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The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.

Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take. 

In our latest meeting we considered the following issues: 

Opening up the backlands

Most people agree that our city needs more homes. Once the discussion turns to where to put them that agreement is likely to evaporate.

There will be no single answer to this question. We must “look down every rabbit hole” as the planning inspector said when commenting on the City Plan. Hopefully she was arguing for a range of solutions, rather than suggesting that green-fields would be the only answer.

The Society has recently looked at two planning applications which both illustrate one such “rabbit hole”, namely backland development. The outer suburbs of Brighton and Hove were originally developed at low densities. Now that we are struggling to find places for new homes, is it perhaps time to use suburban space more intensively?

The first scheme is in Downs Valley Road, Woodingdean. The proposal is to build four new, two-storey houses behind two existing bungalows, literally at the bottom of the gardens. A vehicle entrance will be created between the bungalows so that on-site parking can be provided. Read the planning application here

The second is slightly different: the backland in question already has a building on it. It is a plan for the former Dairy Crest site in the Droveway. The site was first used as a farm around 1800. In the early 20th century it became a dairy, operated latterly by Unigate until it closed a few years ago. It is not nationally listed, but it is included in the Council’s list buildings of local interest. It is surrounded by suburban residential properties.

The current proposal is for a mixed-use development and aims to “retain the character of the existing agricultural buildings. Some employment space will be provided towards the front of the site, with 14 new housing units mainly towards the rear, replacing part of the existing building. Read the planning application here.

What do you think of these attempts to use the suburbs to help solve the housing crisis?

Proposal for Amex house site

We’re not happy with the proposal for the Amex house site – read about our concerns here.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

Last month, following our cabbage awards evening, we asked you to let us know if you have any favourite buildings of the last 118 years to redress the balance. It's nice to know we can praise as well as criticise!

Jane Carver nominates Brighton and Hove's tram (now bus) shelters because 'some have a delightful rustic charm and the one in Pavilion Parade (designed by Borough Engineer David Edwards) is thoroughly modern with straight lines and curves. Simple, elegant and fit for purpose'.

Elaine Evans nominates Frieze Green House on Portland Road, which won Development of the Year at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s South East Awards in 2016.

Alison Minns nominates John Howard Cottages in Roedean Road because: 'I like the Arts and Crafts feel about the group of buildings and the fact that the cottages are not visible from the road. It is a peaceful and little-known set of buildings with a homely feel. I have a personal affection for the cottages (a sort of philanthropic almshouse development by Sir John Howard) because my late husband's aunt - a retired nurse - lived happily there for many years.'

Mary McKean nominates 'Gossip in the Steine Cafe' because it is 'quintessentially Brighton....' and the matching bus shelters already nominated by Jane Carver an elegant but modest example of 1930s stylishness.

Roger Hinton nominates the now disappeared Amex building on Edward Street 'because unlike other office buildings in Edward Street it stood back from the roadside, providing a pleasant public space and a good view of its distinctive facade.'

Kevin Wilsher nominates Saltdean Lido because 'it is one of the finest examples of modernist lidos in the UK.  It's also a great example of the restoration of an important building driven by the energy and determination of a local community group'.

John McKean nominates the temporary installations at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and has submitted a whole gallery of images to prove it (see below), because 'it is wonderful, thrilling, an extraordinary gigantic metallic ballet, and at night a firework display high above the city - especially exciting seen from high up Wilson Avenue or from A259 at Roedean... and then there's that amazing open-air roof-top race-track... Catch it before it vanishes! By far the outstanding sight of Brighton 2017-18'

An anonymous nomination selects the Jubilee Library because 'it shows what one truly excellent building can do to lift a previously dead space - empty for far too long.'

Photo credits: Frieze Green House: Jim Stephenson. Saltdean Lido: Simon Carey, Brighton tram shelter by Catchesthelight (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),

 

 

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Edward Street is not one of the city’s most attractive thoroughfares. The western section, between Grand Parade and Upper Rock Gardens, is a wide, pedestrian-unfriendly dual carriageway. Its north side presents a depressing series of unattractive, buildings, constructed right up to the pavement edge.

Amex House, previously amongst them, offered a “breath of fresh air” in this unrelenting gloom. Set back from the pavement, its frontage provided an attractive, sunlit public space. It was one of Brighton’s best pieces of late 20th century architecture. The design was distinctive, and the materials were sympathetic to its coastal location.

A proposed new scheme places tall buildings right up to the pavement, closing up this one gap in the street-scene. There are open spaces further back in the development, but their position is unlikely to be as successful as that in front of Amex House. Surrounding buildings will block out the sun for much of the time.

Cafés are included at ground floor level. The plans show open air tables and chairs, creating an inviting impression of vibrant communal spaces. But we do not believe that cafés would flourish in these spaces, starved of sunlight probably subject to wind tunnel effects. They would have a much better chance of commercial success located in a larger, sunnier piazza, open to Edward Street, where they could also enliven that street’s dreary north side.

A tall, dense development is not unreasonable on this city-centre site. The proposed south-west building (block F) could be moved 15-20m. back from the pavement edge to re-create the piazza on Edward Street. The floor space lost could be re-located further back in the site, by increasing the height of the rear-centre block. This would have the extra advantage of adding variety and articulation to the profile of the development.

The designs proposed for the new buildings themselves are boring and bland. They show no sympathy for their location in one of England’s most significant seaside towns. No attempt has been made to use the roofs to create additional green space.

This site offers an opportunity to create a striking architectural statement to match that of the former Amex House. That opportunity will be lost if the current plans are approved.

Read the planning application here

Read our submission to the council

 

We are grateful to member David Roberts for reminding us of a twentieth century building designed by our Vice President, John Wells Thorpe, which was not included in the RIBA map shown at the 'Mapping the best of Brighton Modern' event on 21 February.

...continue reading "Church of the Ascension in Westdene"

Several members enjoyed the presentation at the social event on 21 February by Paul Zara and Richard Wolfeströme about the new RIBA map of the best twentieth century buildings in Brighton. 

The map has sparked considerable controversy as some feel important buildings have been left out, or challenge the right of others to be included. This is perhaps inevitable with any undertaking of this sort which is bound to reflect personal preferences.

So, to allow members to redress the balance we've decided to create our own Regency Society gallery of members' favourite twentieth century buildings in and around Brighton and Hove. Do you have a favourite, completed between 1900 and 2018, which you would wish to include? It does not matter whether or not it was included in the RIBA map.

If so, complete the form below by April 1 and we will publish the results in a gallery with the April update. If you have a picture you can attach it - but don't be deterred if you don't - we'll find one.

Please note that the gallery is only open to submissions from RS members.

If you are a member you can complete as many submissions as you like!

Regency Society Members' Gallery of favourite 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove: submission form

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The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.

Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take. 

In our latest meeting we considered the following issue: 

Protecting a gem from the 1930s

An application has been submitted for a penthouse on top of Regent House in Princes Place in central Brighton.

The building was designed in 1933 by John Leopold Denman, architect of many of Brighton’s finest buildings from that period. Denman was also a significant figure in the history of the Regency Society.

It sits in a prominent position on the south side of the Royal Pavilion gardens, behind the Chapel Royal. It is in a neo-Georgian style with irregularly placed Crittall windows and patterned brickwork. Though not listed, it is a fine building of its period and deserves protection.

The proposal would involve adding an extra floor to create a rooftop penthouse, below a mansard with a balcony / terrace around.

The society has objected. Although the new structure would be set back, it will be highly visible from the Royal Pavilion gardens. The large windows are out of sympathy with those below and the glass balustrade above the parapet will further detract from the building’s original design.

You can read our full comments here.

Filling a gap in Oriental Place

Oriental Place is one of the most important surviving set-pieces of Regency Brighton.

It was built in 1825 by Amon Henry Wilds as part of a grandiose scheme to create a glass conservatory, the Athenaeum, on the site of what is now Sillwood House. It consists of two opposing rows of houses each composed as symmetrical palace fronts.

Sadly, this unique piece of townscape has been allowed to fall into disrepair and the facades have been spoiled by unsightly alterations and additions, including external downpipes.

The present application for 33 Oriental Place proposes to add an additional attic floor under a mansard roof. We have not objected since the addition will be similar to those on both neighbouring properties.

We welcome the proposal by the applicant to reinstate the first-floor balconies. However, we have urged the planners to persuade them to carry out repairs to the whole façade and to remove later additions such as the unsightly left hand down pipe and the valance boards to the upper windows.

A gateway to Hove

An application has been made to erect two car wash canopies in front of the grade II listed building, which is located immediately east of the current Hove Station. It was built in 1865 and was known as Cliftonville station. The list entry describes it as “Tuscan villa style” and draws attention to its similarity to the station building at Portslade.

In 1879 the station name was changed to “West Brighton” and the current station building was constructed immediately to the west, it is also listed grade II. The station was renamed again in 1895 to its present name, “Hove”.

The original Cliftonville building still forms part of Hove station. The proposed canopies would obscure views of it and are unsympathetic to its design. They would therefore detract from the special character of the Hove Station Conservation Area which derives principally from the relationship between the station and the surrounding late Victorian buildings.

Hove station is a major entry point for people visiting Hove. The existence of a car wash immediately outside creates entirely the wrong impression. Ideally, we would like to see the business re-located. We have objected to this application which would further degrade the area.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

13 Regency Society members prepared 1 minute presentations on their proposed 'Cabbage award' for the worst 20th century building in Brighton and Hove to follow the presentation on the RIBA Sussex map of the best 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove on 21 February 2018. The audience voted to choose their least favourite building.

The presentations proved very popular so we are showing them again here. (All photographs were taken by RS members or derived from google maps)

Adding your comment

Would you like to comment on this article or add your own cabbage nomination? We would be interested to hear your views, which will be added below. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

...and demolishing the worst!

 

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Sussex) has produced a map that identifies and describes some outstanding buildings in Brighton and Hove of the last hundred years.

Map compilers Paul Zara and Richard Wolfströme introduced the map to the Regency Society at this light-hearted event. 49 buildings are included in this neatly produced and attractive map, coded as Modernist/Art deco, Housing, Brutalist and Contemptorary. Any such list is bound to be controversial but the thought which clearly went into its preparation and the attractiveness of the map itself impressed us - several were sold on the night.

If you missed this opportunity to buy you can still do so here.

After animated discussion over drinks and nibbles during the break, 13 RS members presented their notion of the worst 20th century building in Brighton, and a 'cabbage award' was voted on. The presentations were limited to one minute - but despite this restriction all 13 presented convincing cases for their 'cabbage'.

See the cabbage presentation and read the nominations here.

 

 

Image: Hove Town Hall

Would you like to comment on this article? We would be interested to hear your views, which will be added below. If you would like to do so you will need to register first - it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on 'you must be logged in' at the bottom of the page.

 

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.

Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take. 

In our latest meeting we considered the following issues: 

The Brighton Astoria story staggers on

The Astoria building in Gloucester Place, Brighton was built in 1933 to a design by  cinema architect, Edward A Stone. Some Georgian and Victorian houses were demolished to make way for it.  It was designed as both a cinema and a theatre but was operated, mainly as a cinema and then a bingo hall, finally closing in 1997.

In 2000 it was listed (Grade II) and the listing statement describes it as “ particularly unusual in its French art deco style”.

Since then various schemes have been proposed to develop it for office or residential use.  In 2011 demolition was approved together with designs for a six-storey business centre to replace it; the architects were the Conran Partnership.  Most recently a residential scheme was approved on appeal.

The planning authority is currently considering an application to modify this approved plan, including significant changes to the external appearance.

The original building has now been empty for over a decade during which time it has had several owners. Its current condition reflects the neglect it has suffered.  Historic England has indicated that it has no objection to demolition nor to this latest plan. The Regency Society shares this view.  It would be good to see the site re-developed to provide much needed homes.

Two contrasting housing schemes

The Regency Society has tried to support housing development in the city to provide much needed homes.  This month we have looked at two small schemes, both in Portslade.

The first is at 33 Mile Oak Road.  This site currently has just one dwelling.  The proposal is to demolish it and build seven new homes.  The plans show a pleasingly “casual” layout of the site and the houses themselves have a mix of interesting designs. We welcome this increase in housing density on the site and hope that the application will be approved.

The second site is in Clarendon Place, off North Street, Portslade.  At present it is an unattractive industrial area.  The plan is to build a terrace of four, three-storey houses and a small office building. The floor plans suggest that three of the four new houses will be very pokey.  This application poses two contrasting questions. On the one hand, is this rather run-down industrial area a suitable place to build new houses?  On the other hand, could a development of this kind kick-start the re-generation of the area?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, we hope the planners will reject the scheme because of the very poor standard of housing that it offers.

If you are a member of the Regency Society and would like to comment on our positions on any issue we would be delighted to hear from you:  please contact us. Further details of all current planning applications are available on the Council’s website.

The committee is sometimes asked why we advocate higher housing density for some proposed schemes. The answer has several elements - low density developments often lead to isolated communities with few local facilities and poor public transport. Low density new developments are a lost opportunity to address the urgent need for housing in Brighton and Hove, with all the attendant problems of homelessness.

Here David Robson traces the history and makes the case for medium rise housing.

The history of building upwards

In earlier times the heights of buildings were limited by our ability to build. They seldom exceeded three storeys and only monumental buildings reached above the general roofline. But as we became more skilled at making everyday buildings stand up, building heights were limited only by our willingness to climb stairs. When Rome became the first million city during the 3rd C. A.D. land shortage and congestion encouraged the construction of apartment buildings of up to six storeys, the maximum height to which Romans were prepared to climb.

The growth of cities: six storeys across Europe

Such heights were seldom matched during the Middle Ages, however, and it was only with the growth of cities during the 19th C. that height of residential buildings again began to increase. As cities grew, their physical area was limited by the reach of transport systems and, as a consequence, densities and building heights increased. In cities across Europe, such as Paris, Rome, Berlin and Vienna, six storey apartment blocks became the norm. Post-Haussmann Paris developed as a grid of boulevards lined with buildings of five or six storeys. A typical Parisian building would comprise a storage basement, a ground-floor given over to shops, a first floor of offices, three floors of apartments and an additional attic floor. Central Paris became one of the densest urban areas in the world, thanks to the consistent height and depth of its buildings combined with the relative narrowness of the intervening streets. And yet central Paris remains an attractive place in which to live and tourists still flock to enjoy the variety and liveliness of its street life.

Housing density in the Regency period in Brighton

Brighton’s first high-rise buildings appeared already during the Regency. Houses at the north end of Brunswick Square, built during the 1820s, originally comprised a basement, a reception floor, a piano nobile, and three upper floors with an occasional extra attic. The building footprint was about 200 sqm. and a house with its basement and appendages might have had a total floor area of about 500 sqm. A typical plot occupied an area of about 250 sqm. and the net density was about 30 per hectare. However, these houses have since been so sub-divided as to produce a density of around 180 dwellings per hectare. Even when the area of the central garden is taken into account, the density is still more than 100 dwellings per hectare. This can be compared with suburban Brighton where densities of about 25 per hectare are the norm.

Technology takes us upwards

Two 19th C. innovations were responsible removing the cap on building height: the development of sophisticated steel construction and the invention of the mechanical lift. Nowhere was this more apparent than in late 19th C. Chicago where office and apartment buildings broke through the six-floor barrier and rose up to heights of twenty or more storeys. Today, the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, rises 828 meters on 276 floors, while the Shard, the tallest building in the UK, rises a mere 309 meters on 95 floors.

Is there an upper limit?

Now, when building heights are no longer constrained by technology, by cost or by accessibility, we should ask ourselves, not what is possible, but what is desirable. Events such as the Twin Towers disaster and the Grenfell Tower fire have offered salutary reminders of the inherent risks of high-rise living – tall buildings are vulnerable to terrorist attack and to fire. In Hong Kong a friend lives on the 34th floor of a tower block. His view is fantastic, but the water in his fish tank gently slops from side to side as the building sways. And, after a severe typhoon, when the lifts were out of action for a week, he had to climb thirty-three flights of stairs, five-hundred-and-fifty steps, to reach his apartment.

Unfortunately, above certain limits, increases in height fail to produce commensurate increases in density. As buildings grow taller they require more land around their base and greater distances between them. My own studies suggest that there are diminishing gains when heights rise above ten storeys, and often no gains at all above twenty storeys

An example in Hove

I live in Furze Croft, a seven-storey block of flats in Hove. Our block contains 138 apartments of varying sizes and occupies an area of 9,000 sqm (less than one hectare), giving a density of about 150 dwellings per hectare. The total building area is about 11,000 sqm. and the building footprint covers 1,500 sqm. (i.e. about 16% of the site). Residents all own a small basement storage area and enjoy the use of over 4,000 sqm of shared gardens.

In Furze Croft, every flat has a visual link with the ground: lower flats see shrubberies and lawns, mid-height flats look into the trees, upper flats look across the tree tops towards the horizon. Each block has two lifts. However, if both are out of order simultaneously, the walk down to the ground is not impossible. There is a communal heating system and residents benefit from communal maintenance and security. The block requires less infrastructure than conventional housing – the entire street frontage is 100 meters, equivalent to 60 centimetres per apartment. The only drawback is that we don’t have balconies: a room-sized balcony has become the norm in countries like Germany and Switzerland and is an essential prerequisite of successful apartment living.

I’m not suggesting that Furze Croft is a paragon. It is one of a number of apartment blocks in the City, built between the Wars, that seem to offer a civilised way to build much needed homes at higher densities when land is in short supply.

Top image: Rome, Trajan's Market

All images by David Robson.