Developers behind a £100 million development have described their plan as “what the city needs” after fierce criticism from conservationists.
The Regency and Brighton societies have raised concerns about the proposals for the major redevelopment of Circus Street in Brighton.
The renovation of the former wholesale market will see flats for more than 140 people, accommodation for almost 500 students as well as office space, a library, a four-storey dance studio and teaching space for the University of Brighton.
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Developers Cathedral Group claim the site will bring more than £200 million into the city and create 600 jobs if given the go ahead by the city council’s planning committee within the upcoming months.
But two figures from the city’s two leading conservation groups argue the density of people living on a site “no bigger than a football pitch” is far higher than advisable, labelling the development as “21st century slums”.
While agreeing the site is in desperate need of renovation, they have also raised concerns about how much natural light will get into flats and open spaces.
They are calling on Cathedral Group, who instead describe the development as “beautifully designed”, to remove the office block from the development to allow more light into the site and open up the public spaces.
Brighton Society honorary secretary Selma Montford said the irony was the Circus Street site was cleared of slum housing in the 1930s because of overcrowding for homes which she claims had a lower density than the new project.
She said: “The open spaces are so narrow, they are really just alleys.”
David Robson of the Regency Society added: “These are the slum sites we thought we thought we had got rid of after World War I, what we would have called back-to-backs.
“We can’t sit back and allow standards to slip in that way.
“Such is the demand for housing in the city that whatever the imperfections, these flats will sell or will be let.”
Martyn Evans, creative director of Cathedral Group, said the density of the site had been reduced following consultation with the public last year and “exactly the right density to create a very pleasant environment”.
He said the current site was” rundown, ugly” and the majority of residents wanted to see the area radically altered.
Mr Evans added: “We have created high quality public amenity spaces at ground floor level, with space to enjoy café culture, performance and other entertainment, which will be inviting and engaging and has been adjusted deliberately to follow the historical street grain of the area.
“This design is appropriate, rigorously tested, in the right location and recreates street patterns that existed here before the huge municipal market was built in the middle of it.”