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Eyesore flats get facelift green light

The first steps towards restoring an internationally famous block of flats have been backed by city councillors.

Brighton and Hove planning committee passed an outline application by Bluestorm for restoration of Embassy Court in King's Road.

Work can now go ahead on the modernist building from the mid-Thirties, replacing windows, modernising services and lifts and renovating the reception area.

Embassy Court was the last word in luxury almost 60 years ago but recently the building has fallen into disrepair. Disputes which led to this decline have now largely been resolved after leaseholders agreed to back a £4.5 million restoration.

Labour councillor Roy Pennington said it was a good application but he would like to see satellite dishes removed from the outside of the flats.

He was told the intention was to move them as the work progressed and the dishes would be replaced by cable TV.

Tory councillor Carol Theobald said: "Embassy Court has been an eyesore for far too long."

Liberal Democrat David Watkins said the restoration was wonderful news.

Planning councillor Bob Carden said he was surprised the building was still standing after all the troubles it had faced, especially during the Second World War.

Embassy Court was designed by Wells Coates as Brighton's first skyscraper and featured penthouse apartments, a restaurant and a bank when built.

It was acclaimed as an art deco wonder but fell into disrepair after many flats were taken over by absentee landlords in the Seventies.

Large rent backlogs and service charge arrears mounted, with confusion over who was responsible for the building's upkeep.

Bluestorm, the managing firm set up by residents, finally won its David and Goliath-style battle with property developers in 2002 to gain control of the building.

Portvale Holdings, owner of nine of the flats, was ordered to pay £78,000 to kick-start the renovation.

Developers and residents leading the project had mooted additions to the building, such as swimming pools, a restaurant, an art gallery and a museum but it is unlikely these will be considered before 2007.

The main priorities will be replacing glazing and doors throughout the building, installing new heating and water systems and repairing concrete. It is also hoped the external surfaces of the block will be restored to their original glossy white.

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