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Archive for the ‘Development’ Category

As threat grows from A27 expansion plans

Hilary Benn MP with Robin Crane, chairman of the South Downs Campaign holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order, 12 November, 2009

Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP with Robin Crane CBE, chairman of the South Downs Campaign, holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order, 12 November, 2009

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is today celebrating the 5th anniversary of the signing of the South Downs National Park Confirmation Order by the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP in Ditchling, who was the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2009.

This was the final hurdle to establishing the South Downs National Park, which came into existence on 31 March 2010.

BHFOE believes that the National Park has been an important development in safeguarding and championing the South Downs landscape.  However, on this important anniversary, it is clear from the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday that the South Downs National Park is under threat from the Government’s £15 billion new roads programme.  (Incidentally this about equals the amount taken from local government over the past few years).

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Today is the 5th anniversary of an important milestone in the history of the South Downs.  5 years ago we thought the future of the South Downs had been secured when it became England’s newest National Park.  Yet already, this Government, egged on by many local authorities, seems hell bent on road building in the South Downs.

“The impact of individual schemes at Arundel, Worthing and between Lewes and Polegate is bad enough, but the cumulative impact could be devastating.  It is bound to increase pressure for further road expansion on the A27 as the congestion just moves to other places on the network.  It’s a bit like searching for the Holy Grail.  It will require more and more effort and ultimately we risk destroying an iconic landscape in a rather fruitless search for economic prosperity.”

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to agree to the revised modifications to the City Plan.  These are due to be considered at Policy & Resources Committee on Thursday.  While BHFOE remains concerned about the threat to the urban fringe, a greater threat would be had by having no City Plan at all.  In addition, the Council is proposing to delete its previous amendment to the urban fringe Policy SA4 which would have allowed development on any proposed housing site listed in the Urban Fringe Assessment.

BHFOE is reassured that this is no longer the case and urban fringe sites will be scrutinised and subject to further consultation before they can be allocated for development.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“While we are not entirely comfortable with the place we are in, the Council is between a rock and a hard place.  Without a City Plan it would find it increasingly difficult to resist unsuitable development right across the city, not just in the urban fringe.  Also it would be more susceptible to losing planning appeals and having costs awarded against it.

“We would much rather the focus be on brownfield development but the time for that debate is over at this stage in the process.  The inspector has specifically asked the Council to review the urban fringe and if they had not done so the Plan would have been found unsound.

“By supporting the adoption of the City Plan, we are not agreeing to sites being developed.  That is a battle which we will need to gear up for on another day to safeguard our parks and allotments from inappropriate development.

“We fully appreciate that some politicians are in an uncomfortable position and are grateful for their support last time round in getting the Council to rethink its policy.  However, we now need them to step up to the plate and agree this Plan for the greater good, just as we have done.”

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News Release, Monday, 21 July, 2014

Bus users left out in the rain

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on RBS and Brighton & Hove City Council to come up with some innovative designs to give bus passengers proper shelter in North Street, Brighton as part of the RBS financed improvement scheme [1].  The proposed shelters in North Street are far too small for the numbers of people waiting as can be seen by observing the current situation [2].

Despite a few new shelters being proposed as part of this scheme, BHFOE believes they will be overwhelmed by the number of users and consequently many people will continue to block shop doorways as they seek shelter in the rain.  This is one of the issues the scheme is meant to be addressing.

BHFOE is also concerned that moving the eastbound bus stops towards Pavilion Gardens could cause pedestrian congestion as the pavement is quite narrow here where people also congregate for the pedestrian crossing.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Unfortunately what is a good scheme in many respects, fails abysmally when it comes to providing bus users with shelter.  Given that a large number of shoppers arrive by bus, in an area that RBS wants to see trade boosted, ignoring this issue is a serious mistake.

“Installing bog-standard bus shelters which cater for only a fraction of the people at the bus stops is poor design.  While, ignoring the problem, hoping it will miraculously disappear, is wishful thinking.

“If RBS are unable or unwilling to pay for proper bus or pavement shelters, then it should pay the Council the money to come up with something better.

“Our solution would be to create an attractive pavement shelter which could protect both bus passengers and shoppers when it is raining.  This would stop bus passengers needing to stand in shop doorways for shelter while encouraging shoppers to linger in the area rather than hurry through it.  Unless changes are made to the designs, this will represent a wasted opportunity to put North St on the map, while leaving bus users out in the rain.”

[1]   The initial proposals went to the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on 1 July 2014 after a short consultation a couple of weeks before then.

[2]   There are currently 3 bus shelters in North St for eastbound users.  These are constantly oversubscribed with passengers spreading out all around these shelters which are far too small for the numbers of people using the buses.  RBS are just proposing replacing them like for like. However, in the plans RBS’s consultants have produced, only 2 of these shelters are shown as existing today.  This could create a false impression that RBS is making more improvements than it really is.

Westbound there are currently no bus shelters, although many people waiting at one of the bus stops shelter under the canopy extending out from the buildings there.  RBS is proposing 3 new shelters so there would be a slight gain here but given the numbers of people using the stops they would appear more tokenistic than practical.

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has welcomed the City Council’s rejection of a Conservative motion to join the A27 Action Campaign, when both Labour and Greens voted against it.  BHFOE is concerned that dualling the A27 would harm the city’s interests, undermine public transport and increase congestion and pollution as more people would be tempted to drive along the south coast rather than use the train or bus.  See our previous blog for more detail.

A key thrust of the Conservative argument in support of dualling the A27 was that it would allow the space for more sustainable transport to be improved.  However, BHFOE is not convinced by this argument as many of the coastal towns have smaller populations and traffic levels compared to Brighton & Hove and many improvements could be done now.  The reality is that West Sussex County Council has done very little to promote walking, cycling and public transport, other than a few notable exceptions, as it has clung on to the hope that one day an upgrade to the A27 would solve all of its transport problems.  In reality, it is likely to lead to more traffic and pollution and the quality of life in West Sussex will probably fall, while the impact on the South Downs would be severe.

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News Release, Wednesday, 16 July, 2014

A27 dualling could cost the city

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to reject the Conservative Notice of Motion to support the A27 Action Campaign [1] at the Full Council meeting tomorrow [2].  Apart from the fact that dualling the A27, particularly around Worthing, would be extremely costly, BHFOE does not believe it is in the interests of the city.  Also, it is sceptical that there is any evidence that it would boost economic growth.

New roads generate more traffic and that will increase congestion and pollution within the city as more people are tempted to drive along the south coast.  This would also undermine public transport and put the city’s road network under further stress while reducing the transport options for tourists visiting the city.  Much of the traffic on the A27 is local traffic and requires local transport solutions, not big new roads.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Many councillors spent years supporting the creation of the South Downs National Park.  Now they risk throwing much of that away if they support the A27 Action Campaign.  This group’s aim to see the A27 dualled along its whole length would be extremely costly economically and environmentally.  If successful, it could then lead to more roadbuilding around Brighton & Hove, and cause huge damage to the South Downs.

“Rather than going backwards we need to be moving forward with ideas and solutions fit for the 21st century.  Many of the concerns businesses have could be addressed by small online improvements, such as a new junction at Crossbush, and by measures to reduce traffic.  If as they claim traffic and congestion is so bad yet so critical to the economy it begs the questions:  Why are we doing relatively well along the south coast?  And secondly, why have local authorities, aside from Brighton & Hove, done so little to promote walking, cycling and public transport and traffic reduction measures?”

“Given the cost of doing anything around Worthing – a tunnel is like to be of the order of £2 billion – it is unlikely the A27 will be dualled any time soon.  This campaign is only raising false hope while failing to tackle the real problem of there being too much traffic.  Car journeys don’t start and end on the A27, they start and end in the towns and cities adjacent to it.  These are the places where the congestion will transfer to.  The city’s energy and efforts would be far better focussed on tackling the real issues of our day:  climate change [3], air pollution, obesity, diabetes, mental health are putting the NHS under severe strain and costing it billions.  Isn’t it about time we had some joined up thinking and started promoting healthier transport choices?”

[1]   The Conservative Notice of Motion states:  “In order further to promote business investment and economic growth in the Greater Brighton area this Council resolves to pledge its support to the newly-formed A27 Action campaign.”

[2]   BHCC’s Full Council meeting is taking place on Thursday, 17 July, 4.30pm Council Chamber, Brighton Town Hall.

[3]   The UK’s Committee for Climate Change yesterday published a report saying that we are unlikely to meet our carbon reduction targets without greater action.  Building new roads increase carbon emissions and will make this task even harder and more costly.

 

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News Release issued, Thursday, 10 July, 2014

Green light to urban fringe development a mistake

Photo opportunity:  1.30pm, outside Hove Town Hall, Friday 11 July.  Groups / public to demonstrate about Council’s threat to urban fringe

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to pull back from making a serious mistake with its proposed modifications to the City Plan.  These are due to be considered at Policy & Resources Committee tomorrow [1].  BHFOE is particularly concerned about the proposed amendments to the urban fringe Policy SA4 [2] which would allow development to take place on any proposed housing site listed in the Urban Fringe Assessment [3].  This is before the proposals have been scrutinised and the sites allocated for development.

BHFOE understands the pressure the Council is under to get the City Plan approved, and it also recognises that there will be some sites in the urban fringe suitable for development.  However, it is concerned that in the haste to proceed, the Council could make a terrible mistake.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Sites are not meant to be allocated for development until Part 2 of the City Plan, at a much later date.  Yet the Council’s proposed new policy would allow development to take place on any site listed in the Urban Fringe Assessment as soon as Part 1 of the City Plan is adopted.  In effect, setting in stone the right to develop all of these sites before the case for doing so has been scrutinised.

“Therefore the Council’s promise that there would be a consultation on allocating the sites at a later date is worthless.

“The Council needs to step back from the brink and amend what it is proposing.  Otherwise it will be making a grave mistake and sites wrongly assessed in the Urban Fringe Assessment could be lost forever.”

[1]   BHCC’s Policy & Resources Committee meets at 2pm, Friday, 11 July, 2014 in the Council Chamber at Hove Town Hall, to discuss the proposed modifications to the City Plan, which includes amending the amount of housing across the whole city, not just the urban fringe.

[2]   The Council is recommending changing the policy on the urban fringe (SA4) to the following:

Development within the urban fringe will be permitted where:

a) a site has been allocated for development in a development plan document; or

b) a site (or part of a site) has been identified in the 2014 Urban Fringe Assessment Study as having potential for residential development; or

c) a countryside location can be justified;

and where it can be clearly demonstrated that:

d) the proposal has had regard to the downland landscape setting of the city;

e) all any adverse impacts of development are minimised and appropriately mitigated and/or compensated for; and

f) where appropriate, the proposal helps to achieve the policy objectives set out above.

       [the bold section is the new wording proposed to be inserted into the policy]

BHFOE wants b) above deleted as it believes it is premature and will prejudice which sites will be developed before there has been any scrutiny of the Urban Fringe Assessment or before they are considered in Part 2 of the City Plan.

Part a) already covers allowing development to take place once a site has been allocated for development.  Therefore there is no need to insert this new part b).  The proposed supporting text for the policy sets the context perfectly adequately.

[3]        The Brighton & Hove Urban Fringe Assessment, by consultants LUC, has been produced without any stakeholder involvement nor has it been subject to public scrutiny to test whether its recommendations are sound.  BHFOE is aware of at least 2 sites where the sites appear to have been allocated under false premises.

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News release issued Monday, 7 July, 2014

Council risks making a bad position worse

Urban fringe report being adopted as policy without any public scrutiny

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to put on hold the consultation on the proposed modifications to the City Plan.  These are due to be considered at Policy & Resources Committee on Friday [1].  BHFOE believes that going ahead with the proposed modifications is premature.  The Urban Fringe Assessment Report has not been subject to any consultation or public scrutiny yet the Council appears to be adopting it as policy [2].

Instead, BHFOE would like to see a public consultation on Urban Fringe Report take place first with modifications to the City Plan coming forward after that.  It is particularly concerned about the proposed amendments to the urban fringe Policy SA4 [see note 1].

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“We understand that the Council is between a rock and a hard place because of Government changes to the planning system [3].  However, the proposed modifications to the City Plan will make a bad situation worse.  These changes will give developers the green light to build on any of the sites listed in the urban fringe report, even if the consultants have got their facts wrong.

“Whilst we are not saying no development anywhere, we have serious concerns about loss of green space (which is in short supply across the city) and the impact on the National Park with some of these proposals.  That’s why we need to have this report properly scrutinised now before any changes are made to the City Plan.

“We were also very surprised to see the amount of housing on major development areas fall [4].  This has led to housing being shifted from sustainable locations, where there is good access to services, to the urban fringe where there are not.  This needs reversing.

“We also need our local MPs and councillors to make strong representations to Government about the unfairness of the current planning system and the problems created by London’s distorted housing market [5].”

[1]   BHCC’s Policy & Resources Committee meets at 2pm, Friday, 11 July, 2014 in the Council Chamber at Hove Town Hall, to discuss the proposed modifications to the City Plan, which includes amending the amount of housing across the whole city, not just the urban fringe.  It is also recommending changing the policy on the urban fringe (SA4) to the following:

Development within the urban fringe will be permitted where:

a) a site has been allocated for development in a development plan document; or

b) a site (or part of a site) has been identified in the 2014 Urban Fringe Assessment Study as having potential for residential development; or

c) a countryside location can be justified;

and where it can be clearly demonstrated that:

d) the proposal has had regard to the downland landscape setting of the city;

e) all any adverse impacts of development are minimised and appropriately mitigated and/or compensated for; and

f) where appropriate, the proposal helps to achieve the policy objectives set out above.

BHFOE wants b) above deleted as it believes it is premature and will prejudice which sites will be developed before there has been any scrutiny of the Urban Fringe Assessment or before they are considered in Part 2 of the City Plan.

[2]   The Brighton & Hove Urban Fringe Assessment by consultants LUC has been produced without any stakeholder involvement nor has it been subject to public scrutiny to test whether its recommendations are sound.  For example, the South Downs National Park Authority was not involved in the production of the report, so none of the claims about possible impacts on the South Downs have been tested or assessed by the body charged with safeguarding their future.

[3]   The Government changed the planning system making it easier for developers to do what they want if an area does not have an up to date adopted Local Plan.  Unfortunately, the time given to local planning authorities to draft, consult and adopt a Local Plan were ridiculously short.  See CPRE’s website for an outline of concerns with the new planning system.

[4]   Housing numbers on major development areas is set to fall from 6,155 units to 6,010,a drop of 145 homes, the main drops being in the New England Quarter and London Road area, Hove Station and Shoreham Harbour.  See pages 8/9, Appendix 2, Brighton & Hove City Plan Part One – Proposed Modifications Schedule.

[5]   See article in Planning Resource.  This highlights the housing pressure many local planning authorities are under around London because of the failure to build enough housing in the capital.

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Press release issued Thursday, 27 February, 2014

No building in National Park

Clear message to developers at Ovingdean

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on developers, Lightwood Property, to clarify whether their housing plans for Ovingdean and Woodingdean include building in the National Park.  Documents submitted to the Brighton & Hove City Plan process shows a number of options for developing between Ovingdean and Woodingdean, three of which include building in the National Park [1].

While the developer has yet to hold the public consultation on its proposals [2], if these include all the options it has previously put forward, BHFOE would be strongly opposed to its plans.  Only option 1, outside of the National Park should be considered as a possible site for development, recognising that there is a real need for more homes in the city.  BHFOE would be opposed to option 2, which involves building on the school’s sports pitches and relocating these within the National Park.  Options 3, 4 and 5 all involve building in the National Park on land which also has local wildlife designations.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“The developers have previously produced a number of options for developing in this area.  Now it seems that they are serious about these plans they need to come clean, sooner rather than later, as to what they are proposing.

“This is an extremely narrow part of the National Park and sensitive to any form of development.  It is entirely unsuitable to large new housing proposals.  Any development here could throttle the National Park and sever The Mount Pleasant area from the wider South Downs.

“Only option 1, which lies outside of the National Park is worthy of any consideration.  Option 2 which involves building on the playing fields and relocating them further away from the school in the National Park is also unacceptable.”

[1]   See Lightwood Property website – http://www.brightoncityplan.co.uk/ this link takes you direct to document produced for City Plan.  The various options are outlined on pages 40 – 49 of this document.

[2]   A public exhibition will be held on 11 and 12 March at Longhill School about the plans.

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