Newsletter, September 2014

Annual report 2014

Dear Members

As the summer draws to its close it is time again to take stock of our activities. We have had a very busy year pursuing existing initiatives and embarking on a few more. Overall I am very pleased with the way things are developing and the support we get for our various initiatives. We have developed close relationships with our local councillors, our MP and various departments of the council to help progress our agenda. My thanks this year in particular to Mike Weatherley, MP and Councillors Andrew Wealls, Chris Hawtree and Graham Cox for their support. 

Monitoring and commenting on development proposals has as always taken much effort and we have to be quite selective in terms of which applications we can devote time to. Most of our comments are made via the Conservation Advisory Group but we do write to the council occasionally. This year the most significant proposals we commented on were the proposed changes to the former Lansdowne Hotel, the Hippodrome proposal and the changes to Hove Town Hall (which we supported). We have now managed to recruit two more members who are helping to assess the planning applications that are made weekly. Hopefully that will allow us to increase and sharpen our representations.  

The City Plan has gone through a turbulent time with the inspector throwing down the gauntlet specifically in terms of future housing land supply. We managed to agree a number of modifications with the council which would satisfy our objections and then spent much time at the examination in public in the autumn. Now a year later the inspector has threatened to declare the plan unsound unless the Council deals with the housing issue in October. In a joint letter with the chairs of Regency and Brighton Societies I have written to the leaders of the three parties of the council and asked them to do whatever is necessary to resolve the issue by October as the consequences of no plan for the development of the city could be extremely serious. I will keep you informed as matters develop.

We have commented on the Shoreham Harbour Joint Area Action Plan in particular to strengthen the scope for district heating and the deployment of renewables infrastructure in the harbour area. We are now waiting for the revised plan to establish whether we need to make formal representations ahead of any examination in public.

We welcomed the approval of the Rampion offshore windfarm by the Secretary of State in July and will now try to examine how we could best lobby for more renewables in the city on the back of this major off shore investment (£2Bn).

Our campaign for the restoration of our Victorian Tree Heritage resulted in some 35 street trees in the Poets Corner area. Some of these trees will have to be replaced although many have taken and have made a major impact in Marmion and Stoneham Roads. This year we have prepared for planting in Bigwood Avenue and at the Old Market. Sadly we had to abandon a scheme for Medina Villas, which had been suggested by local residents but was met by considerable opposition. Although some 60 % were in favour we did not feel we could progress a scheme in the face of substantial opposition. We have now several streets where people are starting to prepare for street tree planting schemes and we continue to look for further donations to our street tree fund.

Much work has been devoted to prepare the business plan and fund raising for The Hove Plinth. We have prepared a call for artists to select the first 5 sculptures to go on the plinth and this will be issued as soon as we have raised some additional pump priming funds. I am pleased to announce that Sir Timothy Sainsbury, who was MP for Hove from 1973 to 1997 has agreed to be a patron for the Plinth. At the time of writing we are submitting several major funding applications and we are keeping fingers crossed for an early start.

We were very encouraged by the call of Mike Weatherley, MP for a bigger share of the city council’s funds for Hove and have prepared a sketch scheme for environmental improvements to Church Road. We will submit this in September to the council as a suggestion for inclusion in the Local Transport Plan 4, which is being drafted at the moment. I am very grateful for the support for this from our local councillors. We will also include a plea for the inclusion of improvements to Hove Station footbridge to make it more accessible and we are fully supporting the draft scheme for it prepared by David Kemp, a local architect and one of our members.  

Our annual lecture programme was again a success and I was particularly pleased about the panel discussion in April about the future of Hove. The panel made up of three local politicians and three experts provided a challenging discussion about the future of Hove and many of the steps we needed to deal with issues such as the housing land shortage, our local transport system and the way we deal with environmental matters locally. You will find contributions by the three expert speakers below in our newsletter. I am also pleased that we again had a number of visits to places of local interest including St Georges Church, West Blatchington Mill and the Life boat station in Newhaven.

It gives me great pleasure to report healthy financial accounts with growth in reserves, membership and donations. The better the financial situation the more we can do so I would again encourage members to donate freely to our various activities.

The outlook for next year is positive in many ways, but my main concern is the continued pressure on the council (of whatever political make up) to reduce expenditure. It is suggested that another £100-£120 M will need to be cut in the next 5 years on top of the £60 M already taken. I am fearful that this could create permanent damage to the urban fabric and undermine the work needed to our important areas of heritage. We will try to work with other societies and the conservation advisory group to lobby for adequate resources for maintaining our environment.

Finally a big thank you to members of the committee, the planning advisory group, the sculpture group, the renewable infrastructure group and the organisers of events and visits  and not least all our members for their continuing support.

With best wishes

Helmut Lusser

 

Sir Timothy Sainsbury becomes a Patron for the Hove Plinth

We have just received the good news that Sir Timothy Sainsbury is willing to become a Patron for the Hove Plinth project.  This is a fantastic boost for the project. Sir Timothy was the MP for Hove 1973-97 and has for many years provided significant support for the arts through the Sainsbury family trusts.  We are preparing an application for one of the Sainsbury Trusts as this newsletter goes to press, and are also working on bids to other potential funders.

We are also delighted to report that we now have an agreement to work in partnership with the Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove. We will identify opportunities to work together to achieve synergy between planned activities, including the annual programme of exhibits, events and working with artists as well as associated learning programmes.

The sculpture group has been putting a lot of effort into building a solid foundation for fundraising.  We now have a detailed business plan and a brief for artists. We are poised to issue a call for artists for sculpture proposals for the plinth with a view to selecting a number of works through a process involving an exhibition, public consultation and a selection panel including partners and outside expertise.  The purpose of this early call is to have in place a clear plan for a high quality sculpture programme which can be clearly visualized  and used to support the fund raising. The selected sculptures would be commissioned once funding has been secured. 

We are recruiting Founder Members for the Hove Plinth - get in touch with Karin Janzon to find out how you can be part of this ambitious and exciting project.  karin@hovecivicsociety.org

Karin Janzon

 

Vision for Housing in Hove 2030

With a Vision comes the need to understand the context. In simple terms this is part political, and is a national issue, and part physical, which is a local issue.

To start with the political context .......I believe the lack of housing provision in this country is the scandal of our age. Each year population growth and the shrinking of the average household size creates the need for a quarter of a million extra homes a year on top of the existing 26 million. We can barely muster 100,000.

In the 1970s (pre the sale of Council Houses) about four-fifths of public spending on housing was devoted to constructing homes, while just a fifth was paid out in benefits to assist people with their rent. Over the current four-year spending period, less than £5bn has been allocated to building homes and £95bn has been earmarked for housing benefit which equates to spending more than 20 times as much subsiding rents as we do building new homes, which makes no sense to me.

At the moment this seems to be an unsolvable problem but sooner or later the problem will get so acute that a solution at the national level will be found. However that on its own is no good to Hove, and the City to which it is part, as we do not have the land on which to build these homes.

The Inspector at the public enquiry on the City Plan said in her interim report, “I recognise the constraints faced by the Council but if I am to find the Plan sound, notwithstanding such a significant shortfall in the provision of new housing, I would need to be satisfied that the Council had left no stone unturned in seeking to meet as much of this need as possible.” The inference from this is that she might pass even if they don’t meet the need. But I say what then?  The City Plan sets a minimum housing target of 11,300 new homes to be achieved between 2010 and 2030 – amounting to only 56.6% of the perceived need.

This excludes the housing needs of the students. Both Universities plan expansion, and as a City we should welcome this, one of our major economic benefits is the fifth best educated population in the UK out of 64 towns and cities.

There is no way we can build to the east or west of our current boundary as we are into neighbouring boroughs. Our development to the north is very limited due to the National Park, which leaves us with limited options:

  1. Significantly increase the density of sites we are building on. This sounds obvious but it’s not happening in practice. NPPF (the National Planning Policy Framework) requires optimisation of sites and in most cases the Local Planning Authority are not buying into it.
  1. Convert/re-develop some, most or all of the employment space that is currently a wasted resource. I am talking about everything from the 60s/70s buildings that sadly are not fit for their original purpose through to accommodation above shops. There is an on-going debate about the protection of employment space but Brighton & Hove in the last Cities Outlook survey showed we were the fifth highest in the country for business start-ups and second only to London in Business Stock per head and I would suggest despite this there has been virtually no impact on our major vacant office building stock.
  1. Development of urban fringe sites. It may not be sensible to develop all such sites but a careful study of all such sites should be considered.
  1. Start building high – there are very few such schemes coming forward, London by comparison currently have 236 towers planned, 189 of them residential.
  1. Start building into the sea. Whilst an expensive option, many cities with a sea frontage have resorted to reclamation.

I predict by 2030, necessity will have required many, if not all, these options to be adopted, and of course expansion will continue beyond 2030. Any local government with courage would be commissioning a master plan now for a serious planned expansion that also provides for land for schools, hospitals etc. and find the money required to undertake it.

Nick Lomax, Managing Director, LCE Architects

 

Streets Ahead: Hove in 2030

As Chair of the Brighton and Hove Group of Living Streets, the local arm of the national charity that campaigns for better streets, I was pleased to be asked by Hove Civic Society to share a vision of Hove in 2030.

Our starting point is a city that is fit for all who use the pavements – whether walkers, wheelchair users or babies in buggies - which means a city where the default is not to give priority to motorised traffic. But before contemplating Hove in 2030, here’s a challenge: think of a city or town that you have visited and which you really liked. Where was it? And why did you like it?

Walkable towns and cities

I would bet that the reason you liked wherever you chose was that it was walkable.  What is “walkable”? A walkable city is one where people choose to walk as their preferred mode of travel. “Walkability” is "the extent to which walking is readily available… as a safe, connected, accessible and pleasant activity" – the words of the Mayor of London, who, in 2004 published the walking plan for London, "Making London a Walkable City.”  To qualify as walkable, the Mayor’s plan set out a checklist of five Cs: Connected, Convivial, Comfortable, Convenient, and Conspicuous. And we would like to see Hove (and Brighton!) scoring on all of the five Cs.

Why Walking?

The reason why walking is important is that it’s free, convenient, non-polluting, carbon neutral, and healthy, and a great way to incorporate physical activity into our lives. It also promotes emotional and physical well being and increases social interactions. Walking, cycling and public transport have also been shown to have a major impact on the economic success of local business owners and retailers.  And because almost a quarter of the journeys we make are under a mile, they could easily be walked (or biked) rather than driven.

So London’s Walking Plan has set out the principles behind walkability. But we can look closer to home for a vision of what our own city could be like in 2030. Because a study has been carried out on Brighton and Hove by visionary architect and public space guru Jan Gehl from Copenhagen (if you have ever been there, this could be one of those favourite [walkable] cities which you chose earlier on).

'Public Space Public Life'

In 2007, Brighton and Hove city council published 'Public Space Public Life' by Gehl Architects and Landscape Projects.

Picture of front cover of the report

The study, which is available on the Council website, (http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/parking-and-travel/travel-transport-and-road-safety/public-life-public-space), and which had all-party support, sets out the following goals:

List of goals set out in the report

Recommendations

To achieve these overall objectives, the study’s recommendations include:

Bringing the sea and the countryside closer to the city, by:

  • Developing a network of green fingers.
  • Planting 10,000 trees in 10 years
  • Creating access points along the whole seafront with a range of activities
  • Extending avenues and boulevards

Making inclusive districts with legible features, through:

  • Designing safe and attractive neighbourhoods
  • Commissioning welcoming gate­way by artwork lighting or land­scaping
  • Making the nodes attractive and improving facilities and existing landmarks
  • Redesigning major arrival points – eg Hove Station
  • Defining district identities for areas similar to the Hove conservation area.

Making easy smoother movement, including:

  • Giving arrival routes improved legibility by designing quality streetscape
  • Dispersing traffic by improved destination signage
  • Improving wayfinding with simplified destination signage.
  • Investing in a sustainable rapid pe­rimeter route, integral in the street layout. Loop bus serv­ices
  • Building a walking & cycling priority network
  • Improving junction design and simplifying pedestrian cross­ings

Linking Brighton and Hove

The study observes that Western Road and Church Road are key links between Brighton & Hove, where problems include:

  • Restricted access North/South across the street due to motorised vehicle dominated streetscape
  • Overly complicated pedestrian crossings and difficult to navigate intersections
  • A general lack of quality in materials, such as paving and urban furniture
  • A lack of opportunities to pause and stay in the area
  • Confusing signage
  • Poor lighting

As a result, the study highlights the need to:

  • Transform this main commercial street into a high quality, pedestrian friendly city street.
  • Introduce ‘Pauses’ on the busy street: key points where something special happens, communicated to both pedestrians and car drivers with a change in paving, or planting trees.

And the way to do this? By having more transparent, well-detailed building frontages; allowing indoor activity to contribute to the liveliness of the street; provide a continuous pedestrian route; remove obstacles and define zones for movement, street furniture and commercial activity; upgrade commercial quality; have better quality paving; provide lighting for both traffic and pedestrians and enhance street corners with planting. It’s hard to disagree with any of that.

Hove, actually

Combined, these measures aim to create a city that puts people first, by reducing the dominance of vehicles, creating a clear pedestrian network and giving pedestrians priority in many streets – in Hove, these include Goldstone Villas, St Aubyns, Seafield Road and Osborne Villas, while proposed pedestrianised streets include George Street, Blatchington Road and Eaton Road.

In a section which aims to “Polish the pearls”, the study refers to the need to create inviting entrances and meeting points at Goldstone Villas, George Street, St. Aubyns, Seafield Road and Osborne Villas, and sets out future ‘hotspots’ for Hove including the stretch from Hove Station down to King Alfred via George Street; and the parallel roads through the Cliftonville conservation areas.

It’s hard to imagine that there’s anything in 'Public Space Public Life’ which would not be supported by Hove Civic Society. Because, to echo the words of another public space expert, Fred Kent, Founder and President of Project for Public Spaces, we need to ensure that Hove is a great place, “….somewhere you do not want to leave, rather than one you cannot wait to get through.” And as for that vision thing, why wait until 2030? Bring it on.

Stephen Young, Chair, Living Streets, Brighton and Hove Group

 

Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative work with HSNF to help reduce energy usage and bills

Brighton and Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESCo) is a not-for-profit co-operative social enterprise helping people save money on their energy bills.  We want properties in our community to be more energy efficient and more comfortable places to live and work.

We primarily work with SMEs to help reduce their energy use and costs, by providing advice and information on energy efficiency, energy savings, utilities contracts and energy generation from renewable sources.

Currently we are working with Hove Station Neighbourhoods Forum on the Community Energy Kickstart Project, which is the first stage of developing the Neighbourhood Energy Plan which will encourage residents and local businesses to become more energy efficient. We have been collecting information about community energy needs and usage to help develop the plan, through a questionnaire which has been circulated around the community. If you would like to complete the resident’s survey online please visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/CommunityEnergyKickstart. We are also working with SMEs in the local area to monitor and reduce their energy usage through installation of power distribution monitors, which allow us to look at and analyse energy usage data remotely. 

Also this month we have worked with HSNF and National Energy Action (NEA) to develop a ‘Pop Up Energy Shop’ held 08-14 September at 71 George Street, Hove. The Pop Up Energy Shop gave members of the community the opportunity to meet staff from BHESCo and NEA, who were providing advice on energy saving, reducing fuel bills, keeping warm during winter and also looked at fuel bills and advised on savings that could be made.

If you would like to find about more about the work of BHESCo, please visit our website, www.bhesco.co.uk, email us: info@bhesco.co.uk or call us: 01273 737 080. Here you can also find out about the Community Energy Kickstart Project.

Lucy Kimberley, Marketing Coordinator, BHESCo

 

Inspirational Places and People

Members of Hove Civic Society like to look behind the scenes to find out about endeavours for the public good, past and present, that may be less well known. We do this through a combination of visits to local places and lectures by well-informed speakers.

This summer we visited St. George’s Church in Kemptown which is a place for worship and a thriving community centre. It has solar panels on its roof, and historical displays in its basement. The Reverend Andrew Manson-Brailsford explained the history of St. George’s from Regency times to the present day.  The Church provides an important and beautiful venue for group activities and musical performances, as well as a food bank. The solar panels were installed by the Brighton Energy Co-op, and some members were guided up onto the roof by Will Cottrell, Director.

A few weeks later we went to the lifeboat station in Newhaven, and found out about the development of this essential service around our coasts and in busy rivers such as the Thames – all staffed by volunteers, some of whom regularly risk their lives. Following an excellent presentation by Margaret Kimber, RNLI Education officer, we went aboard a lifeboat, moored below, all high-technology nowadays, but none-the-less still totally dependent on teams of local men and women who regularly go out on  critical rescue missions, sometimes in collaboration with lifeguards and helicopter crews.

Later in July we visited West Blatchington windmill, from the ground to the sails (‘sweeps’), in the expert company of Peter Hill of ‘Friends of West Blatchington Windmill’, the charity that raises all the funds and carries out the maintenance of the windmill, a survivor of many mills in the area. Although no longer milling grain, it is a fine museum of local, rural life over 200 years. We were inspired and excited by the machinery in the museum and reminded us of the human ingenuity that brought bread to families and food to farm animals.

Clare Tikly