.

These documents were evidently inadequate to reassure the HSE that the fire safety measures described are sufficient.  The proposals were obviously not discussed with HSE prior to submission of the planning application which is one of the requirements.

Following Grenfell there is an ongoing debate among Fire Safety experts about the “stay put” policy which led to the deaths there of 72 victims, 15 of whom were disabled.

The “stay put’ policy was previously seen to be a solution where the building only had one staircase.  But following Grenfell, many fire safety experts take the view that this policy is now too risky and the whole question of escape routes from tall buildings and the single staircase policy needs to be reviewed. 

The HSE’s concerns have to be regarded as an indication of Berkeley St William’s failure to take the issue of Fire Safety seriously.

That attitude is not helped by the report in The Times in June 2020 that the Berkeley Group told the government to relax the ban on the type of cladding used at Grenfell, calling it “low risk”.

How much confidence can the people of Brighton have in a developer who is more interested in protecting its profits over the safety of residents of their developments?

And, as an aside, are we able to have any confidence in this developer’s integrity to also carry out the decontamination process in a safe and responsible way, particularly after the health problems experienced by the residents of Southall following Berkeley St William’s development there?  See Section 8 below.

5.6    Layout and important links

It is extremely unfortunate that the two parcels of Council-owned land, one at the northern edge and one at the southern edge, have not been incorporated within the development site.  The area of these two parcels is over half a hectare – 0.56ha to be precise  The site area to be developed by Berkeley St William is 1.46 ha. In other words the Council owned areas amount to over a quarter of the whole available site area of 2.02ha.

Including these two sites could have resulted in a much more complete, and a much more efficient and integrated design layout with the potential of much improved links through the development to the South Downs National Park to the north and to Black Rock and the Marina to the south.

Why was this possibility not given serious consideration?  The result will be two small pieces of land at each end of this huge building complex with no potential use or value to the community, either now or in the future.

This is a totally wasted opportunity.  It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

5.7    Open space – poor design

The other open spaces within the Berkeley Group’s proposals would mostly be deep, narrow windswept canyons between the rows of tall blocks of buildings.  They would be in deep shadow for most of the day, and act as wind tunnels in windy conditions.  The Wind Study model illustrated in the planning application documentation (below) illustrates this perfectly.

How much daylight, let alone sunlight, will the residents of the flats receive at the lower levels of the tall buildings either side of the central canyon?

There are no overshadowing diagrams included in the application showing the areas of the site and the surrounding area which would be overshadowed by the tall buildings during the hours of daytime at the four equinox dates of March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21.  We understood from the Berkeley Group’s assurances at the consultation stage that these would be included in the planning application documentation.  They are not.

The deep canyons between the buildings will produce minimal or no levels of sunlight in the flats or their balconies each side of these canyons, particularly those on the lower storeys.  The Planning Inspector for the Marina Appeal drew attention to similar problems on that proposal, which as a negative design factor, was a significant contributor to the decision to refuse the appeal.

Para 19, p.4: “… in terms of the regularity of the façade treatments, and the homogenous mass that would be created, together with the failure to provide a proper landmark or bookend, the scheme lacks the exuberance and ambition that the best of Brighton’s buildings exhibit.  It would not therefore be a postive contributor to its context and in many respects, it would fail to take the great opportunity the appeal site presents (IR11.22).”

The same comment applies to the Gasworks design.

5.8    Lack of a 3D model

As one can see from the Wind Study diagram above, a 3D model of the Gasworks buildings set into a 3D model showing the heights and layout of existing buildings and streets adjacent does exist.

A few years ago First Base displayed a similar 3D model of the Edward Street Quarter within a wider 3D modelling environment as part of their public consultation.

Why is an extended image of this 3D model not included within the Heritage and visual impact documents in the planning application documentation? The image of the wind study model cuts off the buildings to the west of the Gasworks site, but the model obviously does extend further to the west as can be seen from the buildings in the top left hand corner.

Did the Planning Dept not request an image of the whole model or ask to see it in full 3D? Fly-throughs are relatively common for larger developments.

It is an essential piece of the jigsaw that is needed for the public to be able to see what the relationship to the surrounding buildings in terms of the relative heights, scale and development layout patterns, so that the visual effect of this massive conglomeration of tall buildings on the closely adjacent Grade 1 listed heritage buildings of Kemp Town can be clearly evaluated.

The only image we can find in the whole planning application documentation which shows the development in relation to the Grade 1 Listed buildings of Kemp Town is shown above.  Even from that elevated and distant viewpoint it shows how out of scale and character the proposal is compared with the relatively low rise Regency buildings immediately to the west.

Why are there not more views of this model from other viewpoints, particularly ones closer to the development site?

We would have thought at the very least, that Historic England would need to see such information in order to be able to carry out its assessment of the effects of this planning application on adjacent heritage assets.

The application documentation we have viewed so far seems to deliberately conceal this relationship.  The lack of this information is telling

The Gasworks Coalition presented an alternative low-rise vision for the development of the Gasworks site to Council Officers at a virtual meeting on 13 July 2021.

5.9 An Alternative Vision

The purpose of this exercise was not to make a rival proposal to the Berkeley St William Homes scheme, but to demonstrate that a low-rise design arranged around public courtyard open space would relate far better to the surrounding neighbourhood, particularly the Regency Terraces to the west, and would fit much more comfortably into that traditional pattern of development than the grossly over-developed urban conglomeration of 11 tall blocks of flats currently proposed. 

And it would still contribute 366 new dwellings to the city’s housing stock.

The above layout shows that a an alternative scheme  is perfecty possible which would make a very significant contribution to the Council housing targets, while resolving the majority of the objections to the Berkeley/St William Homes planning application.

Further details of this alternative proposal will shortly be posted on the Brighton Society website:  https://www.brighton-society.org.uk.

Unlike the Berkeley Group’s proposals, it would be a low-rise lightweight design using sustainable timber construction so as to minimise the weight of the buildings and to maximise the sustainability of the construction. It would drastically reduce the amount of disruptive digging and excavation required into the contaminated ground below. 

No buildings would be higher than 6 storeys – ie – no Tall Buildings.

These low-scaled buildings are laid out around generous linked public courtyards open at the southern end to the views over the sea. The two Council-owned parcels of land at the northern and southern perimeters of the site are included within the development area.

They would provide 366 new flats, 60% of them being family units of 2 and 3 bedrooms.  This is a significant number.

This is the breakdown: 2 Studio flats, 141 1-bedroom flats, 152 2-bedroom flats and 61 3-bedroom flats.

Although the total is less by 167 units than that provided by the massive Berkeley blocks, much of this difference is accounted for by fewer studio and 1-bedroom flats.  There would be twice as many 3-bedroom flats for which the demand is highest.

For comparison, here are the comparable figures for the Berkeley proposal: 26 Studio flats, 162 1-bedroom flats, 306 2-bedroom flats, 36 3-bedroom flats.

The other major and crucial advantage of the Alternative Vision is that its reduced height and courtyard-based layout would have a much more friendly and sympathetic relationship with the pattern of the historic Regency terraces and crescents along Marine Parade to the west, which would enable a new development to fit politely between those Grade I heritage assets and the locally listed Marine Gate building to the east.

5.10 Why is the Berkeley proposal such a massive urban conglomeration of tall blocks?

There is no reason for the Berkeley/St William design to be as high, massive and dominant as that proposed.  On the former Gasworks in Worthing, the same developer proposed a design which is much lower in both height and density, and far less massive and dominant in character than its proposal for Brighton.  Why can’t a similar approach be taken in Brighton?

Worthing Gasworks proposal. Its context is illustrated by being set within a 3D model – which isn’t the case for the Brighton planning application. Why not?

6.  Landscape – views and viewpoints

6.1 The planning application documentation is noticeably weak in addressing the question of viewpoints.  Although there are 36 individual viewpoints analysed, the heritage assets we have highlighted in para 3.6 above are almost totally ignored in the selection, and views from residential areas are very limited. 

There are no views for example looking west from the high ground to the east of Marina Way overlooking the Gasworks site and towards the Listed Buildings of Kemp Town.

6.2 A visual experience is not just experienced from a few individual viewpoints. It is the accumulation of experiences as one walks around the immediate area.  The Grade 1 Listed buildings of Kemp Town and this massive urban conglomeration are only a few yards from each other. Of course there will be a “jarring” visual impact.  (see para 7.2 below)The Planning Inspector for the Cromwell Road/Palmeira Avenue scheme commented:   

[Para 22]. “However buildings are not generally experienced from fixed viewpoints, they are seen in a sequence of views as the viewer moves through the locality.”

This would seem to be obvious.  This “huge urban conglomeration of tall buildings” is only a few paces away from the Grade 1 Listed buildings of Arundel Terrace.  The views below show this clearly.  They are both taken from exactly the same place.  You will be able to experience both without even moving an inch.

Grade 1 Listed Arundel Terrace                       Looking towards the Gasworks site and the French Convalescent Home

The methodology used in the planning application which only discusses views from certain limited viewpoints is utterly flawed.  People walk around a neighbourhood and experience buildings as a sequence of images. 

To claim that the high rise buildings of the Gasworks site will not have a detrimental effect on the settings of Grade 1 Listed Buildings is inaccurate and dishonest.

6.3  Much reliance in the visual assessments included in the application documentation is placed in contrasting the visual impact between the Gasworks proposal and the Marina proposals, in particular the tall tower block proposed in the 2006 proposal for the latter. 

Now that the recent Marina development has been turned down at appeal, and because the 2006 proposal is now unlikely to be financially viable because of the much deeper piling now known to be necessary, the arguments that the Gasworks proposals would be acceptable in the context of the tall buildings proposed in the previous Marina development proposals are no longer relevant.

This view from Wilson Avenue to the north shows how massive and intrusive the development would be.  The gasometer is the equivalent of 9 storeys high.  Building D, just to the south of the gasometer is 12 storeys – three storeys higher.  Buildings B and C, just to the north of the gasometer, are 11 storeys. Buildings F,G,H and I1 to the south and east of the gasometer are all 10 storeys They are massively out of scale in this low rise suburban setting

6.4  It is noticeable that the Visual Impact documentation prepared by Berkeley’s consultant is very careful to avoid showing any views in which both the tall buildings proposed for the Gasworks site and the listed Kemp Town buildings appear together.

The visual impact of a conglomeration of 11 closely packed tall buildings on a clifftop site so close to the historic Kemp Town Grade 1 listed buildings will inevitably have an enormous visual impact on the views from a wide variety of viewpoints around the site. The failure to demonstrate this relationship is telling. 

6.5  We have previously drawn attention to the lack of images of a 3D model (Section 5 above), which would clearly show the visual relationship in terms of height, scale and massing of the development, to the nearby Listed Buildings of Kemp Town.  This omission also applies to the visual relationship towards and from the South Downs National Park just to the north of the site.

7.   Lessons from the Marina Appeal

7.1    The recent Appeal decision dated 11 November 2021 refusing planning approval for the Marina development included the following decision criteria:

Para 27 p.5: “….the proposal at issue would undoubtedly be a major intervention that would have a significant status this being in respect of those designated heritage assets near the site, that is Lewes Crescent (Grade I), Chichester Terrace (Grade I), Arundel Terrace (Grade I), and Sussex Square (Grade I), the Kemp Town Enclosures (Grade II Registered Park and Garden), and the Kemp Town Conservation Area, and the linked Esplanade Cottages (Grade II), Old Reading Rooms (Grade II), and Temple (Grade II), and the Madeira Terrace, Madeira Lift and Shelter Hall buildings (Grade II*) and the East Cliff Conservation Area….…the proposed development would have a very strong visual presence in some views of, and/or from, these important buildings and spaces, with implications for how they are experienced as heritage assets (IR11.28). The proposal would not therefore respond to its context in a positive way, and would not reflect the ambition of these groups of buildings and spaces (IR11.29). The very strong visual presence of a significant, but incongruous, complex, in some views of, and/or from these important buildings and spaces, would be jarring (IR11.29), in particular in respect of Lewes Crescent.”

7.2  These criticisms of the jarring relationship of the Marina proposals to the Heritage Assets in the immediate vicinity which were key to the Marina planning refusal and were endorsed by both the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State, are even more relevant when applied to the relationship of the tall, densely packed buildings of the Gasworks development to those same Heritage assets described above.

7.3  In fact the impact would be even greater, given that they would be at the same elevated level on the clifftop as most of those Heritage assets, be completely out of character and scale with them, and will be be far more visible from higher ground and the SDNP, in an arc of views from the west, north and east than the Marina was.

7.4  These grounds alone would be sufficiently strong to justify refusal of this planning application. The Council must take note of the precedent set by the Marina appeal decision, and reject the Gasworks planning application.

7.5  Other paragraphs in the Appeal Decision have parallels with the Gasworks planning application, in particular the statements relating to conflicts with the UDF:

Para 22 p.4: “The Secretary of State agrees with the Council that the updated NPPF gives even stronger weight to the need to follow local design guidance…. However given the significance of the areas of conflict, and the resultant degree of harm, particularly in respect of heritage, harm to the setting of the  National Park and living conditions, he considers that there is conflict with the newly adopted UDF, this being a material consideration in its own right.

Para 23 pp. 4-5: “…he considers that the proposal is not in accordance with the aspects of the National Design Guide dealing with context, layout, form, appearance and public spaces.”

If these are valid reasons for rejecting the Marina Appeal, they are even more valid when read in the context of the Gasworks site in a much more prominent position on the cliff top, and a much closer physical relationship to the Heritage Assets listed in 7.1 above.

The Marina Appeal decision has emphasised the importance of good design as set out in the latest version of the NPPF, together with the implications this has in determining the appropriate balance of benefits and harm.  The Marina appeal decision has set a precedent by which all future and current planning applications for large-scale developments such as the Gasworks should now be judged.

8.  Decontamination and public health issues

8.1 Decontamination and its implications for public health during the construction period or even afterwards is a material planning consideration as well as a Health and Safety issue.

The Berkeley Group want to get planning approval for this development before they make any detailed proposals for how they will remediate the contaminated ground below the site, which they want to be approved as a condition afterwards.

This could drastically reduce the control the Council would be able to exercise over these vitally important de-contamination issues.  Some residents in Southall Middlesex suffered severe health issues after the Berkeley Group’s Gasworks development there.  They still do.  

8.2  Concerns about how the decontamination process is carried out and monitored is very much a matter of public concern and there is a strong case for using the public consultation process on the planning application as a way of drawing attention to those concerns including the monitoring of the remediation process.

 It is essential that the decontamination procedure is carried out with full transparency and is discussed with the community – not decided behind closed doors.

8.3 The developer needs to show that that they are able to remediate the site to be suitable for the proposed end use. For reference, The National Planning Policy Framework published most recently in June 2021 see, 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-planning-policy-framework- -2

This states the following:

[Para 183]. “Planning policies and decisions should ensure that:

a) a site is suitable for its proposed use taking account of ground conditions and any risks arising from land instability and contamination.

This includes risks arising from natural hazards or former activities such as mining, and any proposals for mitigation including land remediation (as well as potential impacts on the natural environment arising from remediation);

b) after remediation, as a minimum, land should not be capable of being determined as contaminated land under Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act 1990; and

c) adequate site investigation information, prepared by a competent person, is available to inform those assessments.

[Para 184]. Where a site is affected by contamination or land stability issues, responsibility for securing a safe development rests with the developer and/or landowner.

[Para 185]. Planning policies and decisions should also ensure that new development is appropriate for its location taking into account the likely effects (including cumulative effects) of pollution on health, living conditions and the natural environment, as well as the potential sensitivity of the site or the wider area to impacts that could arise from the development.”

8.4 This makes it clear that planning policies and decisions are crucial to the issue of de-contamination and emphasises the need to ensure that the decontamination process is properly evaluated at planning application stage and is regulated during the construction stage.

The Council must be in control of this process – not the developer.

8.5  We note that the Statutory Consultee, UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has expressed several concerns about the Environmental Statement included in the planning application.  Its final statement is a damning indictment.

“There is insufficient information contained within the planning application to be able to fully assess the impact of the proposed development on public health”.

8.6  We have seen a report commissioned by AGHAST (one of the members of the Brighton Gasworks Coalition), by Professor Roy M.Harrison, Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Birmingham.

The report discusses the problems experienced by residents at Southall who experienced health issues there resulting from the Gasworks development carried out by the Berkeley Group.  His main conclusions are,

  • that a carefully planned remediation of the site is essential,
  • the on-site processing of contaminated soil in a soil hospital will lead to an increased health risk.  Processing should be carried out off-site.
  • Independently conducted air monitoring carried out during the whole remediation period is essential.
  • Monitoring should continue for at least one year after the site is remediated and capped, both at a local residential location and at a site further away for comparison.  It should continue for a longer period if problems were experienced.
  • Contaminated soil should be promptly removed from the site and disposed or treated off site, so as to minimise local toxic air pollution.
  • The alternative development option of capping the site prior to a different end use should be given careful consideration.  This implies that a lightweight low-rise proposal as suggested by the Alternative vision described in para 5.9 above should seriously be considered as a better solution for this site.
  • There are precedents for appointing an independent adviser to oversee the remediation process. This would serve to ensure the use of best practice if the site remediation proceeds.

         The Council, in the role we are recommending it should play in controlling the remediation process, must ensure that these recommendations are carried out in the interests of protecting the health and well-being of the residents of East Brighton during the remediation and ground construction stages of any development on the Gasworks site.

9.  Affordable Housing

9.1 There is NO Affordable Housing proposed in the planning application.  If one looks at the the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) document, it confirms that the proposal includes absolutely NO affordable housing.

Policy CP20 of the City Plan requires 40% affordable housing.  The Berkeley/St William Homes proposal fails utterly to comply with the City Plan.

9.2  We believe that this planning application has been registered erroneously and is invalid. The application should be withdrawn.

9.3  The developers have stated that they cannot deliver any affordable housing, even with 553 dwellings proposed in the application. A non-negotiable pre-requisite for 40% affordable housing is required by Policy CP20 of the City Plan.

9.4  If the developer argues that figure cannot be achieved, the Council requires a Financial Viability Assessment (FVA) to be submitted at validation stage before the application can be registered. That requirement was approved by councillors of the TED&C committee in January 2018. 

That FVA should be fully substantiated, be open-book, unredacted, fully transparent and open to public comment.

9.5  The developers have provided no information to support any form of alteration from the 40% requirement. They are proposing no affordable housing.

They have failed to provide a Financial Viability Statement. The application is therefore invalid and should not have been registered.

9.6  Those consulted on the planning application cannot comment on any degree of affordable housing provision to be proposed in future (if any is proposed at all). No valuations have been put forward for testing or comment.

9.7  This is a direct subversion of the application process and undermines Councillors’ stated requirements for affordable housing provision.

It also sets an extraordinary precedent. All other developers will now be free to ignore affordable housing requirements. If this situation is allowed to stand, the requirements for affordable housing will become optional.

9.8  If Brighton & Hove City Council fails to enforce its own planning policies and allows a developer to dictate the Council’s policy over providing affordable housing, this is of national concern and could prejudice the outcome of discussions on the provision of affordable housing between other developers and other local authorities.

9.9  This planning application should now be made invalid and be put on hold until the required information is submitted. At that point the application should be re-registered as a new application.

9.10 There are no grounds to argue that an exception should be made for this developer, as that would render the council’s affordable housing requirements void. The same rules must be applied to all developers if the requirements are to be enforced.

The council must control the viability process and the validation process – not the developer. By validating this application, Council officers have surrendered control to Berkeley/St William Homes.

9.11 There is nothing exceptionable about this development. It offers no surprises. It is one of many gasworks developments across the country proposed, in progress or have been completed by this developer. They have already drilled a 50-metre test core on the Gasworks site to confirm their existing expectations based on previous Gasworks developments.

10.  Community involvement and preferences

10.1 A community survey was carried out during the summer of 2021 to ascertain the views of residents and to record their concerns about the Berkeley Group’s proposals and their preferences in terms of what sort of development they would like to see on the Gasworks site.

The majority of people who responded lived within half a mile of the site.

The survey respondents rejected the Berkeley proposals overwhelmingly.

 When asked how East Brighton could be improved, there was a range of responses, with the most popular being:

– additional local amenities (there are few GP surgeries in the area since the Kemp Town one closed),

– making the area more joined up.  

– increased social housing and affordable housing.

10.2 Community involvement in the planning process. 

There have been two public consultation exercises carried out on the Berkeley St William proposals.

In both cases the Brighton Society and many other groups lodged responses including those societies and community groups comprising the gasworks coalition

No responses were received from Berkeley, and our concerns were ignored.

We can only conclude that Berkeley regarded the public consultation process as a tick box exercise and had no intention of seriously involving the community.

11.  Sustainability

The development makes no attempt to aspire to the Council’s intentions to make the City carbon neutral by 2030.

11.1  The Council’s zero carbon policy states:

Working with you to achieve a shared goal

We will do everything we can to get to zero emissions by 2030.

It’s an ambitious target but as one of the first councils in the country to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency, we believe we should be leading the way to support the city’s residents, visitors and those who work here to cut greenhouse gas emissions from the whole city as close to zero as possible.

We’re already seeing the consequences of climate change in our city and around the world. Together we can make a difference if we act now.

As a creative, caring and environmentally aware city working together and supporting each other, we can have a much bigger impact. We will be able to turn ideas into practical steps, make changes as individuals and organisations to reduce carbon emissions and put in place long-term solutions to safeguard the planet for the next generation.

Carbon Neutral 2030 programme

We have created a programme of works to reduce carbon emissions across the Brighton & Hove and become a carbon neutral city by 2030.

This will help residents, visitors and businesses play their part and get the benefits of reaching the 2030 target.

This includes an improved and healthier environment for everyone and reducing the impacts of the climate and biodiversity emergency.”

There is a serious disconnect between this aspiration and what is actually being proposed for this major development in the city.

11.2 Importance of Carbon Neutrality:

Sustainability is an important issue, particularly following the COP26 Conference and BHCC’s pledge to become Carbon Neutral by 2030 – which is only a year after than the expected completion date for the Gasworks development.

The Berkeley Group are “Gold Leaf” Members of UK Green Building Council, so they should be expected to show leadership in reducing the very large carbon footprint of construction projects. There is no sign of that here.

11.3 Compliance with BHCC Policies:

The Planning Application documents claim that the proposals meet (and exceed) BHCC’s requirements and comply with local policies for sustainability.

However we take the view, looking at the detail, that these proposals do not go anywhere near far enough to mitigate the risk of global warming.

Current BHCC Policies  do not appear to be very challenging on zero carbon issues, which makes the policy statement set out in para 11.1 above look ineffective. National Standards however may be more robust and could provide a more effective basis for challenging the development proposals.

11.4 UK Future Homes & Future Buildings Standard:

The Future Homes Standard and Future Buildings Standard were published by the Government on 15 Dec 2021. These call for carbon emissions from new homes and buildings to be reduced by up to 30%.

The regulations will be implemented through a statutory instrument and will come into effect from 15 June 2022. A further uplift to the standard is planned in 2025.

The new regulations try to close the “performance gap” between plans and final construction. The new regulations do not address embodied carbon in construction, whole life-cycle emissions, or reuse of construction materials and building components (although there are hints that the Government may issue a statement on embodied carbon in the near future).

11.5 Planning Application Energy Statement:

The Energy Statement (prepared by St William’s consultant, Hodkinson) is included in the documents.  A selection of the claims made in that document give rise to the following questions:

1.    In the Executive Summary they indicate a 32.1% CO2 reduction on Building Reg Part L (against BHCC’s CP19 and DM44 requirements for 19%) – is this good enough to address the impending Climate Emergency?

2.    In section 1.2 they list their key strategy objectives – could the proposals actually achieve this – e.g. height, density, orientation, spaces between buildings, access to sunlight, etc?  We have already questioned that in Section 5 above.

3.    Section 5.2 indicates the target U-values – are these good enough and are they achievable?

4.    Section 5.3 Air tightness is a “standard” requirement in the industry – but can it be maintained through the lifetime of the building?

5.    Section 5.3 MVHR (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) to be provided in all dwellings – this is a good initiative, but will the required ducting be accommodated in the design?

6.    Section 5.6 Thermal Bridging – The theory is explained and some apparently ambitious targets have been set, but how has this been addressed in the actual design?

7.    Section 5.8 Space heating – see Section 6 discussed in paragraph 8 below.

8.    Section 6 Proposed heat network with Air Source Heat Pumps + Gas Boilers as back up, located in Block F – how effective would these be and how would these affect residents’ service charges? What will happen when gas boilers are not permitted in homes after 2025?  This is not a realistic proposal. There are other options which appear not to have been looked at – see para 9. below.

9.    Section 6.7 Renewable Tech Options  – given that it is national policy to phase out fossil fuel usage, should we be even considering gas as a viable option?  Why has wind and solar energy, etc apparently been discounted?

10.  In addition to reducing operational carbon, there is also the issue of reducing embodied carbon – Has this been considered in the planning application?

11.  BHCC are applying much higher CO2 zero standards to their new Council stock – Why shouldn’t these standards also apply to private developers?

The Gasworks construction programme runs through to 2029.  By the time it is completed it will be utterly non-compliant with Council policy as well as many aspects of national policy. In fact by its intensive use of concrete and steel in its construction, it is not even up to date now with sustainable construction techniques that have been used in other cities for many years.

University College London has carried out authoritative research into the environmental performance of taller buildings. This highlights the rapidly increasing rates of energy use and CO2 emission per sq.m. for taller buildings. From an optimum of compact development at 6 floors, CO2 emissions nearly double by the time buildings get to 20 storeys.  

Tall buildings are not an appropriate answer if zero carbon objectives are to be achieved.

This development is out of step with current and projected sustainable building standards.  

The area around Brighton & Hove has been designated by UNESCO as the Brighton & Lewes Downs Biosphere in recognition of its biodiversity and quality of environment.

The biosphere, known as the Living Coast, aims to conserve and enhance nature; support sustainable human development and promote environmental awareness, knowledge, learning and engagement.

Brighton & Hove City Council is currently controlled by the Green Party. How can the Council support this proposal? It really doesn’t add up.

12.  Traffic, Pollution, Parking and infrastructure

– further disruption of the already congested A259 heritage seafront road  from additional traffic generated by the proposed development, during both the construction stage lasting several years and in its completed state.

– impact on residents of Kemp Town Estate and adjacent streets to the north and east caused by additional traffic.  Eastern Road is already at capacity at peak times, for both private and public transport.

– pollution levels will increase resulting from increased vehicle usage (private / public / commercial)

– additional vehicles from proposed development (private / commercial) competing for limited existing car parking spaces

– pedestrian safety concerns from increased traffic

– no proposals are provided in planning application for additional medical, education, parking, public transport, all of which are currently fully utilised by current residents.

In relation to traffic pollution, we note that Prof. Roy Harrison’s report referred to in para 8.6 above, states that he has serious concerns about the Air Quality Assessment document submitted in support of the planning application.  He considers it inadequate, saying,

“The air quality modelling which forms the basis of the air quality assessment was not conducted well.  Whilst it remains very unlikely that the proposed development will lead to breaches of UK Air Quality Objectives and Limit Values, the new WHO air quality guidelines for both nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter will be exceeded, and some adverse impacts upon the local populace are inevitable”

Yet more grounds for refusing this application.

Concluding Statement

It is incomprehensible to us that the city planning department, in its lengthy pre-application discussions with Berkeley St William apparently failed to appreciate the utter inappropriateness of this huge urban conglomeration of buildings on the Gasworks site, or to anticipate the high levels of community concern that this proposal would create and has caused.

For all the reasons stated above we strongly object to this appalling development. Rarely have we encountered as much opposition amongst local residents and others from the wider city area to a particular development proposal. 

This is a topic to which we will be giving continued attention in the coming weeks and months.

In the very limited time available for public consultation on this planning application – particularly as it coincided with the Christmas/New Year period – it has been impossible, even for relatively committed and knowledgeable amenity societies such as The Brighton Society, to evaluate the sheer number of documents which were submitted for this planning application.  There are 214 documents included in the planning application, many of which are very lengthy with over 100 pages of technical and complex subject matter, much of which is not always clear or easily comprehensible. 

How the average member of the public can get anywhere close to an appreciation of this proposal and its implications for them within the limited consultation period is an issue which needs to be further debated after this consultation ends.

We are very aware that important material is daily becoming available on the comments section of the Council website, not only from individuals and organisations, but also from Statutory Consultees such as Historic England who have not yet commented.

In addition, we are still awaiting the outcomes of two Freedom of Information requests that we have lodged requesting details on the pre-application meetings and correspondence between the Council and Berkeley St William which may well give rise to further grounds for objection from the Brighton Society and others.

The Brighton Society will continue to evaluate information about this planning application as it emerges, and will be lodging supplementary objections during the coming weeks should we consider it necessary to do so.

In the meantime we request that the serious issues raised by the Brighton Society in this objection document are taken fully into account in the preparation of the Officer’s report to the Planning Committee.

Yours faithfully,

on behalf of The Brighton Society

Jeremy Mustoe, Chairman


List of the City Amenity Societies and community groups who form the Gasworks Coalition of 16 societies who have come together to oppose the Berkeley/St William Homes’ proposals for the Gasworks development:  

Brighton Society – Reg. Charity No. 271138                         

Regency Society of Brighton & Hove – Reg. Charity No. 210914


Amex Area Neighbourhood Action Forum

Regency Square Area Society

Brighton & Hove Heritage Commission – Reg. Charity No. 1193686

North Laine Community Association – Reg. Charity No. 273989

Rottingdean Heritage – Reg. Charity No. 264056

Marine Gate Holdings Ltd

Southdown Rise Residents Association                    

West Hill Community Association – Reg. Charity No. 276387

Kingscliffe Society

Kingsway and West Hove Residents Association (KAWHRA)

Due East – CIC, no 1155392

One thought on “Objection from The Brighton Society : Planning Application Ref. BH2021/04167 – Gasworks development

  1. what they should do is the same as Regency Square were offered but refused when the tower was built,
    float a barrage balloon at the height of the blocks to show the impact, ( but was the regency square balloon rejected as it was a danger to aircraft or something)

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