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Council waive height restriction on Marina tower

Added: 19 August 2006

Article by Vicki Davies, as published in the Kemptown Rag

Some of you may remember receiving my leaflet in early June outlining  Brunswick Developments plans for the Marina, together with information concerning additional plans which are being considered by the Council for a 13,000 seater stadium at the adjacent Black Rock.  However for those who missed it, I will outline again the proposed plan for the Marina and Black Rock and why I think that these developments would have  such disastrous long term consequences for the people of Kemptown and the surrounding area.

In 1968 The Brighton Marina Act was constructed and part of it was written in such a way that it would ensure that the future Marina development would not dominate or create any adverse effect on both the much loved Grade 1 listed conservation area directly above or to the linked area of Kemptown and Roedean as a whole. Public meetings of concerned residents were held and the Brighton Corporation gave absolute assurances that the final drafting of the Marina Act would address their concerns and give them full protection both then and in the future. A key restriction was therefore put into the Act to ensure that nothing in the development could be built above the height of the cliffs, though it was felt necessary to add a clause to protect  Brighton Corporation by allowing them to give consent for such things as railings, lamp posts or harbour lights above the cliff height if they were required to do so to meet Health and Safety Regulations.

The revised wording of the Act which was finally passed into law did not detail these particular examples as it was obviously not considered necessary to do so because nobody involved at the time believed that any local council of the future wouldever try to exploit this height clause in the Marina Act in a way for which is was never intended. To this day details of that parliamentary debate as to specific reason as to why the extra clause was added is well documented in Hansard -  BUT  JUST HOW WRONG COULD THEY HAVE BEEN!

On Thursday July 20rd, the full Council voted by a majority to waiver that height restriction which was the last obstacle in the way of Brunswick Developments Marina plans. These include a 40 storey tower block, (the largest residential tower in the UK) a further ten buildings up to at least 13 storeys and built out on two vast concrete platforms extending into the outer harbour. Another developer may also be asking to put even more dwellings on the site which currently has the bowling alley etc. More like a huge new residential development than a marina and it will take nearly nine yearsto complete even if it stays on schedule – Wembley Stadium springs to mind!

This scheme would change forever the unique environment of Kemptown,Roedean and surrounding areas and would have a particularly devastating effect on the wonderful historic area which makes up the Kemptown Estates. Architecturally what is planned for the Marina does not relatein any way to the beautiful heritage squares and streets above and the uninterrupted sea views currently enjoyed from Kemptown, Whitehalk , Roedean, Rottingdean and the Brighton seafront, together with the adjacent downland as a whole, will be lost forever.

Parking chaos will follow as planned parking spaces for the development will fall well short of the requirements of the new residents.  There will be gridlock on surrounding residential roads from greatly increased visitor numbers, to say nothing of the added pollution over the whole area from exhaust fumes. Locals know how busy both Eastern Road and the seafront can be currently, so just imagine what it would be like with over 1500 new residents plus additional  workers on the Marina, to say nothing of the thousands of new visitors trying to get into or leave the area.

Add this to the proposals for a 13,000 plus seater  stadium at the adjacent Black Rock and in the knowledge that the only way to make a stadium pay commercially, is by it being used at least four or five times a week.  Picture the scene in Kemptown when 13000 people arrive by car (no planned car park in the Black Rock scheme!) or by bus, taxi etc for a 7pm concert, then all leave again at 11pm – think of the noise and traffic chaos on the limited road space! At the busiest times you can be certain that all this will mean that our residential streets will become 'rat runs' when cars try to find a way out of the jams.

Also don't forget that there is an ever expanding hospital bang in the middle of Kemptown with the children's hospital arriving shortly. After my first leaflet, many people contacted me including a local doctor who told me that nearly all the GPs in East Brighton have already closed their lists due to sheer numbers - so who will offer GP services to the 1500+ new Marina residents?  No doctors surgery has been agreed by the local health authority, (the Government don't want single doctor practices after the Shipman experience) so forget any claims which you might have seem from Brunswick's literature that there will be a GP's surgery on the Marina because it is simply not true! Unbelievably I also discovered that nobody at the East Sussex Ambulance Service has any record of being contacted to ask their views on how all the additional congestion will effect their service to A&E at the County Hospital and what about the Fire Service?

I believe that this treachery by Brighton Council with votes coming from ALL the political parties, (not one Lib Dem voted against), and will also set an important precedent that could effect other parts of this city in the years ahead and tower blocks could now appear anywhere else along the seafront. As Clr Tonks who honourably voted against waiving the height restriction, commented in the debate,  many on the Council want this city to become  Croydon by Sea!

What also makes me so angry is that all three of the local Labour councilors who together represent the East Brighton Ward, Gill Mitchell, Craig Turton (who incidentally lives in Portslade!) and Warren Mitchell voted to remove the height restriction in the Brighton Marina Act. 

These Councilors were elected to represent us and our views and to the best of my knowledge  none of them have made any attempt to call any public meetings or to have meaningful consultation with resident groups and no local resident research has been done by the Council and yet they all admit to have been overwhelmed by the objecting correspondence that they have received from us.  Also according to figures published in the Brighton Argus 28th July, Councilors as a whole from April 05 to March 06 have claimed £780,000 and of this Gill Mitchell received £20,657,  Craig Turton £17,165 and Warren Mitchall £16,392 . In addition all councilors are also entitled to either a free parking permit for all the city car parks or a free use annual bus pass and are included in a non contributory pension scheme.  Remember this is all paid for by us through local taxation - so don't you think that they should be representing our views properly?!

Finally ask yourself just why, without any public meetings or Kemptown wide consultation, Brighton and Hove Council have deliberately chosen to rush through both the  Planning Meeting application together with the full Council meeting  for the height decision within only three weeks of each other and at a time when many residents are away on holiday– what exactly is the reason for such indecent haste?

I have lived in Kemptown for nearly 25 years, not within the Kemptown Estate area and neither do I  have a sea view, so nobody can accuse me of having a vested interest in being against this development. However  like thousands of other residents I do care passionately about this lovely part of the city where I have made my home and think that this enormous development on the Marina is simply wrong in principal and would be disastrous if it were now to be implemented and blight the lives of thousands of people who live here. A design like this would be fine on redundant dock areas in places like Southampton or Liverpool, where it would be using a brown field site and would genuinely be  giving something beneficial back to the community, but this is simply not the case on the Brighton Marina.

Certain Councilors for the development argued that it would offer '362 affordable housing' for key workers – oh yes and would they also be able to afford the £2000+ a year maintenance charges even if they do have reduced mortgage payments?

This Council decision must not be allowed to go forward unchallenged and I urge you to write/phone and email all the local Councilors.  You can find all the details that you need on this website including how the latest issue of Private Eye has covered this story particularly in relation to Kemptown Labour Member of Parliament Des Turner, who unbelievably emailed all Councilors on the day ahead of their decision and following a personal request by Andrew Goodall the MD of Brunswick Developments to do so – just a shame that his interpretation of democracy did not stretch to asking how his constituents felt, many of whom elected him!

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