Monthly Archives: October 2015

Council officials back £61k loan to save Open Market

From Brighton & Hove News

Council officials are backing a request for a £61,000 loan to save the Open Market in Brighton.

The money has been requested by the Open Market Community Interest Company (CIC).

The Open Market CIC board includes traders and representatives of Brighton and Hove City Council, the Ethical Property Company (EPC) and Hyde Housing.

Hyde redeveloped the site and represents people living around the market. Ethical runs the market on a five-year contract.

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A report to the council’s Policy and Resources (P&R) Committee said that members could opt to do nothing but “this would result in the CIC becoming insolvent within the next two months”.

The market reopened in June last year but has had higher running costs than expected. These include a bigger bill for business rates which will be the subject of an appeal.

The report, by project manager Richard Davies, recommends that the council waives the Open Market’s business rates bill between now and March.

He said: “In certain limited situations, hardship relief can be granted to ratepayers.

“The council has agreed that exceptional circumstances apply in this case and that the conditions are met for some temporary help with hardship relief.

“The charge will be reduced to zero for the period October 2015 to March 2016.

“This is worth £15,530 (for the main liability of the temporary stalls), around half of which is funded by central government and the other half by the local authority.

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“The Business Rates Team has stressed that this is exceptional, based on the merits of the individual case.

“Further, they say that the award is conditional upon the (CIC’s) Recovery Plan resulting in an ability to pay the rates from April 2016.

“One of the requirements for hardship relief is that making an award is in the interests of local council tax payers.

“And it would not be in their interest if there is no likelihood of recovery, and therefore self-sufficiency, in the near future.”

At the CIC’s annual general meeting on Monday (26 October) the board refused to sign off the annual report and accounts.

Criticisms were made of the Ethical Property Company and what it was doing under its contract to manage the market.

Traders pay almost £16,500 a month in rent – or almost £200,000 a year – and more for services. They questioned whether they were getting good value from Ethical.

The Recovery Plan includes measures to ensure “greater efficiency” from Ethical.

The plan said: “EPC will continue to review management costs to ensure that these are minimised while delivering all of its responsibilities in managing the market.”

It also said: “The CIC board to review existing management contract with EPC as part of the Recovery Plan.”

Councillor-Kevin-Allen

Councillor Kevin Allen

Councillor Kevin Allen, who stepped in as interim chair of the CIC board, said that the AGM had been an opportunity to clear the air and added: “I feel confident that we’ve turned a corner.”

He said that he was determined to open up the CIC so that there was greater transparency.

And he added that the CIC needed new independent directors, preferably with expertise in accountancy or marketing.

Councillor Allen asked the council leader Warren Morgan to include the loan request on the agenda for the Special P&R Committee meeting which is taking place at Portslade Town Hall on Wednesday (4 November).

Mr Davies, in his report to the committee, concluded: “The CIC is in the early stages of its operation as a new business.

“If the immediate cash flow problems can be addressed by way of the requested loan there is the opportunity to implement the Recovery Plan and improve the financial position of the CIC and the long-term future of the market.”

He recommended that the committee approve the loan.

Plans for West Street to become like La Rambla in Barcelona

From The Argus

imgID43725289 One of the most run-down parts of the city could be transformed into Brighton’s answer to La Rambla as part of a regeneration masterplan.

The newly unveiled plan would transform “tacky” West Street – currently a magnet for antisocial behaviour and blighted by “awful buildings” – into a Barcelona-style walkway including hotels, a restaurant, trees and street furniture.

Developers hope the development could act as a catalyst for further regeneration of the area, and coincide with the much-mooted Standard Life redevelopment of Churchill Square, as well as the £9 million rebuilding of Shelter Hall on the seafront.

Under the proposals, 78 West Street, formerly Hedkandi and Tru nightclub, and 79 West Street, currently Walkabout, Smart Brighton Beach and Backpackers Hostels, will be replaced with new hotels and a ground floor area spanning between 78 West Street and 7-8 Middle Street, including a hotel reception and high quality restaurant.

The eyesore former nightclub will be replaced by a modern building “reminiscent of the original Victorian dancehall”.

Another building will replace a former hotel on Middle Street, which currently towers over the synagogue and other neighbouring listed buildings and its graffitied front will be rebuilt and opened up.

Meanwhile “unattractive, unlit” South Street will be made into a safe secondary thoroughfare, with entrances and windows to the new hotel and a small block of four apartments.

Architect Morgan Carn Partnership is also behind the recently approved Hanningtons Lane, Puget’s Lane and Brighton Square plan to regenerate The Lanes and North Street.

John McLean, director at Morgan Carn, said: “This is tremendously exciting for our city, West Street is a huge disappointment and lost opportunity.

“Thousands of visitors and local residents flock to the seafront from the station and their first impression is an inhospitable, car dominated street spoilt by some awful buildings.

“West Street suffers from a tacky image and many of the current uses are a magnet for antisocial behaviour, with the dead frontages created by the nightclubs and amusement arcades contributing nothing to the quality of the public realm.

“This is the primary route between the station, seafront and the eagerly awaited i360 and should be Brighton’s equivalent of the Rambla in Barcelona, a wonderful, vibrant, tree lined avenue with street performers and alfresco dining, an attraction in itself.

“We are hoping to upgrade the pavements and introduce trees and street furniture as part of the proposals and encourage neighbouring landowners to do the same.”

Geoffrey Springer, director at developer London & Regional, said: “The proposed development will bring a disused and semi-derelict site back into occupational use, generating jobs, enhancing the appeal of the Old Town to tourists and creating economic and physical regeneration in the heart of Brighton. We want to ensure that we deliver the very best development, as Brighton deserves.”

Afshin Foulad, director at Smart Space, said: “This is a burning aspiration that we have been working towards since our acquisition of the site and we hope will provide a catalyst for the future enhancement of West Street and the Old Town. We look forward to discussing our ideas with local stakeholders and the general public in due course.”

STREET PERFORMERS AND AL FRESCO CAFÉS

The Argus: La Rambla. PA Photo/© Turisme de Barcelona

The long tree-lined pedestrianised area of La Rambla in central Barcelona, pictured, is popular with tourists for its shops, street performers and al fresco cafes.

Like West Street, La Rambla is next to the city’s historic quarter.

The Barri Gòtic – or Gothic Quarter – is the centre of the old city of Barcelona.

The Barri Gòtic is a labyrinth of lanes with small squares and streets, many of which connect onto the Rambla.

The West Street comparison with La Rambla was made by Morgan Carn architects as a possible blueprint for how Brighton’s rundown party street could be moulded.

But while the vibrant Spanish stretch, with its gradual descent towards the seaside, might sound like a good model, not everything is rosy on La Rambla and current comparisons with West Street could also be made.

The Catalan city is expecting nine million visitors this year, a similar number to Brighton’s own 8.5 million visitors a year – but with most concentrated into small areas of Barcelona. With cheap flights, a weak Euro and the rise of Airbnb, Barcelona is one of the number one party weekend city destinations in Europe.

But locals are increasingly fed up with the influx of party goers, and coupled with rising costs, the issue is forcing people from their homes.

Protesters have demanded an end to “drunken tourism” and the city’s newly leftwing elected mayor has suggested a possible cap on the number of visitors.

As well as being the scene of the drunken antics of hen and stag parties – not unlike West Street – La Rambla is also known for rampant pickpocketing, sex workers and football brawls.

Hollingdean Community Information Evening

Community Info evening. Come along and find what is happening in Hollingdean – road safety, improvement to the park and skatepark, Popup café plus lots more info.

6.00 for nibbles and start at 6.30.

It will be helpful if you can let me know if you are coming – wouldn’t want to run out of nibbles and wine. elizabethlee@trustdevcom.org.uk

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Uber granted licence for one year

From Brighton and Hove News

Taxi app Uber has been granted a licence to operate private hire vehicles in Brighton and Hove for one year.

The company wanted a standard five-year licence but will have to show that it will obey the rules and meet the standards set out in the Blue Book.

The Blue Book is the rule book for taxi and private hire drivers and firms licensed by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Uber was told the verdict on Friday 23 October – four days after a licensing panel heard from the company and from objectors at a hearing at Brighton Town Hall.

Objectors said that the company would not be competing on a level playing field but it said that it would obey the same rules as everyone else.

It now has a year to show that it’s true to its word.

Free Dr Bike and Playing Out chat

From Simon Hickmott

We’ve our last, free ‘Dr Bike’ session on Saturday 24th October 11.00 – 1.00pm at Hollingdean Community Centre, Thompson Road.  Bring your bike for advice on any problems and get some light maintenance by the professionals “Bike For Life South”.  Free hi-viz vests too to help you be seen in the dark, as the clocks go back.

On 19 Nov at 3.15 -4.00pm, at Moulsecoomb Primary School there’s chat about how to set up ‘Playing Out’ in your street, with a local mum who has organised these informal play sessions with temporary street closures.

Best wishes

Simon Hickmott
Transport Planning Officer – Personalised Travel Plans
Transport Planning, Brighton & Hove City Council
Hollingdean Community Centre, Thompson Road
Hollingdean, Brighton BN1 7BH
Email: Simon.Hickmott@brighton-hove.gov.uk
Tel: 01273 290498 Mobile: 07876 394 865
www.brighton-hove.gov.uk

Open Market traders critical of management.

From The Argus

Brighton Open Market traders say they should be free to run the flagship regeneration site themselves amid concerns raised about its current management.

Traders have lost confidence in managers Ethical Property and said the market would operate better without them.

The call comes after Ethical applied for a £61,000 loan from Brighton and Hove City Council without traders’ knowledge and the traders voiced their unrest at the meeting.

The site’s developers Hyde Martlet, who retain the freehold for the market and have a representative on the market’s community interest company board, have been criticised for their running of the site.

Stall holder Pat Mears, who first worked at the market in 1957, said traders were confused over why the enterprise was in financial trouble.

He said a business case for success had been based on 75 per cent occupancy, which had been exceeded, and had not accounted for traders hiring stalls in the centre of the market, which have also been popular.

He said that instructions from Hyde that the market could not receive deliveries before 9am on Saturdays had driven away customers who previously made early morning visits before parking charges started.

He said: “We have to get rid of Ethical, we have no confidence in how they are managing it.

“I can’t see the sense of giving them £61,000 to put it into a pot that has a hole in it.

“It should be the market traders who run it, we have people who have the experience and are good enough to run it.”

Fellow trader Mohammed Asaduzzaman said he was doubtful of the success of any recovery plan that came on condition of a council loan as it involved further expenditure rather than cost cutting or reduction in management fees.

He said: “We want to see changes to the CIC, it’s not run for the interests of the market traders, and we want it to be more transparent.

“We want to see where the money is being spent.”

Councillor Mary Mears, a former chairwoman of the Open Market Traders, said: “In the old market, it was the traders who made the decisions.

“They absolutely need to be at the forefront of making decisions, it’s their livelihoods.

“I don’t understand why Ethical need so many people to run the market, it’s just adding to the costs.”

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “The market traders vote for three of themselves to be representative members of the CIC and these three also sit as directors on the CIC board.

“They engage and oversee the managing agents and along with the other directors are responsible for the management and ownership of the market.”

Brighton and Hove cabbies cheered by Uber ruling

From Brighton & Hove News

The Uber app court ruling on Friday 16 October is a victory in London but could mean defeat in Brighton on Monday 19 October.

Some Brighton and Hove cabbies were cheered by the news which could lift the threat of what is regarded by many as unfair competition.

The High Court ruled that the Uber app was not a taxi meter. Only black cabs can use meters in London. Private hire operators are not allowed to use them.

But in Brighton and Hove the rules are that private hire operators must use a meter.

On Monday a Brighton and Hove City Council licensing panel will hear Uber’s application for a private hire operator’s licence.

There have been suggestions among some taxi and private hire drivers that the council lacks the stomach for a fight with Uber.

But the council has pointed out that the only ground for declining a licence is if the applicant is not a fit and proper person.

And despite various criticisms of the way that Uber does business, it could not reasonably be called out on this criterion.

However, the High Court ruling today undermines a key element of Uber’s application in Brighton and Hove.

The American online firm already operates in Birmingham and Manchester.

National Community Rail Awards 2015

London Road Station Partnership Blog

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We were delighted that London Road Station’s underpass mosaic was nominated for a national Community Rail Award in the ‘working with young people’ category. As nobody from Albion in the Community could attend, I went along to the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) award ceremony in Torquay to represent London Road Station. The weather was glorious, and the train journey from Exeter to Torquay down the River Exe along the coast at Dawlish and then alongside the River Teigne has got to be one of the most beautiful in the country.

As things turned out, the mosaic project didn’t win an award, but other Southern stations did: Purley got second prize for its mural, Hassocks came second in the most enhanced station buildings category and Southern Railway got third prize for its ‘This is Me’ campaign highlighting passengers’ individual needs.

P1030019As part of the evening, we were given some very silly things to do such…

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Objections made to Uber’s application to operate taxis in Brighton and Hove

From Brighton & Hove News

A catalogue of strong objections have been made to a bid by the smartphone app Uber to operate taxis in Brighton and Hove, despite concerns the company could sue the city council if it is rejected.

A Brighton taxi by Mic on FlickrEstablished taxi firms say Uber’s record of employing uninsured drivers, intimidation and touting at Gatwick Airport, no way of requesting a wheelchair friendly car, raising prices during crises including a terror attack and tax dodging makes them unfit to hold the licence.

But the licensing panel, which will consider the application next Monday, has been cautioned not to rely on hearsay when deciding whether to approve it.

And a mystery objector, whose name has been redacted, warns that now taxi operators are able to serve customers outside the authority which issued their licence, Uber will simply be able to bypass Brighton and Hove City Council in any case.

The report to the committee makes it clear that officers do not have enough experience with applications from online operators to be able to make a firm recommendation.

However, it makes it clear that a taxi operator is a position of responsibility, as they are privy to information such as when houses are left empty or when older children might be left alone.

It said: “It is therefore vital that operators are as trustworthy and reliable as a driver, notwithstanding their slightly remote role. There is no reason why a condition cannot be imposed on the PHO licence requiring them to undertake checks (for instance enhanced DBS checks and training) on those they employ/use within their company to satisfy themselves that they are fit and proper people to undertake that task, and retain that information that they obtain to demonstrate that compliance to the local authority.”

The report then says concerns about how Uber has operated in Europe and the USA cannot be taken into account, as there are different laws there. It notes Transport for London’s high court case over whether the smartphone app can be considered a taximeter, which are prohibited in private hire vehicles in London.

However, Brighton and Hove makes meters a requirement of a private hire vehicle licence, so if the High Court rules the app is a meter, this could be a sticking point.

In respect of concerns over Uber’s tax arrangements, it says HMRC is satisfied so that cannot be taken into account.

It says there is not enough firm evidence of allegations of nuisance at airports to affect the application. Likewise, allegations of data protection breaches appear without any hard evidence, although it would be legitimate to question Uber about them.

And it does say Uber would need to demonstrate it had a robust method for checking drivers are insured, and that the question of providing wheelchair accessible vehicles can be raised, although new operators generally don’t have to provide them until they have a sizeable fleet.

It warns: “Many allegations have been made, but it is important to differentiate those that relate to matters abroad and are often multiple hearsay and those within a domestic environment. Within the domestic environment, much again is hearsay and should be treated with extreme caution. It is noted that TFL and numerous other local authorities have licenced Uber.

“This would suggest (but is not definitive) that they have not uncovered any concerns about the operating company that would mean that they are not fit and proper.

“Given that all English authorities licence using the same basic principles, this has to be noted if we are to look at Uber in its widest context.”

Dave Smith, chairman of Brighton and Hove Streamline, pointed out apparent double standards in terms of regulations his taxi company is required to comply with which he believes the council is considering waiving for Uber.

He said: “A fit and proper person would recognize the role of livery, the need to comply with equality/disability requirements, data protection and criminal checks and would explain to you how they have dealt with or intend to deal with such issues.

“Uber has not confronted these concerns and cannot answer these criticisms. If they are unaware of these concerns or have chosen to ignore these concerns, they are not a fit or proper person to hold an operator’s licence.”

He added: “In your briefing document you suggested that the financial clout of Uber could result in expensive litigation but at that stage you should get legal advice and until such application is determined the Magistrates Court to which Uber would need to appeal should be a no costs forum.”

Coun Mary Mears also wrote to object, saying: “Serious concerns have also been raised regarding equalities, practically for disable users. Uber do not regard themselves as a Taxi company and refer to themselves as a third party taxi booking service.

“They state they are NOT a “transport provider.” They are in fact a phone app. If CCTV data from Uber vehicle is required (a condition of licensing under Brighton and Hove) how will this data be collected?

“I do understand concerns raised by local authorities, as Uber is owned by a multi-million pound company, and the threat of being sued is a real concern, but I feel as a council our duty is to protect the most vulnerable, by refusing a license.”

Letters were also received from Andy Cheesman of City Cabs, the Licensed Private Hire Cars Association and GMB.

However, a letter whose sender has been redacted, as they fear “intimidation and bullying … by the [taxi] cartel” dismisses all the concerns, saying they’re either misplaced or can be addressed in licence requirements.

They add: ” Only a fool will believe that Uber will pack up their bags and go away should the council reject their application. Instead they will try and license in Lewes, in Adur, in Mid-Sussex, or possibly them all.

“They will get a local license to operate somewhere, and that will leave the local B&H trade and the council with the worst possible outcome. In respect of the trade, we will see yet more local Brighton and Hove work being lost to vehicles licensed elsewhere.

“That work which would have gone to Brighton and Hove licensed vehicles will instead be given (quite legally) to non Brighton and Hove licensed vehicles and drivers. I’m frankly amazed the likes of the GMB don’t understand that obvious outcome should the council reject the Uber application.

“But it’s not just the Brighton and Hove drivers that would lose out, the council itself will be left with a situation of dozens of Uber vehicles working the city with the council unable to check or enforce any of them. Is that really what we want?

“Do the council really want residents and visitors of our city being told ‘it’s nothing to do with me’ should they wish to make a complaint to B&H council about a Uber vehicle? Is this what any of us want post Rotherham?”

Fiveways parking consultation results.

The results of the Fiveways parking consultation have been published, you can view them and supporting documents under item 23 here.

In brief, the intention is to create a new controlled parking zone around Fiveways, bounded by Hollingbury Park Terrace, Hollingbury Terrace, Hythe Road, and extending north to include Osborne Road. The relevant map is Enc. 2 under item 23.

It is envisaged that the scheme will operate Mon-Sun, 9am – 8pm in this area and will be subject to statutory consultation. Free, limited stay bays will replace the pay and display bays by the shops on Preston Drove.