Councillor Cat Arnold spoke against proposals for a major 9-storey development on the former Shoreham civic centre site at Adur planning committee this month. She did so alongside speakers including those from the Shoreham Society, AREA (Adur Residents Environmental Action), and Adur Communities Together, all opposing the proposal.

This development was approved through the Conservative committee chair using his casting vote. The poplar tree will be felled and new over-sized building will put more pressure on local services.

Here, Labour councillors Cat Arnold, Lee Cowen and Jeremy Gardner reflect on that decision.

Councillor Cat Arnold: As one of the local ward councillors, I argued against the Hyde Housing application for a this development on the former civic centre site in Shoreham.

My issues are threefold: the quality of build and affordability from this developer, the fact that questions still remain on the site’s drainage and whether planting trees there, as the developer suggests, can be successful.

Let us remember this is not Adur District Council’s land, it’s the community’s; Adur taxpayers. It is formerly the site of Adur District Council buildings and local people should have a democratic say on what happens with this land. What happened at this meeting, when local people were asked to leave and the decision to approve was made by the casting vote of the meeting’s chair, was far from democratically accountability.

Much was made of the social housing (housing association or council tenants) this would offer our local residents. The application on the night was for 36 social dwellings, with the potential for 60 out of 159. Hyde may secure Homes England funds for an additional 24, but there is no guarantee of this. The rest of the dwellings will be shared ownership, Hyde’s criteria specify a combined salary of £80k to buy shared ownership but the average combined Adur salary is £50k. Hardly affordable for many.

In terms of a legacy of build, just take a quick look at Trustpilot site that holds 168 reviews of Hyde Housing, with 95% viewing the company as bad.

In Prime Minister’s Questions at Westminster in January Boris Johnson said “you cannot build new homes without investing in infrastructure”. This application was passed without considering many infrastructure factors. An officer has asked for a condition that October to March water retention surveys should be carried out before any build but that was not acted upon. A revised water drainage mitigation strategy has not been completed.

We have already had a failed landscape scheme at Mariner’s Point in Shoreham and in this case an officer has stated that the semi-mature tree landscaping plan isn’t possible due to their positioning over the underground water tank.

Hyde’s presentation felt to me like some copy and paste template presentation that they would give at any planning committee to any local authority. One Hyde representative stated that council tenants don’t pay energy bills, when questioned by the committee on whether council tenants will be responsible for energy costs of ventilation units.

We need social housing for local people in Adur, social housing has been neglected by this council for decades, but it must be well designed, well maintained, good quality housing. That is what local people deserve.

Councillor Lee Cowen, leader of the Labour group, the official opposition, on Adur council: This land is our land. We could have found a much better way to build social housing on this site partnering with a developer and keeping hold of the site. Now it’s gone forever. It’s to the credit of the members of the planning committee who at a pre-meeting argued for a reduction in the height of the block, however it’s still going to be overbearing.

With all the neighbouring developments this will create a very confined space. You can see it already with the Free Wharf development across the road. The promise of 100% ‘affordable’ housing whilst laudable, should not have been a material consideration, it’s an aspiration. It can only be achieved if the build is thrown up in three years which appears to be very optimistic.

Finally, I thought it was a poorly chaired committee meeting. The duty of the chair is to preside over the meeting and allow for a free debate, yet it appeared the whole process was being led from the chair.

Councillor Jeremy Gardner, a member of the planning committee, one of the four members to vote against the proposal: I have seen suggestions that those on the planning committee who voted against this proposal did not offer reasons for it to be turned down on planning grounds. This is not so. When I spoke in opposition to approval, I cited the fact that it flew in the face of county council guidance on the number or car parking spaces that would be needed. I also said design was poor and that the development would have a negative effect on the Brighton Road streetscape. These are all valid planning objections.

There are question marks over many important aspects of this proposal. Drainage in one of the most low-lying parts of Shoreham. Whether promised trees could be planted. Whether retail space on the ground floor will be occupied.

Once again our infrastructure is challenged by a new development. It was argued that having 60 car parking spaces for 159 flats was acceptable because of a desire to “reduce car dependency”. I want to reduce car dependency and believe we do this by providing good alternatives including good quality, affordable public transport and safe cycling routes. We do not live in a town with many bus routes. Most working people leave Adur every day to go to work and many of those will have little alternative but to use a car. The proposal includes 200 cycle parking spaces, but no timescale for cycle lanes to be built. Adequate parking is a planning matter. It is also indicative of  development that is just too big for the site.

We were promised “a really exciting” design. Instead we have an over-sized building that threatens to overpower and dominate Brighton Road and neighbouring buildings.

Two votes took place at the planning meeting. The first was to defer a decision so that councillors could see and take a view on finished plans for drainage and tree planting. The committee voted four for and four against. This was rejected on the casting vote of the meeting chair. The second vote was to approve the development. Again the vote was four-four, but the chair was able to vote twice again and so the plan was approved. A major development was passed despite opposition from half of the committee, thanks to the chair’s casting vote.




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