A gym can open in the old Le Carbone building in Portslade Old Village after councillors voted to grant planning permission for a “change of use”.

The description of the original planning application included “art studios and ancillary galleries, shared community space and café”.

Since then, planning law has changed and some regarded the application as something of a formality.

The loss of community space prompted a few grumbles though when Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning committee met at Hove Town Hall last week.

Councillors voted three for and three against the proposed switch from unoccupied studios, galleries and community space to a gym.

Green councillor Leo Littman used his casting vote as the chair of the planning committee to pass the plans.

Gym operator Intent 91 is raring to go at the site, on the corner of High Street and South Street, where the Old Brewery has been converted into flats.

Labour councillor Les Hamilton, who represents South Portslade, spoke for residents who did not object to the original plans because they believed that the flats would include community space.

Cllr Hamilton said that dropping the art studios and gallery would be “contrary to what the residents were promised”.

He said: “One member of the planning committee who voted for this application said she would have voted against it had she had known what was to come.”

Residents had put up with years of noise and disturbance, he added, in the hope of community facilities once the work was complete.

Portslade resident Ali Start said that the process had been awful and taken six years but people had “hung in there” for the art gallery.

She said: “It’s now or never. You either keep the original plan with our community and the arts at the heart of this or sign it away and the opportunity is lost forever. The space is perfect for a gallery in the heart of our conservation area.”

The developer, PGMI Portslade Limited, whose directors are Aysegul Peker, 49, and Hasan Peker, 62, were represented by their agent Colin Sharpe, 63, director at New Romney-based Architects Plus.

Referring to Intent 91, Mr Sharpe said: “They’ve had very quickly 60 local residents signed up to their personal training studio.

“It’s quite different to a normal studio set-up. This is not something which is not going to benefit the local community.”

Labour councillor Daniel Yates said that he was “sick” of developers “taking away the things that have enabled them to get through public consultation”.

He said: “In this case, it is unavoidable. I don’t think a café would need to be open for a day, maybe for a morning, perhaps just one bacon sandwich.

“You could open it up as a community space for a 10 minute viewing and then shut it down and reinstall the gym. It’s quite frankly ridiculous.”

The Argus: The reception at Intent91's new gym in PortsladeThe reception at Intent91's new gym in Portslade (Image: Intent91)

He voted to approve the change of use along with Green councillors Elaine Hills and Leo Littman.

But another Green councillor Sue Shanks said: “It’s ridiculous. We’re here as a committee. We have a right to make a decision. We shouldn’t just agree to this.”

She voted against the proposal, along with fellow Green councillor Marianna Ebel and Independent councillor Nick Childs.

Labour councillor Clare Moonan abstained so the application was passed on Councillor Littman’s vote as chair.

He said: “Fundamentally, even if a fully-fledged art gallery had been put in, it could be torn out and replaced with a gym. That’s what the law allows. I feel terribly sorry for the residents.

“I know the area well. I was at school just up the road and walked past this building every day to get the bus home. It’s an absolute crying shame that the law allows for this, but the law does allow for that.”

Cllr Littman said that if the committee refused the application, the applicant could appeal , council would lose the appeal and that would cost taxpayers’ money.