Whilst the loss of a retail unit at No.23 might be regretted in a location so near to Brighton station, the proposal to convert this redundant shop to a studio flat is to be welcomed because it would greatly improve the appearance of this part of the West Hill conservation area. According to the Council’s West Hill character statement, Surrey Street was laid out (as a thoroughfare) between 1836 and 1841. The two storey houses on each side of the street are unlisted but probably date from the 1840s, and with their bow fronts and roofs hidden behind parapets and accentuated by moulded cornices, they give the terraces a strong architectural character.
The current proposals for No.23 would restore the bow front and rebuild the front boundary wall, behind which there would be space for cycle storage rather than the unsightly hard standing for motors with its metal security post which exists at present. A previous application to convert the unit was refused because of the lack of light to the habitable rooms and because it had not been demonstrated that the retail use was no longer viable, but the applicant now suggests that the amenity issues have been addressed.
Meanwhile at No.43 a retrospective application to install plastic windows has been refused. The owner of the property had installed replacement windows in breach of planning rules and without first consulting the Council. The planning officer’s report says that the uPVC windows now installed have a harmful impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area because they do not match the materials, style, method of opening, proportions or external details of the previously fitted windows. It should be noted that there is no fee for a planning application for development which is normally permitted but which requires permission because of conservation area rules or special directions or because it is a listed building. Judging by photos of the previous timber windows, it seems that these could have been renovated, and, indeed, draught-proofed at a fraction of the cost of the replacement plastic ones which, it must be hoped, will be removed quickly.
The major site at the corner of Buckingham Road and Upper Gloucester Road which includes the four adjoining Victorian terraced houses numbered 76 to 79 seems to have changed hands since the 2016 application for four single dwellings and 20 flats in a new building at no. 80 was approved. There is now a new application to provide fourteen dwellings in the four houses rather than just four single dwellings. It is hardly a surprise that the proposal to create four very large single dwellings with relatively small gardens and no parking space has not been pursued. The new application is also making the sensible proposal to retain the existing skeleton of no. 80 and to build onto it, thus saving energy and materials. The site of no.80 was originally occupied by the Brighton Grammar School in a building erected in 1868. A plaque commemorating E.J. Marshall, who was headmaster of the school for over thirty years, still survives and is to be restored and repositioned by the developers. The Grammar School moved to Dyke Road in 1913, where, in 1975, it became the Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College known as BHASVIC. The old school building in Buckingham Road, meanwhile, became a maternity hospital and in the 1970s the Victorian building was demolished to be replaced by the building, used as a day centre by social services, which has now, in turn, been more or less demolished itself.
An application to build an additional floor on top of the house which stands at the corner with Bath Street seems unlikely to be approved. The drawings submitted seem to be somewhat sketchy and do not include plans of the proposed gabled roof but they give sufficient information, nevertheless, to suggest that the added floor, which is intended to create a one-bed maisonette, would be an inappropriate feature and would harm the character of the conservation area. The existing roof is largely concealed by a rendered parapet, as are the roofs of the adjoining houses in Howard Place. The added floor would, therefore, not only disrupt the continuity of the terrace, but would also be incongruous in its position above the canted bays which exist at ground and first floor levels.