Brighton & Hove: fast changing into a student city. North Laine now has more students than residents
THE NEW CITY COLLEGE WILL KILL THE SCALE AND GRAIN OF NORTH LAINE. IT WILL LOOM LARGE OVER THE SMALL SCALE BUILDINGS OF NORTH LAINE.
EVEN THE COUNCIL’S OWN LOCAL PLAN DESCRIBES NORTH LAINE AS A VALUED NEIGHBOURHOOD. YET THE SCHEME DOES NOT PRESERVE OR ENHANCE STRATEGIC VIEWS EITHER INTO OR FROM THE NORTH LAINE CONSERVATION AREA. IT COULD SOON BECOME A DEVALUED NEIGHBOURHOOD.
The demographics of North Laine would be distorted by the introduction of 422 student flats – though the Local Plan only allows for 300. To this sum should be added private housing with 380 bed spaces, which might well also be let to students. 351 student flats are being built on the nearby on the London Road Co-op site. There are already 380 student flats near Brighton Station for Bellerbys’ students.
It is almost impossible to accurately assess from the information provided how much the new college buildings will overpower the buildings in Trafalgar Street, Sydney Street and adjacent streets. It is possible to judge that the new buildings will be far more overpowering than the existing Pelham Tower. The applicants chosen analysis seems to be based on omitting to mention the huge bulk and height of the proposed buildings and to conclude that there will be no visual impact.
The Council’s own North Laine Area Study stated that the height of the existing Pelham Tower was a detrimental visual presence and its removal would enhance the conservation area. It did not suggest replacing the tower with an even bulkier building.
We would hope that Trafalgar and York buildings (the latter was designed by Simpson and Son, renowned architects of Brighton & Hove schools (see drawing below), and which played a significant role in the history of education in Brighton. It could be retained and converted to residential use.
The Conservation Officer has stated that: “Both these buildings are considered to be Undesignated Heritage Assets (as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework). Their historic and architectural significance is therefore being considered as part of the current application.”
Let us hope that this designation is enough to ensure their retention, along with the castellated arch facing London Road, which is in the Valley Gardens Conservation Area. The Brighton Society would have liked to see the Trafalgar building placed on the Local List.
The Case Officer has confirmed that the redevelopment of the buildings to the east of Pelham Street are to be treated as an Outline Planning application. However the applicant has provided substantial detailed information on the layout of the new buildings. These proposed new buildings therefore assume demolition of the existing York and Trafalgar buildings. Their retention would dictate the height and size of any replacement of the Cheapside and York buildings, limiting the plot size available for redevelopment and making the replacement buildings more respectful of the grain of North Laine.
The planning application states: “The new public square will provide a destination area that can be populated and together with the new College building will conclude the vibrant North Laine thoroughfare.” North Laine does not need more vibrancy, it needs more calm.
There are already problems with local open spaces: Pelham Square, Brighthelm and St Peter’s. The first two are now gated at night . The Royal Pavilion is considering locking their gardens after dark. The proposed alley will encourage crime rather than prevent it. It is unlikely that the alley will provide a safe route, particularly after dark.
Approval for this scheme must be granted in its entirety, so it not possible to support some parts and not others. Therefore The Brighton Society urged the planning committee to refuse this application for City College and its surrounding development in favour of a scheme for the College which is more respectful of North Laine and its residents. However the planning committee granted permission. The views of local residents were not even mentiioned, except by a local Green councillor.