New plans for roof-top flats on top of one of Hove’s most distinctive buildings is set to spark a planning row between residents, businesses and developers.
Neil Vowles reports on the past and the future of the elegant Dubarry perfume factory.
It once brought an air of Parisian chic to Hove but the Dubarry building has become one of the forgotten architectural gems of the city.
The building still has the power to surprise and delight rail passengers arriving into Hove Railway Station who catch a glimpse of its elegant mosaic facade but the famous Dubarry name no longer holds the same cache with residents.
Now developers are looking to build nine roof-top flats each built with a terrace garden overlooking the whole of Hove on top of the 1920s building.
The plans have already sparked a fierce opposition from many residents who have raised concerns about a loss of privacy and sunlight from an elevated walkway the new flat owners will use to access their front doors.
The speed and intensity with which opposition to the plans have formulated shows the level of feeling that does still exist among those familiar with the history of the building.
The company dates from the early 1900s and first became the Dubarry Perfumery Company Ltd in January 1924 with its eye-catching 80,000 square foot factory approved for construction in September 1930.
Within a decade, the brand had become a household name, employing around 350 people and the products they made. Blue Lagoon, Garden of Kama and The Heart of Rose brought a whiff of glamour and romance into the homes of housewives.
Such was its fame, it even featured in a popular song of the time.
Sadly, its glamour failed to survive the Second World War with historians of the firm saying the post-war years saw a significant “down-marketing” of their product.
In 1962, an American firm acquired the Dubarry Perfume Company and the once famous name limped on until 1982 when it went into liquidation.
Its products, however, live on in the elegant adverts spelt out in green and white tiles on the building. Since then, the famous factory has been broken up into smaller parts and is still home to a range of businesses including Crunch Accounting, Dynamic Hot Yoga and The Brighton Academy for performing arts.
The site is also already home to a number of other luxury flats and now developers Pearl and Coutts are looking to add nine more one, two and three bed flats.
The applicant points out that its proposals to add a storey to the building are not unprecedented with an extra storey already added to the east end of the building.
They argue the new plans would help to meet the high demand for housing in the area and with its close proximity to the railway station is sure to be of interest to commuters.
To counter resident protests over the loss of light, developers commissioned an independent daylight survey which they claim “will not result in a material loss of privacy, outlook, daylight/sunlight or amenity to neighbouring properties”. They also argue the building of the proposed flats will coincide with a “programmed restoration” of the main building structure and outbuildings to bring it to a higher standard.
And to counter complaints that the flats will increase parking and traffic issues around the station, the applicants insist that the development will be car free with residents having plenty of access to rail, bus and cycle networks.
A statement from the developers said: “The city is faced by a severe housing shortage that, if not corrected, will affect future generations for years to come.
“A well designed housing scheme that compliments the character and appearance of the main building, and which preserves the amenities of neighbouring residents should be supported.
“The scheme will provide much needed additional housing, and is located in a highly sustainable location – well served by both public transport and local shops and services.
“The scheme has been carefully designed, with the new top storey set back from the building’s main facades, in order to provide both visual interest and greater privacy for neighbouring residents.”
• 'No one in favour of the flats'
THE newly unveiled plans have proved unpopular with nearby businesses and residents.
Rob Miller is among a number of neighbours to have registered their opposition with the council.
Residents have created a website in opposition to the plans as well as preparing a campaign.
The 48-year-old father-of-twins said his list of issues with the proposals were too many to mention.
Chief among the complaints though is that a proposed walkway to access the roof-top flats will overlook the gardens and into the windows at the rear of homes in Newtown Road.
Residents are also concerned about the loss of sunlight to their back gardens.
Mr Miller said: “This building epitomises Hove, it is a beautiful building and if this was on a main road, everybody would love this building and nobody would even think about putting flats on it.
“Hove doesn’t have many buildings like this, it is very unique.
“There is no residents association round here but these plans have brought people together.
“This will do nothing to solve housing problems here, there is no social housing, it will just be high-end housing for commuters to London.
“I don’t know of a single person here in favour of these plans.”
Residents are hopeful that history will be on their side.
It is not just the historical importance of the building which may make councillors on the planning committee wary of allowing further changes.
There is a history of a previously failed planning applications to add penthouses to the top of the historic site in 2006 and 2010.
At the time of the second rejection four years ago, it was then ruled that the proposed roof development represented “an incongruous feature” because of its design, massing and form and would fail to “respect the context of its setting” and would be “out of keeping” with the existing building.
Darren Fell is managing director of Crunch Accounting who has also made the Dubarry building home, moving from one side of the building to the other in 2011 as part of a business expansion.
He said: "We think the Dubarry Factory is one of the most beautiful buildings in Hove. That's one of the reasons we chose to set up here and we believe it should have listed status. So while we don't think the flats should be allowed, we recognise that there's a dire shortage of housing in the area and will certainly invite our new neighbours down for a drink."
• Dubarry could have rivalled Chanel
TO Michael Miller, Dubarry had the potential to rival the great French perfume brands of Paris at its height and that makes the company’s demise even sadder to him.
The businessman who tried to relaunch the brand in 2009, said the Dubarry brand was something all of Hove could have pride in during its heyday when it employed hundreds of workers.
He said: “The death of the company was a great loss to the area.
“Dubarry was a very classy company, it could have been a rival to Chanel in the 1920s.
“It was a great company and it had great potential.
“Sadly after World War II it went right down market.
“In a way it is representative in its demise as the whole of the history of British industry.”
Despite its dramatic change in use since its 20s peak, Mr Miller says he does not mind further adaptations to the historic building as long as those changes are respectful to that heritage.
He said: “I have no problems with them using the old factory for flats provided that they keep the line of the building, it is a classic building.”
•Use building for lots of shops
FOR Pat Bean, the Dubarry building is much more than just an elegant building – its is the cause of many happy memories.
The 77-year-old spent two happy spells in the 1950s working in the bustling factory in the hectic run-up to Christmas.
Mrs Bean made up the popular gift sets that would be a seasonal present for many women in the area at that time.
She said she enjoyed one of the perks of the job where staff were offered Dubarry products at discounted prices on a trolley which came round the factory on pay day.
She said: “The factory was huge and there were lots of different departments.
“I remember going to the talc department and everybody wearing protective boots, plastic clothing and masks over their faces because it was so dangerous.
“The smell used to get to you, it used to get you at the back of your throat.
“But it was a lovely company to work for and people used to buy it in all the shops and it is a real shame it all fell away and I don’t understand why.”
While Mrs Bean has a strong connection to the building’s past, she says she doesn’t have very strong opinions on its future.
She said: “Seeing the building now, I just feel nostalgia for it.
“Just seeing the name Dubarry brings back memories.
“But unless you were living around there at the time, you wouldn’t really know what the company was about.
“I think it would be nice if the building was used for shops, nice independent shops selling different things, maybe even a link back to what the building used to be used for.”
Residents have until tomorrow to comment on the proposals by visiting tinyurl.com/l35yz2o.
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