Newsletter, January 2015
A happy and prosperous New Year to all of you.
Several of us recently went to see the waste incinerator in Newhaven. This follows on from a visit to the new waste water treatment plant in Peacehaven last year. We were all thoroughly impressed by the imagination and care that had been taken when designing the plant and the exacting standards that now apply to the entire process from delivering the waste (low air pressure within the reception hall that sucks in air when doors are opened to delivering lorries to avoid bad smells escaping) to the treatment of the flue gases with machinery that is as large as the incinerator itself. The official description of the plant is an ERF which stands for Energy Recovery Facility and the plant continuously produces some 16MW, sufficient for 10,000 homes from 210,000 tonnes of waste annually. That includes all the waste that we in Hove generate after recycling. The plant is laid out so that it could immediately deliver heat to surrounding businesses and housing if and when pipes are laid.
Both the Newhaven and Peacehaven plants show what good design can achieve. Incinerators are normally very bulky with a large cube containing the main plant, which can be seen for miles around. Here this has been sunk into the ground several levels down, resulting in a sleek organic form, which in my opinion, is by far the most interesting building in Newhaven.
The Peacehaven plant, with an equally difficult design challenge is now well hidden beneath the largest green roof in the UK. While the design is excellent, it is a shame that the waste heat generated at Newhaven is not used due to lack of piping infra-structure and possible takers. So one might argue that it represents yet another missed opportunity where we are jettisoning large quantities of heat, which could be used for heating homes and businesses saving a huge amount of fuel in the process.
We have argued this for a long while in relation to the Shoreham power station and we are pleased that there are now serious studies being undertaken to see how the new Edgeley Green Power station (a biomass burner), once built, can provide heat to surrounding businesses and residential areas. Of course we would like to see the waste heat potential of Shoreham power station to be studied in the same way. I wonder for how long we can politically tolerate a situation where waste heat that could heat up to a 100,000 dwellings is wasted in the sea while several parts of Brighton and Hove struggle with fuel poverty. Dealing with this challenge imaginatively could result in the largest single CO2 saving for the city region!
Talking about CO2 reduction, we are trying to make a small contribution ourselves through our street tree planting programme (Restoring our Victorian Street Tree Heritage). This year we have co-funded planting in Bigwood Avenue, which will take place in January. We are now looking at several suggestions for 2015 and have been approached by local residents and groups for schemes that potentially could amount to more than 100 trees. Our budget, based on current income would allow us to fund some 25 trees (including the matched funding) so it would be great to stock up our funds. I am very grateful to those members who generously give each year to make this programme possible. Please do join this effort – become a Tree Angel or Tree Cherub to help improve our environment in a lasting way.
In the rest of this newsletter you will find information about our position regarding city planning and the consequences of the Inspector’s report and our submitted sketch proposals for improvements to Church Road. I hope you enjoy these. Please continue to come along to our lectures and visits, and thank you again for your continued support.
With best wishes
Review of events
Our HCS programme for 2014-15 began in early September when members were invited to a reception in the Mayor’s parlour in appreciation of our contributions to the civic life of Brighton and Hove.
Councillor Brian Fitch and Mrs Norah Fitch could not have been more hospitable. They spoke of their work set in the context of their long-term knowledge of our city. This was exemplified by a very interesting tour of Brighton Town Hall. A large group of members then went out to dinner to celebrate the start of the new HCS season.
The AGM itself took place in October, starting with the Chair’s report and election of officers and committee members. The speaker, Tim Hague from the Shoreham Port Authority, gave a fascinating account of the developments planned in the area of the Port. They encompass facilities for light industry, business, leisure and housing. Tim explained how the Port has developed and how it will continue to do so. We have been invited to visit the Port sometime in the coming year.
Our November lecture, timed for the centenary of the start of WW1, gave us more insight into the experiences of the soldiers from the Indian sub-continent who made the journey from their homelands to the Western Front, some of whom were sent to The Royal Pavilion and Kitchener (now Brighton General) hospitals to recover from their injuries.
Davinder Dhillon, Chairman of the Chattri Memorial Group, explained the ethos within the Indian Army at the time of the Raj and the cultural influences that encouraged men to fight so far from home and then to face the appalling conditions and unfamiliar type of combat alongside soldiers from Britain and other countries of the Empire. Of the four men associated with Brighton or Hove who were awarded the Victoria Cross during WW1, one was Mir Dast, wounded at Ypres, who spent several months recovering in the Royal Pavilion and received his medal there from King George V. All four men are being commemorated in the city, and this has already been celebrated in the case of Theodore Wright who was born in Hove and received his VC in 1914.
In his introductory article our Chairman, Helmut Lusser, gives an account of our December tour of Veolia’s energy recovery facility in Newhaven. It is essential to know how our refuse is disposed of and the extent to which this is environmentally sustainable. However, far from listening to a mundane account, we were fascinated by the engineering and science that is entailed in the processes around the incineration of non-recyclable waste. We were also impressed by the design and engineering of the facility. We had many opportunities to ask questions and they were answered by some of the workers at their work stations within the site. We will try to organise visits to the other facilities that are constantly recycling and disposing of the waste we produce.
Coming up in 2015
Our spring series of lectures begins on 22nd January and further details are on the back page of this newsletter and on our website. We are looking forward to talks on Winchelsea, St Stephen’s Hall and the i360 development, plus our annual public discussion forum just in time for the May elections. There will also be some local visits in the summer, and I would welcome any suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07731 728878.
Vice-Chair and Lead on Planning and Events
HCS Planning Advisory Group
The Hove Civic Society Planning Advisory Group (PAG) is comprised of a nominal group of 4-5 committee members including the HCS Chairman and Vice-Chair. They review and track the Planning Applications listed weekly on the Brighton and Hove Council website to identify which applications are of interest to and in the purview of the Society.
The group is primarily concerned with medium to large scale construction or renovation projects which have an impact on the living conditions and environment of the residents of Brighton and Hove.
PAG looks at all projects consisting of 6 or more new residential accommodations, or which appear to present a significant change to the nature of the local surroundings, or contribute to improving cultural opportunities. These are reviewed to determine if HCS should comment to the Council, negatively or positively, on the desirability of the proposed alterations/expansions.
We tend not to comment on simple changes of use from office or warehousing to residential, as such changes currently constitute permitted development.
Using the current guidelines and objectives of the Council and the City Plan, the PAG seeks to provide or encourage input from concerned local organisations and residents to improve the quality of life, local experience and image of the area for local residents, businesses and visitors alike. This includes such issues as suggestions to include improvements to the artistic or environmental ambiance of the project sites.
For more details, please see the planning section of our website.
Bob Ryder, Planning Advisory Group
Spring supper at The Gallery
Looking ahead, members are invited to purchase tickets for what promises to be a fun-filled evening at the Gallery Restaurant on 22nd April.
Students from the highly acclaimed Brighton & Hove City College catering and hospitality courses will be on hand to serve you a tasty 3 course supper menu. This will be a marvellous opportunity to meet other HCS members and of course partners and friends are welcome too.
This is a fundraising evening with any profits going to support the Hove Plinth Sculpture initiative, and there will be an opportunity to view designs and hear about progress with the project.
We hope you will all sign up but as places are limited please act fast to avoid disappointment. Details of how to obtain tickets can be found here.
A message from the Membership Secretary
During the year we have been pleased to welcome new members and see them at our meetings. For longer standing members may I remind you that subscriptions for the current year were due on 1st January. Thank you to those who have already paid by Standing Order or sent cheques to the treasurer as well as those who have paid cash. If you do not pay by Standing Order I would ask that you consider this as it reduces the administration of the Society.
If for some reason you are not proposing to continue your membership (and I do hope this is not the case) please would you let me know by email to: email@example.com or calling 01273 417303.
Finally two points about e-mail. If you change your e-mail address or if you now have an e-mail address and would be happy to receive communications via this route please let me know.
Angela Turner, Membership Secretary
Planning in the city
The vexed task of reconciling all the conflicting opinions and ideas about planning our city has just become even more challenging. The Inspector, who had led the examination in public of the City Plan, threw down the gauntlet in July and threatened to instruct the council to withdraw the plan unless they made progress with the modifications, and in particular with their search for more housing land. After this, the Policy and Resources committee finally agreed in October that the modifications be put out for consultation. In a joint letter with the chairpersons of Regency Society and Brighton Society we had urged the leaders of the parties represented on the council to take this seriously and not to leave the city open to a situation where there were no policies and where any application for development, for any use in any situation, might have been possible.
So far so good – the consultation got underway and the responses will go directly to the Inspector. It will be her decision to decide whether to accept them or not, and then to pronounce on whether she finds the plan sound. Fingers crossed.
Having made a number of comments in the past, we also responded to the objections (posted on the website). We realise that the pressure for additional housing land won’t go away and that we therefore need to step up a gear in terms of making absolutely best use of land within the built up area. This is important not least to protect unplanned encroachment on the green areas between the National Park and the built up parts of the city. But it means several things which will be hard to swallow for many.
Firstly, we must make good use of sites that are coming up for development within the city – that means seeking to increase densities, perhaps adding a storey or two and being prepared to accept this. I know several of our members who would agree with me that we can build at higher densities as well as more imaginatively for all our benefit.
One of the things we should accept is that we could accommodate more housing, and arguably better housing environments, if we dedicated the space normally set aside for cars for green spaces, play areas etc. Car free housing is good for the city, provides more units and makes for a better living environment. We already have the lowest car ownership rate of any city in the UK and many people are very comfortable with not owning a car, but having access to one when they really need it, for example via the local car club.
Secondly, we should seek to eradicate artificial constraints on development which don’t necessarily contribute to a future better environment, but which act as comfort blankets for planners, politicians and local residents alike. I am referring to the high buildings policy, which is outdated and seems to reflect neither the city status nor the design opportunities in the city. I am also referring to the artificial constraints set out for change of use from office to residential, which I believe are outdated and don’t reflect the way people work these days. I am also referring to constraints such as the cliff height restriction, removed by the Inspector, for the Marina development. That particular policy could have scuppered the creation of some 1000 residential units – something the city can ill afford. In the modifications it was proposed to still leave a reference to the cliff height restrictions. We have objected to this. We believe that encouraging good design, even if at some points higher than the cliff face, is more important than a policy that will unnecessarily constrain height, might lead to uniform development and obstruct good design solutions for the site.
Thirdly, I believe that sooner or later there will need to be a plan for developing some more of the green lands between the built up areas and the National Park, but that this should be done in a master plan say for the next 30 years with all necessary infrastructure catered for. Otherwise we will have a gradual nibbling away at the edges resulting in very unsatisfactory land use patterns.
The consequences of the pressure on city planning can be handled in two ways. The current way where an unholy alliance of nimbyism, local politicians unable to lead and intimidated planners conspire to developments resulting in the lowest common denominator. This is not the way I believe to guide the city through the 21st century.
Alternatively, inspiration and imagination, using designs, places, spaces and roof-scapes that give meaning to the word city – that combine respect for our heritage with new forms and plenty of structural planting that makes for good urban living. For this we need leadership and boldness. The potential is endless – we just need to grasp it.
I always feel that many of the buildings we admire today would probably never receive planning permission with current prevailing attitudes. Pier – too obstructive of the views of the sea and too noisy – better placed in Dieppe. Pavilion – Indian style really doesn’t sit well with the surrounding idiom. Sussex Square – can’t just have facades.
The Inspector’s response to the City Plan has given us all a jolt – I hope for the better and that we now can move to a more imaginative way of using available land within the city to the benefit of all of us.
Public Sculptures of Sussex
Peter and Jill Seddon together with Anthony McIntosh have co authored a book on the public sculpture of Sussex which is now published and available. The book will be launched on Jan 23rd 6.30pm at the Unitarian Church in Brighton where it will be for sale at for £30, one third off the retail sale price.
The well known sculptor William Pye whose work is illustrated on the front cover will be present at the launch, and the authors will also sign any purchased copies. Peter and Jill Seddon are also core members of the Hove Civic Society Public Sculpture Group, contributing invaluable expertise to the Hove Plinth project.
The editor of the entire nationwide series on public sculpture describes this Sussex volume as follows: This is the seventeenth volume in the series the Public Sculpture of Britain, part of the PMSA National Recording Project, which will eventually cover the whole of the country. The introduction considers the ways in which the rural and urban landscapes of Sussex, from market town, rural village and country estate, to city, major seaside resort and new town development, are reflected in the county’s public sculptures. The historical period covered ranges from the allegedly pre-historic (the Long Man of Wilmington) to the present day (the most recent entry is Maggi Hambling’s The Resurrection Spirit, 2013). There is a high proportion of nineteenth- century sculptures, including significant works by John Flaxman, Michael Rysbrack, Frances Chantrey and John Edward Carew; the ‘statuemania’ that characterised the last part of this century is well illustrated by Thomas Brock’s imposing statue celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee on Hove seafront. The achievements of major twentieth and twenty-first century sculptors are represented by Elisabeth Frink and William Pye among others.
Many works from this period are the result of public art initiatives by local councils, often as part of more wide-ranging regeneration schemes for Sussex towns. The patronage of health authorities, influenced by new thinking about the calming and healing qualities of art in public places has also benefitted both local sculptors and those based elsewhere in the country. Each individual work is catalogued, with precise details of location, condition and history, including commissioning, opening ceremonies and re-siting. Most are individually illustrated in black and white. Biographies of local and less well-known sculptors, together with a selected bibliography are included at the end of the volume.
HCS members are very welcome to attend the book launch, RSVP here.
Our suggestions for Church Road
Members of our committee have studied Church Road in some detail, have jointly walked the street and observed the many problems and opportunities. As one of our members said: ‘this is our Oxford Street – it just needs to be improved’. We believe we need to give more space to pedestrians and cyclists and to create an environment which is attractive to residents, business and visitors alike.
We believe that Church Road would benefit from wider pavements, from substantial planting to create a boulevard effect, and we believe that the various access roads to the conservation areas on either side of Church Road need to be treated and planted up in a way befitting the very pleasing and homogenous buildings in the surrounding conservation areas.
During the summer we managed to get strong support from Mike Weatherley, MP and Hove councillors Graham Cox, Christopher Hawtree and Andrew Wealls for the ideas. Following this, we made a submission to the council to incorporate a scheme for Church Road into the next Local Transport Plan, which is due to commence in April 2015.
Whereas we don’t wish to be too specific at this stage there are a few components which we believe any scheme should include:
· Street tree planting along Church Road preferably with semi-mature trees at a good density to achieve a boulevard effect.
· Treating all the access points to roads off Church Road into the conservation areas with planting, landscaping and shared surfaces.
We think that the improvements should pay particular attention to the junction with Sackville Road, the entrance to Tesco (possible mini round-about), the egress from George Street onto Church Road (possibly wide pedestrian crossing to reflect desire lines) and the stretch outside the Town Hall, which needs a good design to go together with the refurbishment of the Town Hall. The proposal should link in with the minor improvements along the road already included in the Local Transport Plan.
We submitted a sketch design to the authority which we reproduce here together with some images. This is no more than a first set of ideas, which we urge the local authority to pick up and develop in full consultation with all local interests.