Jim Gowans’ West Hill Watch, June 19

Buckingham Road/Upper Gloucester Road

Mystery surrounds this major development site which remains derelict, with no sign of any work being carried out despite having planning permission for 34 flats, including 14 affordable dwellings. Whilst the City Council’s Planning Committee voted to approve the application last August, the letter from the Council’s Head of Planning granting permission was not sent until 29 March this year! In the meantime, the ownership of the site has changed hands once again: the graffiti-defaced hoarding around the site now carries the name of Martin Homes, but the company’s website does not list the site among its ‘live projects’.

It is scandalous to have yet another site in our city, which has planning permission for homes, being apparently land-banked by developers and or being traded as an ‘eyesore asset’. A further example of this, just a short distance from our conservation area, is the major site at the corner of Church Street and Portland Street. This has been a wasteland for almost 30 years, despite permission for homes being granted!

Respect our Neighbourhood

As if this Spring’s unprecedented level of criminal damage to homes, businesses and public property by spray paint vandals was not enough, we have seen two groups claiming to help communities do, in fact, the very opposite. When I challenged an ‘Extinction Rebel’ defacing a public notice with stickers, her feeble response was, “There’s no other way to get our message across”. Of course there is! Why does she think candidates for the local election were, at the very same time, knocking on doors and explaining to residents in person why they deserved our votes? Why not put leaflets through letter boxes rather than break the law (the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in this case) by leaving them on car windscreens? Few deny that the consequences of climate change, loss of biodiversity and land degradation will be extremely serious over the next 50-100 years, but contempt for the law and the trashing of our environment in the here-and-now is not the solution.

Meanwhile, those artists opening their homes for ‘Artists Open Houses’ should reflect for a moment on the way in which this otherwise very welcome scheme is being promoted because spray painting the pavement with the trail that leads to the exhibitions is, again, unlawful and at the same time irresponsible because it simply gives encouragement to the spray paint vandals referred to above whilst promoting the idea that ownership of the public realm is there for any individual or group to grab for themselves.

High rise blocks are wrong and unnecessary

Regrettably, the Planning Committee has recently been minded to grant permission for an 18 storey tower block development on New England Street to the east of our conservation area, and overlooking the Brighton Greenway and heritage assets including St Bartholomew’s Church. With merely 21 of the 201 apartments being affordable homes and the harm to heritage assets being acknowledged in the planning officers’ report, this seems to be yet another example of taking public views away from the public and selling them off to the highest private bidder. Anston House overlooking Preston Park and the luxury blocks in the Marina
rising steadily above the cliffs of Kemp Town may now be rivalled by high rise development on the site of the Brighton Centre and
the cinema complex of Kingswest. If you want to live in a sunlit upland with views of the sea and the Downs or at least have your multi-million pound penthouse investment well-removed from the envious mob at street level, then Brighton and Hove is clearly open for your business.

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