Monthly Archives: October 2016

Preston Park Hotel to be converted into flats

Preston Park Hotel

Preston Park Hotel

Brighton & Hove City Council has approved the plans after the owner said he could no longer compete with cut-price chains like Travelodge.

The planning committee unanimously agreed the building could be turned into 22 flats, nine of which will be affordable, and 23 parking spaces.

Directors at the hotel said the 34-bed venue is currently trading with “unsustainable” annual losses of up to £103,365 and has required capital injections of more than £53,000 per year continue trading.

Calls for further restrictions on student houses

From The Argus

Calls have been made for stronger restrictions to curb the rising number of shared houses after the high number of students in areas of the city reached “tipping point”.

Currently restrictions on new applications allow for ten per cent of homes in a 50 metre radius to be houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

But Conservative councillors have proposed to change this to 5 per cent in a 150 metre radius.

Meanwhile Labour councillors repeated calls at the full council meeting last night for business rates to be charged on HMOs while Greens called for any restrictions to be extended to holiday lets that operate for less than 140 days a year.

The discussion was sparked by a petition of almost 1,300 signatures from Bevendean local action team chairman Bill Gandy opposing rising HMOs in the ward.

His area has more than 25 per cent of properties being used as shared housing as the number grew before restrictions on new HMOs took effect.

The ward, which is off the main commuting route to both city universities, is home to 40 per cent of the city’s HMOs.

Mr Gandy told councillors of the devastating impact of the loss of balance between students and families in some streets detailing how residents woke in the morning to clear vomit and smashed vodka bottles off the street and tidy up bushes that had been jumped upon.

He said the area had reached its “tipping point”.

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald called on the universities to consider building their own student housing in neighbouring authorities in Lewes, Falmer and Newhaven.

Fellow Tory Joe Miller warned that waiting for tougher restrictions to be incorporated into the City Plan Part Two could take up to three years to come into effect.

He added there were dangers of creating a “ghost city” in summer months when students went home if the issue of HMOs was not curbed.

Labour councillor Tracey Hill said some HMO landlords had built up large portfolios of properties and should be treated as businesses.

But she confirmed that the council would not look to overturn the exemption of council tax for students which costs the authority around £5 million a year.

And she welcomed warnings from Conservative councillors Lee Wares and Andrew Wealls that charging business rates might force some HMO landlords to sell up freeing up properties that could return to family housing.

Her party colleague Mo Marsh said rising HMOs became a “self-fulfilling prophecy” as more families were forced out of their areas they had grown up in sell their homes paving the way for more shared homes.

Green councillor David Gibson said HMOs made up to 50 per cent of some streets in his Hanover and Elm Grove ward while his colleague Dick Page said the growth in students had been enormous in the city and measures to tackle the issue were a case of “chipping away at the iceberg”.

City centre traffic system to be revived

From The Argus

Previous images of how Valley Gardens could look as unveiled in 2015

Previous images of how Valley Gardens could look as unveiled in 2015

A controversial multi-million pound road scheme for the city centre is being brought back to life amid fears it will still cause traffic chaos.

The £18 million Valley Gardens scheme brought forward by the city council’s Green administration was put on hold when Labour came into power in May last year.

Now Labour has brought the proposals back having tweaked the original designs, but sources say the scheme will not improve traffic flow and could actually make it worse.

The plans to improve green spaces and cycle routes between the Brighton Palace Pier and St Peter’s Place would replace the one-way system with two two-way roads, one for public transport and the other for private vehicles.

One source said: “For residents of Brighton and Hove who don’t want anybody else to come here and don’t want to see the city grow, it’s great. For anybody else it will be a disaster.”

There are also fears that in working out traffic volumes for the new scheme, the council has only looked at traffic flow between Monday to Friday.

The source added: “When it’s the height of the tourism season, you get traffic queued from the pier all the way back to Pyecombe and it’s going to get worse if you’re cutting four lanes of traffic down to two.

“The scheme lacks common sense.”

Transport consultant in the city Mark Strong said some elements of the design still needed to be “ironed out”.

Becky Reynolds, chairwoman of Bricycles, said the cycling pressure group was in favour of the scheme.

Sources said the plans had changed little from the March 2015 designs, with the private-vehicle road on the east of the parks widening to two lanes at junctions to ease traffic flow.

But for a key stretch from North Road to Richmond Parade cars will still queue along a single lane of traffic each way – because the road could not be widened due to a desire to preserve the city’s beloved elm trees.

Brighton and Hove City Council did not confirm the methodology of the traffic modelling but Cllr Gill Mitchell, chairwoman of the environment, transport and sustainability committee said: “We’re discussing aspects of the project with stakeholder groups but no plans are finalised.”

She added: “All information upon which any decisions are taken will be made fully public. The overall purpose of the scheme will be to improve movement through the area.”

Interest groups, including transport companies, are currently being consulted on the updated plans, which will be revealed in a report to the city’s transport committee on November 29.

Work is not expected to begin until spring 2017 at the earliest.

Labour was forced to go ahead with the scheme because the Green administration had already secured £14 million funding for it.

valley-gardens_201016_620

LENGTHY WORKS TO BEGIN NEXT YEAR

ROADWORKS expected to last several months will start on a busy city centre shopping street next year.

A series of sections of North Street in Brighton are to be dug up and resurfaced after work carried out nine years ago unexpectedly deteriorated.

Brighton and Hove City Council is working with Southern Water to co-ordinate the programme of repair works to the road which is a key artery, especially for buses and taxis.

The roadworks are not expected to start until the new year but will take “a matter of months rather than weeks” according to an informed source.

The stretch of road was originally excavated in 2007 when Southern Water replaced around 400 metres of ageing Victorian water mains.

However, the passage of thousands of vehicles every day over the resurfaced road has eroded the surface which has, say the council “not proved to be as durable as was anticipated”.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, committee chairwoman for the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “We’re resolute that disruption will be kept to a minimum and that the necessary work is carried out as quickly and effectively as possible.

“A final approach and timetable is currently being discussed.

“We will share the detail of our plans with local businesses and other stakeholders for their feedback.

“During the works, Southern Water and the council will make sure we keep the public, local businesses and other stakeholders fully informed.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove city council stressed that the work would be carefully timetabled to fit with other developments and schemes including the significant changes to Valley Gardens.

Southern to restore full timetable by the end of October

From Brighton & Hove News

Train company Southern said that it would restore its full timetable by the end of the month.

But some Gatwick Express services up and down the Brighton mainline will be cut until December because of leaves on the line.

And the train journey times will be up to three minutes longer in the timetable to try to give more certainty to passengers, Southern said.

The pledge to restore services fully comes almost four months after the company cut 341 services as it wrestled with staff shortages, high rates of sickness and a long-running industrial dispute.

The dispute, with guards belonging to the RMT union, continues. Three more strikes are planned before Christmas.

Southern said that trains to, from and through Hove are among 34 West Coastway services due to be restored net Monday (24 October).

Click here for the full story.

 

£795m scheme for thousands of new homes and jobs

From The Argus

preston-circus-fire-station

Thousands of new homes and jobs could be created by a £795 million project.

Proposals to develop eight public sites across the Greater Brighton area are being drawn up following a successful bid for government funding.

The sites include fire stations, army barracks and hospital sites which could all be redeveloped for new homes and office space.

The programme to make more efficient use of public body land could net the region 2,815 new homes, almost 25,000 sqm of employment floorspace and more than 2,000 new jobs.

And further sites, projects and public funding of the scheme could all follow in further years.

The Greater Brighton Economic Board meeting on the 18th October was told the area had been one of 37 successful bidders to share £7.5 million of government funding to release land for regeneration projects and encourage public services to work together.

The scheme proposes to redevelop parts of Dyke Road Barracks, Preston Circus Fire Station, Brighton General Hospital and public offices in Moulsecoomb.

Also included in the scheme are the major development projects of Madeira Terraces and Preston Barracks.

Health services will be asked to share offices at Worthing Civic Centre to free up land for housing and emergency services will be brought together in Lewes to allow for the sale of Springman House to allow the wider regeneration of the town’s Northern Quarter.

Greater Brighton made an expression of interest to the programme in May alongside more than 100 councils and learnt earlier this month they will be awarded £597,000.

An initial bid of £735,000 was reduced on advice with a ninth project to redevelop land around Hove station pushed back until a later round of funding.

Efforts will now be made to record all land and property assets owned by Greater Brighton councils and public sector partners by the end of the year.

An East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said: “Work is being carried out to see how we can best use the space in Preston Circus Community Fire Station.

“It will continue to be a fully functioning fire station and operational capabilities will not change.

“Currently the top floor is not in use by the firefighters and other staff in the building.

“A feasibility study is underway and staff at the station have been involved in discussions around its future use.”

Fire Brigades Union rep Simon Herbert said: “Our main concern would be whether any development plans would impact operational responses from the station.

“That has been the concern with some of the plans that have come forward in the past.

“What we have seen so far, and there are a range of proposals which are not set in stone, is that they won’t impact the operational response.”

A proposal for Preston Circus, including the refurbishment of the existing operational areas to improve the building for staff, is set to go before East Sussex Fire Authority in the coming months.

POWERFUL TEAMWORK NEEDED TO MAKE PLANS A REALITY

THE £795 million One Public Estate project will call on the might of many public sector bodies to try to transform sites often eyed for development but seldom fulfilled.

Preston Circus Fire Station was subject to numerous plans which never left the drawing board with opportunistic eyes keenly observing the two under-used floors above the main fire station.

The Duke of York’s was among a number of suitors over the years while plans to convert the site into a supermarket surfaced around the time of plans to close the station back in 2009 were revealed.

The fire station has only grown in potential and attraction to developers with the continuing improvements to London Road though fire bosses are adamant that any development this time will be built around the existing firefighter operations.

Among the possible future uses on the table for Brighton General Hospital, the One Public Estate team proposes a new health and care campus with housing and a range of community uses.

The site is also one of two being considered by the University of Brighton for the new secondary free school for the city. Another site previously considered for a school but now included in the regeneration scheme is the Territorial Army barracks in Dyke Road.

Previously considered by the King’s School as a permanent home, it is now proposed to reduce the barracks to make space for a “mixed-use development”.

Some of the schemes included in the One Public Estate will already be familiar to readers, including the £30 million redevelopment of Madeira Terrace and long-mooted £150 million Preston Barracks scheme.

The estates project is also designed to squeeze the most out of existing public offices and encourage closer working between different bodies.

Emergency services in Lewes are set to come together with South East Coast Ambulance Service leaving Springman House which will be included in the £180 million North Street Quarter of 416 new homes, 140,000sqft of workspace, a health centre and new riverside walkways.

Emergency services are being brought together in ever increasing numbers, notably in Newhaven where police, fire and council all operate from the same £3 million site.

Meanwhile over in Worthing the creation of a new health hub bringing different teams under one roof is being planned to free parts of the civic centre site to be developed for housing.

More co-working is proposed in Moulsecoomb where youth services, library, council contact centre, The Bridge Community Centre and GP surgery could all be brought under one roof allowing for the potential sale of The 67 Centre, Hillview Contact Centre and Moulsecoomb Library.

EIGHT PUBLIC SITES SET FOR NEW HOUSING AND EMPLOYMENT DEVELOPMENTS

  • Worthing Civic Centre
  • Moulsecoomb Neighbourhood Hub
  • Dyke Road Barracks
  • Preston Barracks
  • Brighton General Hospital
  • Madeira Terrace
  • Preston Circus Fire Station
  • Springman House, Lewes

Harvest supper 2016

London Road Station Partnership Blog

our-harvest-2016-lIt’s been a good growing year this year: we had a wet and coolish early summer but this had the advantage of getting lots of moisture into our light chalky soil, and it was followed up by lots of sunny days in August and September. We’ve had lettuce and other greens from June, tomatoes and cucumber in the greenhouse and ripe courgettes in the plot since early July, onions harvested and hung at the end of July. More recently, we’ve been harvesting our apples and pears. I sowed rocket and green beans again towards the end of August, beginning of September and both have produced a harvest in October. We’ve also had several sowings of beetroot and the leeks we sowed in March. Above our final harvest: onions, chard, leeks, rocket, beans, tomatoes, pears and some very pretty flowers.

So our harvest supper this year was:

onionsElspeth’s Anglo-French onion soup – French-style…

View original post 310 more words

Council leader warns budget cuts will now start to bite on front-line services

From The Argus

Council leader Warren Morgan has warned the upcoming budget will mean cuts will “really start to bite” on front-line services.

Cllr Morgan spoke after his council reluctantly agreed to having their Government funding slashed by more than 80 per cent.

The four-year fixed funding settlement will see the council’s revenue support grant, a key source of council revenue, reduced from £33.1m to £6.5m by 2020.

It comes as councils across the country prepare to lose the grant but in return they could retain all of their business rates after 2020.

In theory, the move could eventually net the city council an additional £60 million annually but the Labour leader warned about the difficulties the council was facing in bridging the budget gap in the meantime and the uncertainty surrounding the plans.

He said the reform could lead to little net benefit because of a rates revaluation next year leading to increased appeals, a government promise of a full rebate for small and medium-sized businesses and further Treasury signals that more costs and responsibilities will be passed to councils.

But Conservative councillors said the business rates proposal, in exchange for the end of central government grants, would allow councils to become self-sufficient rewarding authorities that helped businesses to grow.

The settlement will see the revenue support grant drop from 15.8 per cent of net council spending in 2016/17 to 3.2 per cent by 2019/20.

While the grant reduction will result in a £4 million drop in total funding because of rising council tax and business rate receipts, Cllr Morgan warned rising demographic and inflationary pressures will cost the council £15 million a year.

He told The Argus “After six years of cuts by the Conservative government, this will be the year when cuts really start to bite on front-line services.

“What the council spends does not stand still.

“Our wage costs will grow we predict by around £10 million, our social care costs are increasing by far more than the rate of inflation or the money generated by the social care precept.”

Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said the move towards 100 per cent business rate retention was the key to the council becoming financially self-sufficient.

He added: “Our challenge is to ensure that we are a business friendly city with a well-trained workforce, and world-class infrastructure to attract inward investment.”

His party colleague Andrew Wealls added: “I’m confident that, even with an equalisation process, the government will want to reward cities which respond by building up business in their areas. That’s the whole point.”

Green councillor Ollie Sykes said: “I don’t we should take acceptance of this paper as acceptance of the policy that lies behind it, the catastrophic policies of this government and previous governments in robbing local authorities of the lifeblood of their public services.”