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The Joint Planning Forum of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society has objected to the following application.

BH2023/00690: 25 Preston Park Avenue, Brighton BN1 6HL. Variation of condition 2 of BH2020/02934 to allow amendments to cycle store and replacement of green roof with solar panels.

25 Preston Park Avenue is a surviving Victorian villa within the Preston Park Conservation Area facing onto the Grade II listed park and garden of Preston Park. Part of the character of the conservation area on this street is the large front gardens that  slope up to the houses on  a raised level facing down to the park, which contributes to the green space of the park.

BH2020/02934 allowed on appeal the conversion of No 25 into seven flats and the construction of two new houses in the back garden, the subject of the appeal and of the application to change the roof.

Permission was given to replace a single garage in the left-hand half of the frontage by a two-car hard-standing. The current retrospective application is to create two similar parking bays on the right hand side.

The proposed alterations will result in more of the front garden being used for storage of bikes, bins and car parking and a reduction of the size of the front garden area. It also will result in the bin and cycle and bin storage being closer to the front boundary of the property and therefore more conspicuous in the conservation area. The additional two parking bays will result in loss of green landscaping, as well as a significant loss of planting that contributes to the character of this street and its front gardens. The previous proposal as approved by the inspector included three trees: a cherry tree and two silver birches. These would be removed to make way for two additional parking bays. There would also be a loss of the front boundary wall onto the garden, which is a feature of historic properties on this street.

The already approved landscape should maintained, or if additional storage space is required it should be to the rear of the building, where it is less visible from the public view in the conservation area. This proposal moves cycle storage from the rear to the front of the property. For this reason, the proposal would be harmful to the conservation area as a public asset with no public benefits.

Image: 25 Preston Park Avenue, built by George Burstow in 1899, before alteration [Source: Google]

This is the objection the Joint Planning Forum has submitted about the proposed development at what is now the Pinello restaurant near Regency Square. This comprises erection of an additional storey to create a two-bed flat with a front roof terrace, installation of a new lift and stairwell, internal alterations to the layout of existing flats and revised fenestration to front and rear elevations.

BH2023/03417  132 Kings Road Brighton BN1 2HH

The Regency Society and Hove Civic Society object to this application. The proposals would be detrimental to the architectural and historical interest of this unlisted heritage asset. They would have an adverse effect on the character of the Regency Square Conservation Area and on the setting of the adjoining Grade II* St Albans House and the locally listed Astra House, of the Grade II* Regency Square and of the Grade II South African War Memorial and the Shelter on the promenade opposite.

No 132 is the remaining half of a matching pair of late 1790s villas, the only survivor of the 18th century buildings between Preston Street and Regency Square and the oldest standing building in Kings Road, older than any of the listed buildings

The central Brighton seafront has long been characterised by abrupt variations in height, evidence of its historical development. The modest scale of No 132, built during the uncertainties of the French Revolutionary Wars, contrasts with the ambition of St Albans House, built in the peaceful years after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. 132 and 133 were originally brick faced but were modernised with stucco to match St Albans. A century later, Astra House was characteristic of the inter-war development of Brighton and Hove.

The fully glazed terrace-facing seafront of the penthouse, set 4 metres back from the apex of the full height bowed wall and 2.5 metres back from the chord of the bow and the front wall of the house, is completely out of character with the building itself, the conservation area and nearby listed buildings. Even a mansard roof would be incongruous in this location. The replacement of the UPVC second and third floor windows with timber sashes would be small compensation.

Except for the additional storey, the proposed alterations to the rear elevation have to be regarded as an improvement, while the internal alterations would be acceptable even if the building had been locally listed.

Image: The proposed seafront view, with Astra House on the left and St Alban's House on the right of the Pinello restaurant. {Source: the planning application]

The Regency Society has submitted the following comment about the latest proposals for the redevelopemnt of the Kemp Town gasworks site to Brighton and Hove City Council planning department.


BH2021/04167     Brighton Gasworks

The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove wishes to record its objection to the proposed development on the site of the former Brighton Gasworks.

The Society supports, in principle, the proposal to develop what is a derelict, polluted, brownfield site in an important location. However, it shares the concerns expressed by other responders about the risks arising from the process of remediation both during and after construction.

We also support, in principle, the developer’s stated aim to create a mixed community with a substantial number of much-needed homes.

We also welcome the attempt to create pedestrian links across the site and to connect the sea-front to Sheepcote Valley and the South Downs National Park.  In this regard we regret the Council’s decision not to release the strips of land along the site’s northern and southern boundaries.

The present planning application dates from November 2023 and is the third to have been submitted by St Williams Homes (a subsiduary of the Berkeley Group). It offers a few changes to earlier submissions: the total number of dwellings has been reduced by 12 per cent; the height of one of the taller blocks has been lowered from 12 to 10 storeys; brick colours have been changed; the block in the northeast corner has been reconfigured to resemble a circular gas-holder. However, none of these changes really address the criticisms of the previous submission made by an overwhelming number of responders, including the Regency Society; nor do they mitigate what were considered to be its major flaws.

Perhaps the most significant change and one to be most welcomed, was the insertion of second staircases in ten of the blocks to meet post-Grenfell concerns about fire-escape


The Regency Society’s objections can be summarised under the following headings:

Response to the site and its location

The site is located at the eastern end of the Brighton seafront and forms an integral part of this unique heritage townscape.  The applicant pays lip-service to Brighton’s heritage assets but the scale, urban form and architectural expression of their current proposal fail to take them into account: the buildings are too tall, too bulky, too crammed together; they are too much of a hotch-potch and lack any formal structuring or legibility. More specifically, they fail to respond to the scale and character of Regency Kemp Town (Arundel Terrace and Lewes Crescent) or to the clean modern lines of neighbouring Marine Gate. The applicant argues that the development does not impinge directly on distant views of the site, but this does not alter the fact that it occupies a key position in the overall composition of the seafront.

The scope of the development: density, mix, tenure

The site has an area of 2.02 hectares (c.110m x 200m). The proposed development comprises a total of 12 blocks varying in height from 3 to 12 storeys and containing 495 dwellings, giving a density of 245 dwellings per hectare (c.790 theoretical bedspaces per hectare), and a FAR (floor-area-ratio) of c.1.8:1.  Such densities are high and, whilst they are comparable with other recent developments in the city, we believe them to be higher than the site can comfortably sustain. A target total of around 400 dwellings would be more acceptable. We also believe that the omission of the 14 row houses would have a marked beneficial effect on the overall footprint and would relieve the sense of congestion.

The applicant promises to create a ‘vibrant mixed community’ and we applaud their proposal to accommodate a variety of non-housing uses in the development. However, 84 per cent of the proposed dwellings have only one or two bedrooms and only 16 per cent can be described as being suitable for families with children. This sort of mix is being echoed in new developments across the city and will contribute to a serious demographic imbalance in the future.

The applicant states laudably that 40 per cent of the dwellings will be available for affordable rent, though this is only a target and it is unclear how it will be achieved.

We are also concerned that dwellings will be available on a 95-year lease and that the developer will retain the freehold and have full control over annual charges. This form of tenure has come in for much recent criticism.

Access and car parking

The scheme provides 179 car spaces (one for every 2.8 dwellings) and accommodates 629 bicycles. Residents will have to pay for parking spaces (quite substantially, if other recent schemes are anything to go by). It seems likely that many will elect to park on surrounding streets, thus exacerbating existing parking problems in the area.

The entrances to the various blocks are scattered around the site and it’s not clear how visitors, or indeed residents, will approach them.  Where will visitors park? How will taxis or ambulances access the development? If one takes the example of Block 12 in the southeast corner, one wonders: how will disabled people access it, how will removal vans, delivery vans or ambulances service it?

The parking is located within two podia, one under the northern part of the site and one under the western part of the site.  These are chaotically planned. The resultant entry sequences are also bizarre—particularly the entrances to Blocks B & C, which are via long, narrow windowless corridors. In similar fashion the town houses are connected to the parking basement by a long nightmarish corridor. None of this complies with generally accepted design and planning standards.

Building form

Whilst the developer pays service to heritage and what they call ‘social memory’, they fail to take on board the main characteristics of Brighton’s heritage seafront: its marine squares (a unique Brighton feature that can be seen from Adelaide Crescent in the west to Marine Gate in the east), its use of order and symmetry, and its consistent scale.

The 12 blocks are arranged in three ‘strings’ that run from north to south down the site and are separated by narrow corridors of space. This arrangement does not fit comfortably within the site width and results in narrow spaces between blocks (as little as c.16 meters) that will lead to problems of over-looking, noise and lack of privacy.

There is no formal structuring and the blocks all have different shapes, heights and sizes (and employ different materials and colours). It is as if a child had scattered toy bricks across the site.

The most incongruous element is the circular block next to the circus that has been configured, bizarrely, to mimic a green gasometer (with disastrous consequences for the planning of the flats that it contains).

The open space in the northeastern corner of the site is described as a circus but it is formed arbitrarily by the irregular ends of four adjacent blocks and doesn’t exhibit any clear geometric form.

The 14 town-houses that line the west of the site and face the back of Boundary Road seem to have been an afterthought and turn their backs on the rest of the scheme. They occupy 10 times as much site area per unit as their neighbours and thus have a disproportionate impact on shared open space provision. One wonders why 14 families are invited to live in spacious three-storey houses while their 481 neighbours are consigned to live in stacks of small flats. Paradoxically, they are the best-designed element on the site and their very existence seems to beg the question: why couldn’t the whole scheme have been conceived on a similar scale and to a similar quality with low and medium rise flats arranged around courts and mews.

The applicant provides a series of simulated and carefully choreographed distant views of the scheme (‘Heritage Townscape’) in a vain attempt to demonstrate that it will be almost invisible from any angle. However, they seem reluctant to provide explicit close-ups of the scheme. One rendering from the north reveals it to be a monumental cluster of bulky brick towers, a mini-Manhattan. Another from the southwest shows the ends of three southernmost blocks in relation to neighbouring Marine Gate.  That image implies that the two developments, which occupy the same width of frontage, will be of comparable scale and bulk, but the three blocks are each considerably wider than the two projecting wings of Marine Gate and are three floors higher. When viewed from the A259 the development will appear like a huge cliff, almost twice the height of Arundel Terrace.

Climate and environment

The blocks are arranged in three parallel north-south lines with narrow chasms of space between them. As the site faces the sea these are likely to act as wind tunnels. The applicant tries to assuage such concerns by using data gathered at Shoreham Airport, which lies on a flat inland site about 15 km away to the east! These chasms will be in shadow for much of the day and many flats will receive only short periods of direct sunlight.

The blocks are designed to occupy space rather than to create space. Their linear layout breaks up the open space, much of which is contained within the chasms between them. The only substantial amenity space is found within the ‘circus’ at the northeast corner of the site. As a result, the overall provision of useable amenity open space for the projected population of 1,600 people is less than adequate.

Materials and details

Like a number of other new developments across the city, this scheme will be clad in prefabricated brick panels and, following the current trend, different colours of brick will be used in in different parts of the scheme. The choice of red brick in the northwest corner is claimed to invoke the ‘social memory’ of an industrial past (!), while the faux gasometer will be clad in green brick. The southern part of the scheme will be in a fair-faced brick to connect it visually to Marine Gate.

In fact, the whole scheme would benefit greatly from the use of a single light-coloured brick. This would produce consistency and would help to reflect light into the shadowy chasms between the blocks.

In conclusion

We wish to emphasise that the Regency Society fully supports the redevelopment of this derelict site to provide much needed housing. However, the present proposal fails to achieve the developer’s own stated aims in terms of its planning (eg, its massing, height, spatiality, circulation, legibility, etc), its architectural design (eg, scale, proportions, use of materials, etc) and its environment (eg, open space provision, microclimate, etc) and it does not lend itself to improvement by tinkering. We believe that a complete rethink is necessary.

Our own studies suggest that a total of about 400 dwellings (ie, c.200 dwellings per hectare) could be achieved using continuous blocks of not more than six storeys in height around a series of pleasantly-scaled squares. This would be in keeping with the prevailing character of the Brighton seafront.  It would also avoid wind-tunnelling and benefit the microclimate. Such a configuration would result in a building footprint of about 6,000 sq.m. (27 per cent of the site) and a floor-area-ratio of about 1.6. This would support generous areas of shared communal open-space and would enable the integration of other categories of building use (a nursery, a pub, social and health related buildings, workspaces, etc). It would also include a more diverse mix of dwelling sizes (including a greater proportion of family-sized dwellings) and a variety of types of tenure.

The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove

1 March 2024


Our previous posts about the gasworks:

Brighton gasworks site: putting the heat on

Brighton gasworks site—an opportunity about to be missed?

Image: The gasworks site in 1933 [RS James Gray Collection]

The society's annual general meeting will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday 10 April 2024 at the Hove Club, 28 Fourth Avenue, Hove BN3 2PJ.

Download the AGM notice, minutes of the 2023 AGM, the nominations for the election of trustees and the proposed revision of the constitution for ratification.

The AGM wll be followed by the John Small lecture, which this year will be a talk by Kelvin MacDonald about Utopias: the search for the ideal city.

The Regency Society is saddened by the devastation caused by the fire at the Royal Albion Hotel. This is a key building at one of the most prominent locations in the city and therefore of unusual significance. Restoration of the site will require considerable sensitivity.

In fact, the hotel comprises three elements that were not merged until a little over 40 years ago.

The earliest and least damaged was the original Albion Hotel, designed by the great local architect Amon Henry Wilds and built in 1826 on the site of the house of Dr Richard Russell, the promoter of sea-bathing that did so much to create Brighton’s popularity as a resort. This is Grade II* listed.

The western section dates from the late 1850s and was known as the Lion Mansion Hotel until the Second World War. This is Grade II listed.

In between were two lodging houses from the mid-1840s, although from around 1903 the ground floor was the Palace Pier Creamery. In 1938 the two houses became Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. When this closed in 1979, the building was restored with a similar appearance to the original and, like Lion Mansion, was absorbed into the Royal Albion.

The Regency Society hopes that the external appearance of the building can be restored. It would be best if demolition could be limited to what is strictly necessary for safety and access reasons.

It is worth noting that there are two Brighton Corporation plaques, to a design by Eric Gill: one on the front of the original hotel commemorating Dr Russell and a second marking the visits of prime minister William Gladstone on the frontage of Lion Mansion. The RS hopes this can be recovered and replaced in due course.

18 July 2023

Image: RS James Gray Collection

The familiar Regency Society's James Gray Collection, much used as a photographic reference for the history of Brighton & Hove, now has a second version. Contemporary images matching the original scenes as closely as possible have been created and sit side-by-side to show the changes, with a new descriptive text.

It can be navigated from a street index or a map and can be searched by keywords.

Follow this link:

Historic and Contemporary Images of Brighton & Hove.

The Society is pleased to announce that the next AGM will take place at 7pm on Wednesday 12 April 2023. The venue will be the Hove Club, 28 Fourth Avenue, Hove.

As well as presenting the annual report for 2022, the agenda will include the election of trustees. If you would like to become one, please contact the honorary secretary. The meeting will be followed by

John Small Lecture: Wild & Busby Revisited

For details see the events page. Non-members are welcome.

Do you remember the Sackville Hotel?

 It was built in 1904 on the corner of Kingsway and Sackville Gardens, originally as a terrace of private houses.  It collapsed in 2006 and was demolished after being battered by strong winds.

The site then stood empty and unloved until 2016 when a developer proposed a 17-storey circular tower. The Regency Society was one of the many voices opposing this idea. Amongst our worries was the shape of the flats, – think of a slice of a circular pie!

The application was withdrawn and replaced with a more credible and down to earth plan for a block of sixty flats.  Although one member of the Planning Committee described the design as “a little bland” it was approved.

The Regency Society had commented that the building “made no attempt to turn the corner in an elegant manner.”  The final building’s curved corner is perhaps a suitable response.

What do you think of the result?

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society 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.

From Farm House to Superstore

At the top of Dyke Road Avenue there is a roundabout which provides access to the by-pass (A27).  Adjacent to the roundabout is a plot of land which for many years was the home of the Court Farm House.

The site was previously proposed for residential development, a scheme which the Regency Society supported. Permission was granted in 2017 but never implemented.

The latest proposal is for an Aldi Superstore with parking for 120 cars.  If you’re a driver and you want a convenient place to shop you may see this as a welcome development.  However, the application has attracted lots of adverse comment. Click OBJECTION TO PROPOSED ALDI SUPERSTORE AT COURT FARM to see what the store would look like and to read why the Regency Society is opposed to it.


The Plan for the Gas Works Site

Property developer, St William Homes has submitted a proposal for the site of the former Gas Works in Kemp Town.

If approved, it will result in 553 new homes in eleven tall buildings and several smaller ones, all located between Marine Gate to the east and Courcels to the west.  The scheme also includes new commercial properties.

The Regency Society is supportive of the principle of a residential development on this site, which has been a blot on the landscape for far too long. However, we cannot support this proposal.

Click Gas Works site objection 2-1-22 to read the comments we have submitted to the Planning Authority.

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society 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.


 What’s happening at the Gas Works?

The Society is monitoring closely the proposals for 700 new homes on the site of the old gas works in Kemp Town.  We are represented in Aghast, a coalition of local groups opposed to the development.


Smartening up the Old Steine café

The café at the south end of the Old Steine started life in 1926 as a tram shelter, built to a design by David Edwards, who at that time was the Borough Engineer. Later it became a public convenience.  It was in the 1990s that it became a café.

A planning application has been approved for various alterations. The aim is to create a more modern café environment. The building will be restored to remove unsympathetic additions and there will be much needed repairs to the flat roof and the windows.

The Regency Society welcomes this development which will return a historic, listed building to good condition and beneficial use while retaining its historic interest.


Flats in the Old Market

The planners are looking at a listed building in Hove, the Old Market in Upper Market Street.

An application has been submitted for alterations on the south side of the building to convert two floors of office space into four flats.

The proposed internal alterations are not radical and there is no removal of historic material.  There will only be one visible change to the exterior of the building: the installation of two windows on the southern façade, to match the four existing ones.

The scheme doesn’t seem to create any obvious harm to the listed building, and it will provide four new homes.