Newsletter, May 2015

Chairman's letter

Dear Members,

Once a year we try to have a debate about some key issue which affects all of us living and working in Hove (and Brighton). This year we invited three of the local parliamentary candidates - Graham Cox, Christopher Hawtree and Peter Kyle - to debate the issue of affordable housing and energy. We had a superb introduction to the issue by Andy Winter, the well known Chief Executive of Brighton Housing Trust and also by Kyla Ente, the Chief Executive of the Brighton and Hove Energy Services Company (BHESCo). A vigorous debate of almost two hours ensued and in spite of the length there was much praise for the quality and interest of the debate afterwards. You will find more information about BHESCo and a summary of Andy Winter’s contribution later on in this newsletter.

The essence of his contribution is that we need more housing, much more housing, but that we need somehow to manage the access to that housing if it is going to benefit those who need it most. This is a huge and complex issue and much of it can only be controlled by central government action. What can be done locally at the moment is largely confined to the supply side and Andy’s call for build, build, build would need a fairly fundamental shift in attitude locally, in the Town Hall and in the minds of both councillors and officers.

As I have said many times before we are missing many opportunities and inward investments into the city. This is not least because of an over-cautious approach by planners fired on by an extremely vociferous opposition to virtually any new development in the city. The debate over the City Plan, which has been raging now for several years (and where the inspector now has called for yet more submissions to be with her by the 13th May) demonstrates how emotional the debate has become. I am sure that the inspector will be less than impressed by the Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for an urban fringe development in the Rottingdean / Ovingdean area.

Our planning advisory group tries to keep a cool head in all this and since the last newsletter we have commented in favour of the proposed Medical Centre at Holy Trinity Church, the proposal to provide an access to the new Hannington Development at 15 North Road and the two proposed wind turbines at Shoreham harbour. We have also urged the Council to reject the proposal at Goldsmith Lane, as we believed it constituted underdevelopment, the proposal to change from offices to residential at 136-140 Old Shoreham Road as we did not believe that the proposed residential units would be fit for purpose and the renewal of planning permission for the Brighton Ferris Wheel as we believe the temporary permission granted for this development was intrinsically linked to the i360 and was to be dismantled once the i360 was ready for business. We try to post the letters of support or objection on our website for members to read.

There has been some very good news that I would like to share with you:

We have finally managed to make a breakthrough in terms of securing funding for the Hove Plinth. Following hot on the heels of an Arts Council Grant, we have now also had a pledge to construct the foundation and core of the Plinth. Together with some additional pledges on the engineering side and founder and founder members pledges we have now managed to raise some £55,000. It seems as we are not just in the foothills, but have climbed half the mountain towards our funding target. There is a detailed account of where we are going next later on in this newsletter.  By the time you read this we should have received proposals for the first sculptures for the Plinth and be busy preparing a shortlist. All this would not have been possible without the incredible effort by the sculpture group.

Our proposal to improve Church Road has now been included in the Local Transport Plan 4, which had full Council blessing in April. Although it is unlikely that anything will happen in 2015/6 we will be pushing for work on the scheme to start soon afterwards. A big thank you to Mike Weatherley and our local councillors for supporting the idea.

Finally, we are now working with residents in Shakespeare and Coleridge Street to raise funds for street tree planting there. We have also received a small grant from West Hove Forum and will work with them to develop a planting scheme for Portland Road. If successful, this could be our largest scheme so far.

It always strikes me that there is so much scope to do things locally, which can be achieved given enthusiasm and dedication and a little bit of funding. The more we are the more we can achieve – so please join in our efforts.

With best wishes

Helmut Lusser

 

Hove is where the art is

2015 is all set to be another year of exemplary quality and variety from our award winning artists in Hove Arts.

Stunning exhibitions, working studios and curated shows provide inspiration and delight for all ages, and children's interaction with the arts is encouraged with the Hove Trotter Children's Passport.

We are open weekends and both Bank Holidays in May and are thoroughly looking forward to another fantastic year of exhibiting in delightful homes, gardens, studios, workshops, a gallery and even a hotel.

Look out for the Hove Arts banners outside each venue and welcome in!

 

A message from the Membership Secretary

Subscriptions: Thank you to everyone who has paid this year’s subscription to Andrew. If you have not done so, and I know how easy it is to forget, please could you do so as soon as possible? If you do not yet pay by Standing Order please consider it as then you do not have to remember!  If for any reason you are discontinuing your membership (I hope that will not be the case) please would you let me know at angelahamish@btinternet.com   or 01273 417303.

E-mail addresses: If you have an e-mail address and are happy to receive communications from us in that way and have not given it to me please send it to me at angelahamish@btinternet.com. If you are not receiving communication from me via e-mail and have given us an address please send me another e-mail as it may be that I do not have a correct address for you as several are sometimes ‘delivery failed’. If you have changed your e-mail address, please let me know so that I can update my system.

 

Big steps forward for the Hove Plinth Sculpture Project

Exciting progress has been made on the Hove Plinth project, bringing us ever closer to our goal of establishing new sculpture on the seafront.

We are very pleased to report that the Arts Council /National Lottery approved a grant of £10,000 to help fund our call to artists for sculpture proposals. This support is particularly valuable, in part because it helps promote confidence in the project and our ability as an organisation to carry it out.

Contributions and pledges from the public total over £10,000 so far and we plan to appoint a fundraising volunteer to help generate further investment.

We are also thrilled to announce that a local  company has pledged to undertake the basic construction of the Plinth pro bono, which will be worth £24,000 in kind. This gives the project a significant boost and we are very grateful for the support. We are already receiving engineering consultancy from another local firm with a pledge to continue - this will amount to approximately £9,000 in kind.

So a big thanks to all who have contributed so far!

There is a long way to go and you can all be part of this amazing project by donating at:   www.justgiving.com/hovecivicsociety 

All contributions are welcome! And don’t forget to tick the gift aid box if you are a UK tax payer, as it will add another 25% to your gift. There is also opportunity to become a founder member and / or to sponsor particular aspects of the project. Please contact karin@hovecivicsociety.org.uk if you want to discuss this.

We are now looking for sponsorship of £42,000 for the stone work and cladding. This needs to be very high quality and we are using Romanstone, a limestone similar to Portland Stone and suitable for a marine climate. We are also looking for sponsorship for broadband cabling (£7,500), cabling for power supply (£6,000), installation of lighting (£7,000) and landscaping (£3,000).

A specific appeal for contributions to sculptures will go out in the summer, once we have chosen the first sculptures to go on the Plinth.

The call to artists to submit their sculpture proposals went out in March, which was widely reported in the press, including BBC South East, Latest TV, The Argus and Brighton & Hove Independent. It was great to see such positive coverage and involvement of the local community in publicising the next stage of the project.

Information about the artists’ brief has been sent out to numerous arts organisations, from the Royal British Society of Sculptors to the Brighton & Hove Art Commission. Artists had until 4th May to enter their proposals and we will choose a shortlist of ten from those submitted.

Exhibitions to display the shortlisted sculpture proposals will take place at Jubilee Library from 8th-13th June and Hove Central Library from 15th-20th June. We are also planning a weekend exhibition on the seafront, at the planned site of the plinth 20th-21st June. These exhibitions will enable the public to get involved in the discussion, and contribute to the decision on which sculptures will finally be commissioned for the Plinth. Our selection panel will meet at the end of June to make the final selection of three sculptures and to commission small scale models (maquettes) of these.

We have also been working with students at the University of Brighton’s Digital Media Art course regarding the digital capabilities of the Plinth, and they have now come up with an excellent range of technological possibilities for us to explore - watch this space.

We are very much looking forward to the next phase of the project and would like to thank everyone for their continuing support.

Karin Janzon

 

Build, build, build

There are few who would deny that we have a housing crisis unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetimes.

In Brighton and Hove, house prices are ten times the average income which increasingly excludes people on middle incomes from the city. The City Plan identifies just 13,200 new homes to the year 2030 against a housing need of 24,000. In 2013 rents went up five times faster than salaries.

Brighton and Hove is one of the top ten areas for house prices in the UK. The average rent is beyond the reach of anyone on benefits. The average one bed flat is now £850 per month, while the Local Housing Allowance (the amount that housing benefit will pay for such a property) is £612.

Shelter says that just 0.1% of homes in Brighton and Hove are affordable to first time buyers and in the south east, only three out of every 100 homes on the market are affordable for a single person on an average wage. Four out of five homes for sale in the south east are unaffordable for a couple without children on average wages.

This isn’t a new issue, but the problem is now worse than ever.

I want to focus on three issues:

· The requirement to build, build, build.

· The economic consequences of this crisis. 

· A personal view about one way to stop the crisis getting worse.

Build, build, build

In a recent debate on housing broadcast on BBC Sussex one contributor asked: “Who will have the guts to build on the greenfield?”

Of course people are concerned about the countryside, and people like me can be accused of wishing to concrete over the south east. In case we forget, all developed areas were once countryside but were developed to meet housing need.

If you have ever flown into Gatwick, you can’t have failed to notice the number of golf courses in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Kent. The defence of the countryside is often more about protecting golfers!

89% of land in England and Wales is still green, completely undeveloped. If we developed all the homes we need to meet current need, and then did the same again, more than 88% of England and Wales would still be green.

Of course we must build on brownfield sites, but they are just a small part of the answer.

I would want to qualify my call to build, build, build: I have no interest in building more homes for the DfL’s – those moving Down from London. And I think the increasing practice of Buy to Leave (where investors leave homes empty before profiteering from increases in capital values) is an abomination and should be outlawed.

I would want to see 80% of new build homes reserved for rent. The scale of the crisis requires extraordinary measures and incredible courage by politicians.

Economic Consequences

There are tens of billions of public subsidy going into housing, mainly into paying for housing benefit, the Right to Buy, and Help to Buy.

The majority of public subsidy used to go in investment into bricks and mortar, thereby allowing social rents to be changed while an asset was created for current and future generations.

That changed in the early 1990s when councils were no longer allowed to develop and housing associations had to rely increasingly on private finance. The subsidy moved from investment to ongoing revenue support, year in year out.

It was an economically illiterate decision which was not reversed by the later Labour government and accelerated by the Coalition government. We are paying the price today.

In 1991/92, the housing benefit bill was £8.6 billion.  By 2012/13 it was £21.5 billion and will increase to over £25 billion unless there is great vision and incredible courage by our politicians.

It will require borrowing, something most politicians will not consider. A survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), published in April, found that 54% of adults in England would support government borrowing to fund more affordable homes for people to buy or rent. Only a fifth (21%) were opposed.

How to stop the situation getting worse

We must end, not extend, the Right to Buy.  It does not address housing need. It sees a reduction in social housing numbers. It benefits those who are already well-placed. It could cost up to £11.6 billion according to the National Housing Federation.

The Right to Buy doesn’t help private renters. 

It doesn’t help people on council waiting lists.

It doesn’t help young people living with their parents. It does nothing to address affordability. The £11.6 billion subsidy could achieve so much more.

57% of voters think that extending the Right to Buy to housing association tenants is the wrong priority. This includes 44% of Conservative votes, according to a poll carried out in April by YouGov. 

The large housing associations are doing little to provide homes for rent. In fact, housing associations are planning to develop less than 20 homes in Brighton & Hove at social rent levels in the next 3 years.

That is a scandal and must change.

We need politicians with vision and courage who will build, who will invest in house building, and who will end the Right to Buy.

Andy Winter, Chief Executive, Brighton Housing Trust

 

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) was formed two years ago to fulfil a need in our community for affordable heat and electricity from a trustworthy source. 

BHESCo project manages the installation of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems for businesses, charitable societies and public buildings across the city. Because we are an independent, not for profit society, we give impartial advice, providing a valuable service as intermediary between the end customer and the supplier that optimizes value received for money spent in everything we do.

After two years of work in the community, working with neighbourhood groups developing projects, studying the feasibility of the different types of technologies available for both renewable energy and energy efficiency systems, including programmes to combat fuel poverty, we have launched a fund raising drive to finance the construction of our first projects. 

These projects will include some of the technologies that are well suited for our built environment including solar electricity (photovoltaics, or PV), biomass (wood pellet fuel), heat pumps, insulation, for cavity walls, external walls and internal walls, and low energy lighting projects. Our investment criteria is that they must deliver savings, or a net benefit (both economic and social) to the customer over their useful lives.

We are continually investigating the benefits of other technologies such as micro-wind, bore holes and combined heat and power in district heating.

Having a local community energy group to act as an intermediary on behalf of the customer yields benefits in terms of quality assurance, optimizing power generation and conservation, after sales care and customer service. Members of our co-operative may receive this service at a discounted price. 

Residents of Brighton & Hove who are attracted to the idea of generating their own energy, creating their own power supply and therefore, having more control over their energy costs over time may contact us to see how we can help. 

Some of the other benefits of being a member is that BHESCo can recommend local installers, monitor costs and optimise investment performance.

At present, BHESCo does not manage domestic projects, however, we can help our customers achieve better economies of scale by joining people up with their neighbours in a buyers club model. 

For more information, please contact us :

Website: www.bhesco.co.uk

Phone: 01273 737080

Email: info@bhesco.co.uk

Twitter: @bhenergyservice 

Facebook: BHESCo

 

Blue plaques in Brighton and Hove

I have the pleasure of representing Hove Civic Society on the City’s Blue Plaques panel. We consider applications and the research supporting them. The Council funds one plaque a year (£1000); others are funded by the applicants. The Regency Society has a Blue Plaques trail leaflet available.

These most recently unveiled plaques are very diverse.

St Mary’s Hall in Eastern Road, Kemp Town was a private school for girls founded by Rev. Henry Venn Elliott for the education of daughters of poor clergymen in 1836. Recently the RSCH has taken over the site.

Doreen Valiente lived in Tyson Place, Grosvenor Street, off Eastern Road. She brought witchcraft into the 20th century, and the Mayor welcomed pagans from many countries to the unveiling on the Summer Solstice. The celebrations began by the Old Steine fountain with spectacular drumming by the Pentacle Drummers resplendent in red and green face paint and costumes. Local high priest Ralph Harvey led a ritual in Doreen’s memory, then everyone processed the plaque where a Morris side, Hunter’s Moon from Eastbourne, entertained us. Unforgettable!

John Constable’s plaque is set at 11 Sillwood Road where he stayed in the 1920s. His local sketches include West Blatchington windmill. He also brought with him unfinished canvasses and wrote, “I am looking for a month’s quiet here….. What a blessing it is thus to be able to carry one’s profession with me”

In 2014 five more plaques were unveiled. Brighton Town Hall is the site of Brighton Police Station where Henry Solomon, distinguished as the first Jew to be Chief Constable of Brighton Borough Police, was murdered in his office.

The Beautiful Regency church at the bottom of Waterloo Street was designed by Sir Charles Barry, better known perhaps as the designer of the Palace of Westminster and St Peter’s church, Brighton.

At Brighton station plaques were unveiled for David Mocatta (architect) and John Saxby, who invented the signalling system still in place today.

Above Infinity Foods, on the corner of North Road and Gardner Street, is the Plaque to Ken Fines the planning officer for Brighton Borough Council. In the 1960s the area was threatened with demolition, but Ken fought successfully to save it and North Laine Conservation Area is now a thriving community of independent shops and desirable cottages. What a hero! What a year!

Elaine Evans BEM

 

From small acorns... an appeal for funding support

Hove Civic Society is involved in several projects that are only possible because of generous member donations. We have Founders and Founder members for the Plinth, Tree Angels and Cherubs for our Street Tree Programme and receive general donations form time to time for other activities.

The membership fees we receive only just cover the costs of running the Society such as insurance, newsletter distribution and our lecture programme.

We would ask members to consider becoming a Founder (£2,500) or Founder member (£500) for the Hove Plinth to help us complete the funding necessary to allow us to start construction. So far we have raised more than £55,000 for the project.

We also need more Tree Angels and Tree Cherubs especially if we are going ahead on Portland Road. Tree Angels pay for a special membership of £250 per annum, which, with Gift Aid, will pay for one street tree. Tree Cherubs make a £125 per annum contribution, which will support ½ tree each year. So far we have been able to support more than 60 street trees under this scheme.

We are planning to launch a competition later on this year for proposals to smarten up the on-street waste and recycling container sites. This is something much needed in our conservation areas in particular.

We will need prize money and any donations for this will also be most welcome.

Please contact us for more information and thank you for all your support!

 

For the Hove Plinth project:

Karin Janzon: kjanzon.1@gmail.com

Download a donation form from here

 

For Street Tree Heritage and general environmental schemes:

Helmut Lusser: helmut.lusser@globaltolocal.com

Download a donation form from here.