Newsletter, January 2013

Chairman’s letter

Dear Members

A very happy and successful New Year to all of you!

Funding – what is going to happen to the environment?

Your committee believes that Hove needs more investment in its environmental infrastructure, better space for pedestrians, a facelift for its many attractive conservation areas, substantial tree planting and we will, with your help, make the case for Hove to receive a larger share of the funds available for investment in the city. 

Because of the pressure of public funding, perhaps more revenue than capital, we can expect substantial reductions in the years to come. Civic leaders elsewhere are already predicting a local government where any non-protected services will have to be cut by 30%. Brighton and Hove council have had to impose further cuts recently and it won’t stop there.

It is probably quite safe to conclude that as environmental expenditure isn’t protected, many environmental services will face disproportionate cuts and that there will not be a great deal of scope for much needed improvements.

I therefore believe that if we are going to see many of the changes and improvements needed in Hove then we will need to find ways of helping to raise the necessary funds ourselves. Your committee is working on this.

Planning and development – lack of leadership?

The weekly monitoring of applications is less of a job than it used to be as there are very few applications of substance coming through at the moment. However it seems as if interest is starting to gather around the large development areas identified in the (draft) City Plan. As far as Hove is concerned we have had a short spurt of interest in Hove Square, Toad’s Hole Valley and some initial consultation on King Alfred, where several developers are sharpening their pens. As expected every suggestion for development immediately generates substantial negative response among local communities which then creates its political followership, amplifying any negative sentiments. In the process many good ideas get scuppered, delays happen and the chances are that we are ultimately left with poor compromises. I firmly believe that we now have a framework for development which in a reasonable way seeks to cater for some of the many needs of the population in the city. We know that we need to provide housing, even if it is a modest amount, spaces for employment, commerce and culture and renewable energy projects and we should get on with it. Getting good development, means encouraging the market and saying ‘we are open for business’. This needs strong leadership and teamwork. I hope the authorities can deliver this.

Your committee’s comments on the larger developments can be found here. We have had interest from members in setting up a group for Hove Square and we will do this if and when there is indication that the scheme will progress.     

What is Hove Civic Society doing?

I am pleased to announce progress in two areas:

The Hove Plinth has now reached planning application stage. When you read this the council will have considered the land owner issues, and if successful, a planning application will have been submitted by your committee. The plinth will be capable of accommodating a wide range of sculptures and will have lighting and broadband connections. When and if we receive planning permission fundraising will start for building the plinth and for the first years of installations. The thinking of our subgroup suggests that the first installation could either be a loan or a commission. More details further on in this newsletter.

Restoring our Victorian Street Tree Heritage: Our first community planting took place on the 17th December in Montpellier Place. The next agreed scheme is in the Poet’s Corner area and will happen in the autumn. Both schemes were possible because of a small grant from the council together with donations received by the Society. I am very encouraged by the community response we have had and the enthusiasm for local tree planting. We will want to develop this into a continuous scheme and will be looking for fundraising to help planting take place across Hove. If any member wishes to donate some funds to our tree fund, we would welcome this. If we can achieve 10-15 annual donations for one tree each then we can have the confidence to start a rolling programme. Currently one street tree planted costs £288, the council then matches this with another tree.  

Memberships

I am very grateful to all of you who pay their membership by standing order. It makes for so much less admin. For those of you who don’t yet pay in this way, please consider whether you could move in this direction – you will find the standing order form here. Otherwise please send your annual subscription to the membership secretary as soon as possible.

Finally I would like to welcome all our new members and in particular, Mike Weatherley, MP and councillors Vanessa Brown, Graham Cox, Sue Shanks, and Andrew Wealls. I am delighted that you have chosen to become members and look forward to working with you.

With best wishes

Helmut Lusser

For those members that do not renew by standing order:

Please note that membership renewals are due now. Please send your cheques to Membership Secretary c/o Andrew Haicalis, Flat 6, 32 St.Aubyns, Hove, BN3 2TD

If at all possible please pay by standing order. This helps reduce our administration substantially. You can download the standing order form here.

Thanks to our Membership Secretary

Roshan Aucklah, who has been our membership secretary since Sue Ellerton retired unfortunately will be leaving in January as he has been offered a job in Sheffield. We are very grateful for Roshan’s help, especially in terms of digitising our membership information. We wish him all success in his new job and hope that he will return to Hove one day.

 

Tree Planting Montpellier Place / York Road Area

On the 17th December the first community planting promoted by Hove Civic Society commenced with a ceremony attended by the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Bill Randall. A total of 12 elms will be planted in the area. In Montpellier Place Ulmus 'Columella' will be planted. It is a species that has proved to be extremely resistant to the European strain of Dutch elm disease. 'Columella' makes a tall, fastigiate tree with very upright branches, but broadens in later years. In York Road Ulmus 'Clusius' will be planted. The tree has a broader crown than its siblings. (Ref: Wikipedia).

The Mayor planting the first new elm tree in Montpellier Place

 

Noe om Hove

There was a little discrepancy in the last newsletter. It was stated that there is a town called Hove in Norway and that there is a yearly musical festival. Well, the Hove Festival is actually situated on one of the twelve farms in Norway named Hove. There are no towns called Hove.

Some years ago when I had just started to travel to Hove, I met a local historian by the name Arne Hove. He is from an area named after one of the farms called Hove, some 10 miles south of Stavanger. He was interested to know the origin of the English name Hove. From the Encyclopedia of Hove that I found in Hove library, I copied the possible interpretations of the name:

- after a place where there was a “hov” which is a place for worshipping the Norse gods like Thor and Odin. Usually these places are named just Hov.

- after a nature or landscape feature resembling a head, as the word “head” in the old Norse language was “hove”.

The second possibility is the most likely as there never was a “hov” built by the vikings so far south as Sussex. The vikings first came to England in about 800 and Lindisfarne was raided in 793. The vikings later settled, became Christians and brought Christianity back to Norway by taking monks, priest and church builders to their home country. I never heard of vikings worshipping Norse gods in a “hov” on the British Isles.

Lars Sund, Hove and Stavanger

 

Another dip into history

Very few people walk down the bottom end of Church Road, Portslade to Wellington Road, opposite the eastern end of Shoreham Harbour, so what could be termed an interesting piece of public art on the corner does not receive many visitors. I quote from the plaque:

“The Portslade “Gassie”. During the 19th century gas works were constructed across the canal to supply the increasing local population with their demand for gas. By 1926 the site occupied some 40 acres and provided work for local residents. These workers were ferried back and forth over the canal by small boats nicknamed “gassies”. The “gassies” were the most direct route for the staff and avoided a long walk along the coast to Aldrington and then back to the other side.”

The boat on view is a sturdy wooden rowing boat which seated about 6 persons. The oarsman is cleverly denoted by strips of metal in the shape of a human figure pulling at the oars. It’s worth a detour and the nearest bus services are the 700 and the 1/1A.

Leapfrogging across Hove to central Brighton, the winter is a good time to see the new lighting scheme for the Royal Pavilion, two or three years after the old scheme became unusable. It’s very much in line with modern thinking, as the LED lighting will be vastly cheaper to run, and the design illuminates the building itself, thus reducing the light pollution found in most towns.

Another leap to Brighton seafront. Volk’s railway was always ahead of its time, and the city council are planning to run it with solar power. It would be the world’s first solar-powered electric railway. The provision of an all-weather carriage would allow the train to run all the year round. An interesting prospect.

Finally, I was very sorry to hear of Sir Patrick Moore’s passing. He was game to the last – his most recent “Sky at Night” was broadcast only recently. I so enjoyed visiting him. If you missed my interview with Patrick in last May’s newsletter, it’s here.

Elaine Evans

 

Renewables Infrastructure Group news

RIG submitted ideas to a bid by the council for £24 million to become a One Planet Demonstrator project, but unfortunately they did not win. The government is looking for ideas as to how cities can reduce their carbon footprint by a factor of three, so that we only use 1 planet’s worth of fossil fuels, rather than the present 3. RIG showed how we could halve our present use by district heating from Shoreham power station, solar panels on every roof and wind farms offshore and onshore, and by walking, cycling and electric cars. We are also trying to broker a deal whereby E.ON can second staff to work with council officers to bring these ideas to fruition.

We are continuing to have meetings on the fourth Monday of the month, and would welcome new blood. Please contact the secretary, John Kapp, 417997, johnkapp@btinternet.com, for details.

John Kapp

 

Public Sculpture

Our proposal to put a new plinth on the Hove promenade, as a focal point for inspirational public sculpture, is gaining momentum. The idea, to have a changing display of a wide range of sculpture on a prominent seafront site, has caught the imagination of many people, as well as the media. Recently we have featured in The Argus and on BBC South East News, and we have received letters of support from many local and national organisations concerned with arts and heritage, as well as from local councillors and the local MP. 

The site we are proposing is the actual seafront promenade in a straight line down from the Queen Victoria statue at the bottom of Grand Avenue. Our proposal is for a plinth of appropriate architectural quality to fit and chime with the heritage of its seafront location and with facilities to accommodate various forms of sculpture. When you read this, the council will have decided on whether it will permit a plinth to be installed on its land. If we get a positive decision, we will submit a full planning application in January.

If planning permission is granted we will be in a position to launch our fundraising campaign. We would like as many people as possible to have a stake in the plinth. In Victorian times monuments were often paid for by public subscription and we want to revive this tradition by asking individuals and businesses to “pledge for the plinth” and become part of this ambitious and exciting project.  Further down the line we hope to engage Hove Civic Society members and other local groups and societies in the process of selecting works to go on the plinth.

Meantime, there is an opportunity to be inspired by sculpture at the Hove Civic Society January lecture, where Peter Seddon will be talking about the heritage of public statues and monuments in Brighton & Hove and Karin Janzon about the plans to make Hove a destination for amazing sculpture in the future.

Karin Janzon

 

Visit to Conway Street Bus Depot

More of us than ever before now travel by bus in and around Brighton and Hove. In fact, since 1993 the number of passenger journeys has more than doubled. Moreover, surveys show that our satisfaction rate hovers consistently at around 90%. How has this happened? Sixteen HCS members went along to the bus depot and control room on 1st November to find out more from Roger French, the managing director of Brighton and Hove buses.

Roger’s presentation was enjoyable and informative. We saw pictures of well-known roadways and junctions, past and present, in a new light. Discussion caught on as we began to appreciate the hindrances to bus schedules caused by vehicles parked in bus lanes and unanticipated road works – often being carried out on behalf of utility companies. We were encouraged to hear that, despite such setbacks, 80% of bus journeys in the city are made on buses that run at least every ten minutes and that the average waiting time for a bus is five minutes.

A highlight of the presentation was the discussion around the images projected from the control room where the ‘real time’ monitoring takes place. We were watching little icons of buses moving along their routes, colour coded to indicate whether they were on time, ahead or behind schedule. Later we were guided down to the control room to meet the operator who not only monitors the on-screen images but keeps in contact with the bus drivers and with managers in the city transport centre. Roger had explained the importance of working in partnership with the council which has authority over highways. The real time images are shared. When time intervals between buses are interrupted, the bus company and council operators plan interventions, such as changes to the phases of traffic lights. There was conversation and laughter about our familiar bus routes!

Our fondness for ‘our’ buses came to the surface as photographs of individual favourites appeared during the presentation. Roger talked about the policies that are designed to enhance the popularity of bus travel. We recalled the lecture that Adam Trimingham gave last year about how the names of famous former residents are chosen for each vehicle. Roger spoke about the colour coding of bus routes, and about the decision to exclude advertising on the buses apart from information about the service itself. Currently the focus is on different ways of buying tickets.

The company’s aim is to simplify ticketing, and to provide savings incentives for advance purchase. Nowadays only 15% of tickets are bought for a single journey and the trend is towards buying SMART travel cards, topping them up as required, usually on line. Roger outlined the concessions that provide much lower fares for 5-19 year-olds. Only the 60+ age group do not pay for their own bus travel, with the government reimbursing the costs to the company, via the city council.

As conservationists, HCS members welcome the contribution that more sustainable public transport can make to our lives. Roger gave examples through photographs and statistics. For example, the creation of the bus lane along the A259 to Peacehaven has reduced average journey time for bus passengers from 44 to 26 minutes during peak travel periods. The fact that 45% of these travellers occupy only 2% of the vehicles on the stretch of road to and fro to Rottingdean is indicative of how much more efficient road transport could become for the majority. Emissions from the fleet of buses are being steadily reduced by replacing one in every fifteen of the older vehicles per year, including with thirteen hybrid models. These are currently much more expensive and Roger is waiting to see how long the batteries last.

Despite the technical and environmental considerations Roger is determined that an equally important factor is that bus travel should remain comfortable, accessible and with the ‘wow’ factor of style. He plans that passengers will relax and enjoy most journeys. We appreciate how much an effective public transport system adds to the economy and vibrancy of Brighton and Hove. We are very grateful for the contribution being made by the company and would like to thank Roger for an excellent lecture tour.

Clare Tikly

 

Recollections of the Old Ship Hotel

Seventeen stalwart HCS members reached the Old Ship Hotel in the rain and darkness on 6th December – a suitable atmosphere for the mysteries and excitement of Jackie Marsh-Hobbs’ lecture tour. Here are some of our recollections:

  • Really interesting to see how large the hotel is and how it had evolved over the centuries. Also enjoyed the story of the Royal Escape and how it connects to the Old Ship
  • The carved wooden bit from the boat carrying Charles which they hope to display in the hotel; the story about the timber from the Royal Escape being lost and found
  • The building behind the frontage in Ship Street – metal balustrade in cast iron; the flagstones that are a fragment of old pavement at the bottom of the staircase with the wrought iron balustrades
  • The grandeur of the Assembly Rooms and ballroom, contrasted with the cellars and the Regency staircase
  • Loved the ballroom and cellars – the ghost that opened the cupboard door was an extra!
  • I wondered about the colour scheme of the Paganini Room – perhaps that was why he played so fast!
  • In 1831 Paganini – who is now regarded as the master of modern violin playing- performed in the ballroom from a balcony above the audience, which is still in situ
  • The curved  shape of the cantilever balcony and the idea that Dickens and Thackeray gave readings from there
  • I enjoyed the squeaky floors that led to the house that still retains the beautiful Regency fireplace

Thank you to members for these recollections, written from English’s restaurant where we had an enjoyable meal afterwards.

Clare Tikly