A £150 million redevelopment of Napoleonic-era Army barracks has been likened to a “like an orifice of broken teeth” in a scathing response from conservationists.

Jeremy Mustoe, of the Brighton Society, said the planning application for Preston Barracks in Brighton is “badly presented, confusing, repetitive, over-elaborate, and long-winded” – potentially to confuse or mislead the public.

The civic group chairman said “the design of virtually every element of the proposals leaves a lot to be desired”, warning planned public spaces would be “narrow, sunless canyons” while the use of white brick, red brick and metal cladding meant the scheme had “a lack of cohesion and consistency”.

The scheme involves the partial demolition of the Lewes Road site to create more than 1,000 student rooms, 369 homes, academic buildings, 600-space car park, a student union and gymnasium, in towers of up to 15 storeys high

The scheme has split public opinion with almost 50 letters of objection but even more letters of support of it.

It has also divided opinion within civic societies with the Regency Society supporting it for its potential to develop land long left derelict and providing “much-needed” student housing to take pressure off “conventional housing”.

Honorary secretary Richard Carroll said the scheme had “disappointing aspects” including a lack of unity with the two sides of the development drawn up by different architects and a paucity of “gravitas” for a scheme of such size and significance.

The plans have not received the full support of the council’s housing strategy team because the amount of affordable housing offered is below the 40 per cent level.

Developers have said “despite viability challenges” the applicant has made a commitment to 15 per cent affordable housing which will mean a shortfall of 73 affordable homes.

Deputy chief executive of developers U + I Richard Upton said: “Working in close partnership with the University of Brighton and Brighton and Hove City Council, we have the opportunity to create meaningful and transformational regeneration in this important mixed-use scheme for Brighton. 

“By helping to alleviate pressure on the city’s private housing market, attracting inward investment and developing a thriving hub for local businesses, this scheme will create long-lasting socioeconomic benefit for the local community and the city as a whole.” 

Colleagues in the economic development team said the scheme would enhance the area and generate employment opportunities but warned the planned allocation of office space fell far short of the council’s expectations stated in the City Plan, which will impact on any potential for business growth and inward investment.

A decision on the application is expected later this summer.