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The Council’s vision for Hove

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Hove Station Masterplan

This is the Council’s vision for the future shape of the land immediately to the north west of the listed Hove Station. It is illustrated in the Council’s public consultation on the future development of the Hove Station area.

These proposals and the massing illustrations shown in the Masterplan above and left, are frankly horrific. What depressing images, particularly given that developers will use this planning guidance to push the boundaries even higher. It is a travesty.

Where are the green open sunlit spaces such dense developments need, the play areas, the landscaped areas, the sunlit spaces to just sit outside and enjoy the birdsong?

Has the Council not learned anything from the pandemic and appreciate how essential it is that people living in high rise apartments can get outside and enjoy generous open spaces?

Stalinist blocks

Frankly these proposals look to have been inspired more by Stalinist socialist accommodation blocks than anything which relates to the high density low rise terraced villas which have been traditionally the type of housing most appropriate to Hove and the wider city.

The Hove Station Masterplan followed the receipt of a £70,000 revenue grant from central government under the One Public Estate (OPE) programme towards the production of a masterplan, “in order to provide a positive and coherent framework to manage future development and regeneration across this area, where sites are currently in multiple ownerships.”

Consultants led by Tibbalds Planning & Urban Design were appointed to undertake the necessary technical work, which commenced in January 2020 to produce a masterplan document for the wider Hove Station Area. It was to focus on the ‘core’ opportunity area on the south side of the railway (the Conway Street Industrial Area as well as remaining land within the City Plan Part 1 ‘DA6’ area). 

Tibbalds are based in the City of London. They bring  London commercial attitudes to land development for which no doubt they have a good reputation. But our concerns – and they should be the Council’s too – is that new development should be inserted sensitively and sympathetically into the historic urban fabric of Hove.

This Masterplan does exactly the opposite.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that in our covering email attaching our comments on the Masterplan, we felt impelled to say; “Our trustees have discussed the Masterplan proposals and we can honestly say that this is one of the worst planning policy documents we have seen for some time.”

Pity about the £70,000. What a waste.

A developer’s charter

This masterplan is an attempt to dress up unacceptable development policies in emperor’s clothes. It is a developer’s charter which makes no concessions at all to conserving the valuable elements (including listed heritage buildings and adjacent Conservation Areas), of Hove’s urban environment, and promotes developments which are massively out of scale and which will create maximum harm to the existing character of the area.

We are not against high density buildings – the area around a transport hub such as Hove Station is an ideal location for more new homes built to a high density. But high density does not have to be high rise or tall buildings. There are countless examples of low–rise high density buildings which would be far more appropriate to the setting of Hove Station.

It could be argued that to some extent the horse has bolted. The recent approval of the 18-storey Ellen Street tower, the Sackville Estate (see right) just to the north west and the KAP site to the north within Development Area DA6, have set unfortunate precedents and when built, will occupy large areas within DA6.

The suspicion we have is that the Hove Station Masterplan is just a rubber-stamp giving retro-active justification to approvals which have already been rail-roaded through the planning system by developers holding the threat of appeal over the Council should it fail to grant planning consent. In the case of the 18 storey Ellen Street development shown on the right (Hove Gardens in developerspeak), this actually happened, and in the case of the Sackville Estate (consisting of a conglomeration of tall buildings up to15 storeys) would have happened if the Council had turned down the application.

But that’s no excuse for making the existing disastrous situation even worse. The Planning Dept needs to think again. SaveHove never seems to be a more appropriate slogan than now.

So that’s our overall verdict on the”vision” – if that word could be applied to the masterplan in its current form. Nightmare might be a more accurate description.

Detailed criticisms
In addition to the above we have a multitude of detailed criticisms of the Masterplan. Our response ran to seven pages.

Here is a very condensed selection but they might give our readers a taster of the Plan’s basic shortcomings.

Para 3.28 says “There is potential for the spatial relationship between tall buildings to realise a distinctive townscape, particularly in clustering close to the station to create an overall landmark within the wider townscape – while of course – being mindful of key heritage considerations.”

This sentence attempts to combine two mutually contradictory policy statements into one. Maybe it’s the Council planners trying at the last minute to tone down the commercial instincts of Tibbalds.

It’s a superb example of George Orwell doublespeak!  

Doublespeak means ”… communicating in a way that misrepresents or obscures the truth. It combines both sense and nonsense in a deliberate effort on the part of the message sender to conceal the true meaning of what is being said. In some cases, doublespeak is used to soften the impact of what the message sender is describing, but is more often used to camouflage the truth.”

Enough said.

And here’s another:
Para 4.8: The second sentence is illiterate: “Taller buildings help and landmark / way finding point reinforce the important destination of the station (though the station is on the edge of the cluster and, with its heritage status, should not be overcrowded).”

It makes no sense whatsoever. Planning policy guidance must above all else, be clear.

Fig.3.13 shows what the Tibbalds thinks are examples of existing positive influences. Shown are some rather dreary and indistinct examples, illustrating very little that looks in any way positive. There are no captions to the illustrations either. There must be better and more attractive aspects of Hove’s heritage and urban environment that exist – or is this a deliberate attempt to show the area in the worst possible light?

The two storey brick Bus Depot building on the corner of Fonthill Road and Conway Street is shown as a positive influence – yet its survival is actually threatened by proposals in the Masterplan SPD.

Figs 3.14 show images existing negative influences. The central image shows the locally listed Dubarry building on the right and the Grade II listed footbridge in the centre – are these two heritage assets really to be classified as negative influences?

Why are far less attractive features such as the carwash on Station Approach and the filling station next to it not shown? Both are eyesores within the Conservation Area.

Fig.2.1 shows a map of the Masterplan area. But it fails to show the boundary of the Hove Station Conservation Area which occupies the eastern part of the Masterplan Area, and is likely to be significantly affected by development within the Masterplan area.

What kind of Supplementary Planning Document ignores such important existing planning policy criteria? Only one, we suggest, that promotes development priorities over heritage considerations.

But finally some good news.  As part of the proposals there is going to be a “Pocket Park”

But this area is so small as to be insignificant. How many flats in the adjacent tall buildings will it be designed to serve? It has to perform a wide variety of roles In the context of “very high density development”. According to the masterplan proposals: It will be an “important green space”; It has “a key role to play as part of the pedestrian-friendly east-west route across the area”; It will “provide one-way access to the parking serving Industrial House and the Agora building”; It will “have the potential to incorporate informal play opportunities or a small children’s play area”; It will “enhance biodiversity… promote learning (eg bug hotels)…and shared community food growing space.”

All this and “it will provide a unique and engaging space for people to move through and linger…”

If it comes anywhere near doing all of those satisfactorily, it will be a miracle.

And so it goes on. Our criticisms continued for several more pages.  But if you’ve read this far you might have got a flavour of our response.

If you wish to read this appalling piece of planning policy you can view it at:

https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2020-12/hove%20station%20area%20masterplan%20draft%20spd%20low%20res.pdf

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