Brighton and Hove town plan approved

DESPITE protests, a new 10-year draft plan for Brighton and Hove has been voted through.

The second part of the city plan sets out planning guidelines – residential, commercial and environmental – intended to reflect local priorities in the years to 2030.

The most controversial aspects of the new plan concerned the inclusion of green space on Brighton and Hove’s ‘urban fringes’ as suitable for housing.

It is feared more than 900 homes could be built on 16 lots on or near the edge of the South Downs.

And those decisions dominated the debate as Brighton and Hove City Council met to approve its strategic development plan.

Activists fighting to keep parts of Hangleton’s Benfield Valley from development protested outside Hove Town Hall before the full council meeting.

Benfield Valley protesters October 2022

Some of them were in the stands as councilors voted through the directive 29-10, with one person shouting, “Our green spaces are not protected.”

The council refused to receive a petition on the website – which has been signed by nearly 5,000 people – saying council members could not shut down the site.

Whitehawk residents, who were hoping to fight to save a butterfly bank on Swanborough Drive, were also denied the floor at the meeting.

The Conservatives voted against accepting the plan. Tory Councilor Robert Nemeth tabled three amendments, with options such as opposing the plan or concerns that petitions and deputations were not being heard.

The third option, also rejected by city councils, called for an urgent report on the city government’s approach to peri-urban landowners.

Benfield Valley protesters October 2022

Councilor Nemeth said: “Why are we against including these sides? Quite simply, they are irreplaceable. They are packed with nature – billions upon billions of creatures are killed as they evolve.

“Flora and fauna on each (are) highly valued. They are magical leisure spaces around the dense city. They were valuable before Covid descended, even more valuable now.”

Green and Labor councilors voted against the Conservative amendments – as did all but two independent councilors – Tony Janio and Bridget Fishleigh.

Conservative councilwoman Dawn Barnett, who represents the Borough of Hangleton and Knoll, said residents were “angry” that the council had earmarked Benfield Valley for housing.

She said: “The Sussex Wildlife Trust in particular is disgusted by what the council has done and cannot understand why they did it.

“One of the worst aspects of all this is that the council refuses to even hear what residents have to say.”

Councilor Barnett said that a lease for the property signed in 1992 stated that no alterations or additions could be made or additional buildings could be built on it.

When West Hove Sainsbury’s superstore was built, she said, former Hove MP Sir Tim Sainsbury ‘donated’ the land to City Council with a commitment to protect it from development.

Green and Labor councilors have repeatedly said government-appointed inspectors are asking the council to find more sites for new housing, including parts of the Whitehawk Nature Reserve and the Benfield Valley.

Labor councilor Amanda Evans said she sympathized with the activists as she felt most council members agreed with them.

But she accused Conservative councilors of being “cocky about leaflet copies” for next year’s local elections.

Councilor Evans said: “Government inspectors enforced national planning guidelines to always ‘assume for development’.

“Government Hearings and Government Rules. Many residents and groups of objections have raised why certain sites should be scrapped from the plan, only to have these objections – with the exception of one small site in Patcham – dismissed by government inspectors.”

Councilor Evans added that after four public consultations, thousands of public representations were presented to the government inspector – and they were still demanding that the urban outskirts be included in the city plan.

Green Councilman Leo Littman, chair of the council’s planning committee, said numerous planning inspectors had insisted on including green spaces in the plan.

He said: “In exchange for protecting 93 per cent of our outskirts, government inspectors insisted that we sacrifice the other 7 per cent.

“We don’t have a choice. If we tried to remove the urban outskirts, the whole plan would collapse and our entire green space would be threatened with development.

“As much as it pains us Greens, the Tory government has left us no choice.”

Independent councilor Peter Atkinson, representing North Portslade, said he would like to see Benfield Valley removed from the city plan, but councilors have been told pick and choose is not an option.

He said: “If you state otherwise, you are giving residents and campaign groups false hope, which is cruel and seriously misleading.

“We also need to remind everyone that most of the brownfield sites in the city are not owned by the municipality.

“People say, ‘Why don’t you build on the brownfield sites?’ The answer is, “We’d love to, but we have to buy them first.” And that would be financially impossible.”

The city plan identifies seven strategic locations including Brighton General Hospital at Elm Grove, Engineering Depot at New England Road, lots at Lyon Close, Hove, and the Sackville Trading Estate and Coal Yard in Hove, where more than 800 apartments are on planning permission been granted.

The plan also includes 39 brownfield sites that are expected to provide at least 1,570 new homes and business opportunities.

The plan’s guidelines include restrictions that apply to new HMO homes, also known as shared apartments or—not always accurately—college housing. Brighton and Hove town plan approved

Fry Electronics Team

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