BUILD new homes, or none at all? Build higher or avoid littering our seafront with hulking monstrosities? Build on parks and allotments or save our green spaces?

These wildly diverging opinions and interests have been highlighted in the responses to the consultation of the City Plan which the Planning Inspector is now considering.

The inspector Laura Graham has told Brighton and Hove City Council there will be no need for further hearings which means a draft of the final plan, which will set out the guidelines for development in the city until 2030, could be with the council by September.

How much that solution will be a compromise that satisfies all still seems a long way off when you consider the planning inspector has 545 pages of 400+ responses from 187 groups, companies and residents to a consultation to plough through.

Responses to a range of issues in the current draft document submitted offer diametrically opposed opinions and suggestions which the planning inspector will soon respond to in writing to selected consultation participants.

Issues that will be ironed out over the upcoming months will be how many homes, currently set at 13,200, how many Greenfield sites, with the viability of 39 green spaces up for consideration, and how high, with the height restrictions – if any – in Brighton Marina subject to particularly hot contention.

Councillor Phelim MacCafferty, chair of the city’s planning committee, said: “We’ve made a small but significant step in the right direction towards getting our local plan adopted which is vital to ensure local control over where development goes.

“We must remember that if we don’t have an agreed City Plan we will effectively lose control of where new developments would go and the whole of the urban fringe could be at risk of development.

“We are not over all of the hurdles but the finish line is in sight.

“For the first time in years we will have the strong advantage of an adopted plan.”

City Plan Q&A

Q: What is a City Plan?

A: Local planning authorities must prepare a local plan which sets planning policies in a local authority area.

Q: Why is it important?

A: Without a local plan in place, the council says it would be in a weak position to resist inappropriate development across the city.

Proposals would be judged against the National Planning Policy Framework which has a presumption in favour of sustainable development and has been labelled a developer’s charter by opponents.

The council says that having a City Plan will guarantee a balance between land for housing, jobs and open spaces, with protection for more than 90% of the urban fringe.

Q: What’s going on in the rest of the country?

A: Getting a Local Plan agreed has not been a cakewalk for many other authorities across the country either; in fact, more than three in five councils across the country are still without a plan in place for their area.

Some have been sitting pretty since 2013 when their existing plans were considered compliant but many others are going through the same push and pull negotiations as Brighton and Hove.

Areas of contention

WITH 450 responses from 187 groups, companies and individuals with wildly diverging opinions and interests, it’s certainly going to be a mammoth task to keep everybody happy with the final plan.

Here we outline some of the key issues and areas that sparked the biggest responses during the consultation and which the Planning Inspector will now have to consider.

How high?

The Planning Inspectorate has specifically asked the council to look again at the level of development in Brighton Marina, requesting that more of the housing demand is met there.

That viewpoint is challenged by a number of conservation groups including Steve Ankers at the South Downs Society which has called for instructions not to build above the cliff height within Brighton Marina to be reinserted to the final plan.

That concern is echoed by Malcolm Dawes and Jeremy Mustoe of The Brighton Society who admitted that any instructions in the City Plan would be too late to influence ongoing building work to construct 40-storey towers at the Marina, but called for any future buildings to be limited in height so as not to “substantially affect views” of the cliffs from the sea and views from the National Park looking south.

The North Laine Community Association said the group objected to any terminology which includes the word landmark because the term indicated tall towers damaging to seafront views and reviving the spectre of previous unpopular proposals such as the “twisted Edwardian ladies” of the King Alfred towers.

But Marina property owner X-Leisure Ltd and Land Securities disagree, saying that to address the “acute housing shortage” the council should be looking for higher density housing at the waterfront.

They have found an unlikely ally in Hove Civic Society chairman Helmut Lusser, who said the city could not afford to put a limit on housing height in the Marina, the idea being that more intense development here would lessen the burden on other parts of the city.

Spreading the pressure outside the city

With demand for 24,000 more homes and space at a premium between the sea and the South Downs, some respondents have suggested that neighbouring districts and boroughs should take up some of the slack.

Richard Scott said that the proposed City Plan modifications still “fail to make provision” for working with adjoining district and county councils and in particular the triangle of Lewes-Newhaven-Brighton.

Mayfield Market Towns, which is proposing a new 10,000-home town near to Sayers Common, raised their own concerns that the plan in its current existence does not address any solutions in either Horsham district or Mid Sussex district.

The developers claim that with Brighton and Hove City Council exhausting all avenues to find land for housing within its borders, decisions on meeting demand elsewhere should not be longer term considerations but an urgent need and that their specific scheme should be included in the plan.

What developers want

Unsurprisingly, developers have been telling the Planning Inspectorate they want higher housing targets for the city and fewer restrictions on developments.

While their opponents might see this as naked self-interest, there is a compelling argument to be more ambitious if the city is even going to get close to meeting the need and move closer to achieving affordable housing for the many.

Lightwood Strategic, which had an application for 85 homes on land south of Ovingdean Road rejected in January, said that the plan needs to “explicitly state” that 13,200 homes by 2030 is just a minimum target.

Brighton Marina property owners X-Leisure Ltd and Land Securities said that the minimum housing target of 13,200 still fell woefully short of the authority’s own objective housing need assessment of between 18,000 and 24,000 new homes.

The pair called for efficient use of brownfield sites, to recognise the potential for housing in the urban fringe and to increase the capacity of the inner harbour Marina site to a minimum of 1,300 dwellings.

No more building

Some respondents to the consultation have dismissed the proposal that the city can sustain thousands of more homes.

Phil Belden told the planning inspectorate that “sustainable growth” was an oxymoron and that the city can't keep getting bigger.

He called on the council to make a stand and not support further growth and that the reasonable and sensible alternative was to plan and manage the city within its limits.

Left Unity Brighton and Hove Branch said that the Government imposed levels of housing were “intrinsically unsustainable” and should “be challenged, not accommodated”.

Protecting open spaces

The Brighton Society said the City Plan needed to give incentives to developers to develop brownfield over greenfield sites because at present it made more economic sense for them to focus on green open spaces.

Sport England has suggested the council need to “consider very carefully” whether any open spaces identified for development could not be transformed into sports facilities in the future – especially as the pair were in ongoing discussions on a detailed playing pitch strategy.

Chris Todd, from Friends of the Earth, said that more emphasis should be focused on development around the “important sustainable transport hubs” of the city’s main two railway stations rather than developing the urban fringe.

The council has sought to assure residents through the process there will be a further detailed assessment of the sensitive urban fringe sites.

There would also remain the opportunity to object to planning applications on urban fringe sites if any proposal was submitted.

More students

The city is home to more than 40,000 university students and 35,000 language students each year with the two universities.

While the strain this influx has on family housing leaves some residents crying out for no more, both universities have ambitious plans for significant expansion to their accommodation in the upcoming years.

And the University of Brighton think the City Plan should go further to find room for students, in particular by almost doubling the current 750 students earmarked for the development of their Moulse-coomb campus and up at Falmer.

Hollingbury Park (pictured above)

Among the hotly disputed sites receiving the most consultation objections was the inclusion of Hollingbury Park as a potential site for development.

Resident Gabriele Del Federico said the idea of developing a park was “absolutely shocking” and building on the site would cause an increase in pollution, congestion, traffic, noise and would be “disastrous” for a city gateway.

Chris Todd, from Friends of the Earth Brighton and Hove, also questioned the allocation of Hollingbury Park for housing based on the assertion that there is a surplus of green space in the area, saying that Wild Park and Stanmer Park were neither “local or accessible” to residents of Holling-dean.

Craven Vale

More than 20 residents have also strongly opposed any inclusion of Craven Vale Allotments in the City Plan.

Again Mr Todd from Friends of the Earth Brighton and Hove objected, saying that “mistakes have been made” in including the Craven Vale allotments with the site allocated for replacement allotments open access land.

Plot owner Jenny Embleton said the council should be identifying more allotment sites across the city, not losing them.

She added that the allotment was home to many wild native plants, slow worms, crickets, grasshoppers, lizards and badgers.

The Deans

Campaigners have already led a strong drive to protect green spaces on the more leafy outskirts in the city with the Save Our Deans campaign.

Submissions to the latest consultation indicate that there is stomach for the fight to protect the urban fringe, which the Planning Inspectorate has specifically stated the council needs to consider further.

Resident Matthew Grout said the Deans villages were “seriously lacking in infrastructure” with roads figuratively buckling under the existing traffic and that any new homes would need to be accompanied by new roads, schools, surgeries, libraries, social services and leisure facilities.

The Deans Preservation Group, The Ovingdean Residents and Preservation Society and The Saltdean Countryside Alliance have all raised concerns about development on particular sites – a sign also of the level of organised and determined opposition to this type of development.

But Ovingdean Estates, which owns one of the identified urban fringe sites off Longhill Road, said the council needed to take a “more rigorous analysis” into the level of housing possible on urban fringe sites.

The developers pointed out that over the time taken to develop the City Plan, the gap between housing targets and housing need had grown from a shortfall of 8,700 homes in December 2013 to 10,800 homes at the current stage of the process.

Toads Hole Valley

A key Greenfield site off the A27 in Hove, Toads Hole Valley has been earmarked for up to 700 homes, which would be one of the biggest one-off chunks into the housing target.

But not all locals agree with developing this green lung of the city; resident Geraldine O’Brien believes the site would suffer from extreme noise pollution, traffic congestion and air pollution to such an extent that the council would open themselves to the risk of law suits.

Many other residents object to the latest modifications proposed in the City Plans including relaxing the commitment for a secondary school and towards high-quality sustainable homes which they consider “watering down” of the original design.

Hazel McKay, from the Campaign to Save Toads Hole Valley and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the area is a “precious site that should only be released in exceptional circumstances” and should only be built upon to create “an exemplary suburb”.

On the other side of the debate, the trustees of Toads Hole Valley and Pecla Investments say that too high sustainability demands will “render the development unviable” and have requested a personal audience with the Planning Inspector to explain their particular requirements.

Mr Todd, from Friends of the Earth Brighton and Hove, said his group wanted a higher minimum housing provision for the site to make the development “sound” – in particular to have sufficient residents for a high-frequency bus service.

Shoreham Harbour

The Brighton Society have questioned why the capacity for Shoreham Harbour has been reduced from 400 to 300 new residential units saying the area is a “potentially very attractive housing location” which could make a significant contribution to the city’s housing targets.

The society would also like to see an increased link between Hove Lagoon and Aldrington Basin visually with a new public square overlooking the harbour and lined with housing, offices, restaurant and cafés.

The society wants a modified City Plan to show a “bit more vision” for the re-development of the area.