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Community assembles to discuss future of former Co-op building on London Road
The future of an iconic building was top of the agenda for the London Road area Local Action Team (LAT) meeting, held on Tuesday.
Representatives from the council’s planning team, Sussex University, Co-op and local residents turned up to give their views after a proposal to turn the former Co-op department store into 407 student flats was refused.
Philip Wells, chair of the London Road area LAT, said: “Keeping the building closed is not a suitable solution.” But that a solution would have to be found that was acceptable to as many people as possible.
The original design proposal was refused in December 2011 for reasons including overdevelopment of the site that would cause harm to the character of the surrounding streets.
Some residents fear that if the building was turned into student accommodation it would be too noisy and would not be safe or comfortable for other people.
They have been rallying for the building to be developed into flats for old people or families and think that it would help regenerate the area and boost the economy of smaller shops on London Road.
Jean Calder, who lives near the building, said: “This is a marvellous opportunity to develop the site for able bodied older people and frail old people; it would aid the re-generation of the area and benefit retailers.”
Other residents do not agree and feel that turning it into accommodation for older people would bring on the death of London Road further. One resident said: “407 zimmers can make a hell of a noise too.”
A spokesperson for Co-op confirmed that they were still working with the construction company Watkins Jones, who specialises in student accommodation.
Charles Dudley, director of residential, sport and trading at the University of Sussex said if the building was to be turned into student accommodation it would help house mature students studying for Masters and PHD’s at the university.
He added that behaviour of post graduates was different to that of under graduates and that full responsibility would be taken for the welfare of the students with any issues being dealt with professionally.
London Road has been identified as a priority regeneration area and it is hoped that ongoing projects like the Open Market redevelopment will give the area the boost it needs.
Ian Davey, Ward Councillor for St Peter’s and North Laine said: “I am really pleased that we have been able to get the community together with Co-op, the university and the council. It gives people the opportunity to air their views and to have their views heard.”