Cunning plans that went awry

by robertmcnicol

So, there have been a couple of planning applications recently rejected by Brighton & Hove City Council, one for the Marina and one for the old Royal Alexandra Hospital site in the Clifton Hill area.

You’ll remember the royal Alex from my earlier post here. It looks like my warning about its imminent demise were somewhat hasty; the Councillors assembled decided that the plans, submitted by Taylor Wimpey, weren’t good enough for two reasons. They considered that there wasn’t enough play area for the kids living in the proposed flat blocks and also, well – that it was ugly. I mean, they don’t say as much. They say:

It is considered that the development by virtue of its siting, height, scale, mass, detailing and appearance does not contribute positively to its immediate surroundings and would have a detrimental impact on the character and appearance of both the street scene and the Montpelier and Clifton Hill Conservation Area and the setting of the West Hill Conservation Area.

But basically, in the well-worn legalese of the planning department, that means it’s ugly. U-G-L-Y. Now, Clifton Hill and the surrounding area is arguably the prettiest part of a very pretty city. One day every year, sometime between late April and mid-May, Brighton wakes up: the stucco gets a fresh coat of sunlight and the buildings grow an inch for every storey. And on that day I inevitably find myself wondering along Clifton Terrace, wistful and light-headed and wollowing in other cliches, because that’s where the houses are whitest.

The Royal Alex of course isn’t a cute white Regency cottage; it’s a warm, practical, red brick Victorian monolith in a state of some minor disrepair. But it’s loved by the locals and it’s a fine, classy building for all of its fidgety detail and old renovations. The proposed replacement was a fairly large (in terms of ground space) block of flats, filling the existing grounds and looking more like cheap corporate headquarters than a residential block. Worst of all, however, is the whiteness of the proposed building. Whiteness that never ends or changes, whiteness that bleeds into the sky, whiteness that shines starkly all year round. Oh, and the planning Committee also rejected the application to knock down the existing building, giving hope to the possibility that the Royal Alex will be renovated again. Now there’s a place I wouldn’t mind living…

Let’s take a little trip now to the exotic East, a land reclaimed from the sea and turned into a haven for gin palaces and holiday homes, leisure-seekers and bargain-hunters, and populated with easily-put-up-and-downable steel frame buildings, a place for people who don’t want to live in Brighton to live in Brighton, but never for too long.

The Marina is not much liked, least of all by me, and any attempts to give it a little soul wouldn’t go amiss. The developers, however, seem to have got it wrong again. This time it was Allies and Morrison, who generally seem to do good things, but their application was rejected for a whole number of complicated reasons. A&M themselves seem to have gone curiously quiet on the whole thing (they don’t mention the development on their website, as far as I can see) but this article gives an idea of the major (tall) building we’d be missing. No Chrysler, I think you’ll agree. CABE had been thoroughly luke-warm on the whole affair too.

Anyways, that’s your new Brighton developments news. It’s worthwhile noting the efforts of the local planning department and the rather wonderful way that all the relevant documents and decisions are up on-line within days of the Committee meetings. If you do wish to see said documents, go to the planning applications bit on the website and put in the appropriate application number:

Marina: BH2007/03454

Royal Alex: BH2008/02095

Modern technology being good again.