Councilors reject £280m gasworks plan for 500 homes in Brighton

Campaigners cried for joy as a controversial plan to build hundreds of homes on the site of the former gasworks in Brighton was rejected by councilors this evening (Wednesday, May 22).

Developer St William has spent three years on its plans for 495 homes, including 11 blocks of flats up to 12 storeys high, on the site of the former gasworks, adjacent to Marina Way.

The planning application included 2,791 square meters of commercial floor space on the ground floor and a “green link” between Marina Way and Roedean Road.

The fate of the £280 million scheme was decided at the end of a six-and-a-half hour meeting of the Brighton and Hove City Council Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall.

The meeting was told that more than 1,700 objections to the scheme had been sent to the council, from neighbors to national heritage organisations.

But planning manager Jane Mostyn said the decision-making process was “not a referendum” on the 481 flats and 14 townhouses.

Officials had advised councilors to grant planning permission subject to conditions and a request that St William, part of the Berkeley Group, a £5 billion housing development company, make “reasonable efforts” to provide affordable housing.

The committee voted seven to three against the plan, partly because it would be too large and cramped, would damage the area’s historic heritage and would contain too few family homes.

Questions about ‘affordable homes’ dominated the meeting, with councilors concerned about a ‘light-hearted fairytale’ proposal to sell 40 per cent of homes sold to the Sovereign Housing Association.

This would increase the chances of vital funding from Homes England but, councilors were told, a legally binding agreement was not possible.

The viability of the scheme was poor and the developer was only able to make a profit of £9 million, rather than their typical target of over £50 million.

Affordable housing was raised by resident representatives Marie Sandsford, Stephen White and Beccy East for campaign group AGHAST (Action on Gasworks Housing Affordability, Safety and Transparency) when they addressed the Planning Committee.

Ms East said: “We urge you to be brave today and stand up to a developer with deep pockets who cares about his shareholders and not the needs of our city.”

Labor councilor Gill Williams, who represents the Whitehawk and Marina ward, criticized the plans and raised concerns about affordable housing.

As the council’s cabinet member for housing and new homes, she was acutely aware of the need for more homes, but she banged the table as she railed against the plan.

To cheers from the public gallery, Councilor Williams said: “This will turn Kemp Town into Gotham City… It is completely inconsistent with our heritage and conservation areas.

“We cannot accept ‘reasonable efforts’ for affordable housing. Tell this developer to go back to the drawing board, try harder and do better. We must accept only safe and truly affordable housing in our city.”

Councilor Gill Williams at the gasworks site

Ashley Spearing, director of land and development at St William’s, said the affordable housing contribution should be subject to “reasonable efforts” to secure it and meet the terms of a future grant from Homes England.

When concerns were raised about short-term holiday rentals, Mr Spearing told councilors that anyone buying a 999-year lease would not be allowed to use their home as an ‘Airbnb’.

Conservative councilor Carol Theobald said the two-hectare site was dirty and needed to be developed.

She said: “There are some good things about the application, including the underground parking. I like the circus and the beautiful green round building.

“But I do think the excessive height of the proposed scheme is outside the tall buildings zone and will be very prominent, especially from the South Downs and the coast.”

AGHAST campaigners outside Hove Town Hall

Labor councilor Maureen Winder said it was a missed opportunity, adding: “It doesn’t relate to people’s needs and building community in a human way, where it’s integrated with what’s happening around it. It feels exclusive and for many people this will be too expensive.”

Labor councilor Liz Loughran, chair of the Planning Committee, raised concerns about light pollution, overdevelopment and the lack of family homes large enough for people working from home.

Councilor Loughran said: “Some blocks are too high, exacerbating density issues. The consultation process failed to get the public on board. The process has not reached a satisfactory conclusion.”

Brighton and Hove Independent councilor Mark Earthey was torn, saying he was not happy with the science and expertise on remediation. He said: “I don’t think this meets the housing needs of the city.

“We need more three-bedroom homes and I don’t see our residents being able to afford to live here.”

Labor councilor Jacob Allen said he welcomed the idea of ​​the circular building preserving views for people traveling along Wilson Avenue.

He said: “We are not rich in strategic, sustainable brownfield sites. Counties in the ‘green belt’ would be drooling over locations like this and see the cranes going up as soon as possible.”

Green councilor Sue Shanks was pleased to see affordable homes that looked like they would be built if they looked like nothing.

She said: “I hope we get to a situation where the council can build more social housing on sites like this.

“To be honest I don’t think I can be against building on a brownfield site because this is where we are now and it really needs to be developed. I am reassured about contamination.”

Labor councilors Jacob Allen and Alison Thompson and Green councilor Sue Shanks voted in favor of the plan.

Brighton and Hove Independent councilor Mark Earthey, Conservative councilor Carol Theobald and Labor councilors Liz Loughran, Ty Galvin, Birgit Miller, Maureen Winder and Paul Nann voted against.

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