Newsletter, January 2014

Chairman’s letter

Dear Members, a very happy and successful 2014 to all of you.

This newsletter is the first one that many of you will receive electronically as a pdf version – we are doing this to save on postage and also administration. If you still want to receive a printed version then please let us know. We will also try to communicate with you by e-mail from time to time for example when we publicise information about new events. And there is the website which is kept updated regularly for your benefit.

The biggest news since our last newsletter is the Inspector’s letter to the council regarding the City Plan which was received in December. The Inspector who presided over a two week examination in public on the City Plan in October is in serious doubt whether the plan is sound (and could therefore be adopted). It is all to do with housing and the lack of supply identified in the plan. Please see the separate item later in this newsletter. She seems to demand more housing in the urban fringe and asks the council to leave no stone unturned to find more housing land. For good measure she suggests that the cliff height restriction for new development in the Marina is thrown out as this hinders development. She also cites the proposal for Toads Hole valley as a positive example and asks that other areas are also looked at more positively.

Having sat through the examination in public it strikes me that her attitude differs fundamentally from those of the several groups of objectors fervently seeking to prevent the proposed developments in their area. I believe her interim conclusions come with a lot of common sense and contain very sound urban planning principles. As even the advocate for the objectors to Toads Hole Valley was conceding there is considerable capacity for development in the city and in Hove in particular. It just needs to be done well. What shouldn’t happen is the prevarication we have and the frequent positioning against development per se. That it should have taken the PortZed development 7 years to get to the planning permission stage is a disgrace. We need the dwellings and the jobs in construction and the wealth and investment that comes with it.

I believe that Hove Civic Society must take an open if critical view of new development and help the gradual improvement of Hove. I am pleased that we have managed to attract several more colleagues who will help us in this task including Colin Brace, who is the local developer of Port Zed and local architect David Kemp, who will provide us with the ammunition to say ‘yes, but’.

December saw our second tree planting, with a scheme that will have some 40 trees eventually. A planting ceremony was held in Marmion and Stoneham Roads with the Mayor, Cllr Denise Cobb and our MP, Mike Weatherley planting trees. You will find a separate item later on. I am tremendously encouraged by the positive responses we have received from residents in many streets in Hove and Portslade. At the moment I am counting 9 streets where residents have approached us. I am starting to meet with residents to go through the various steps needed for planting up their streets. If any member wants to see the material we make available to help the process then please let me know. Our problem now is not to find more roads where people want to plant, but to stock up on our funds so we can help local residents groups to get going. Currently we have 8 Tree Angels and Cherubs, all but two from your committee. This gives us sufficient funds to allow 16 trees to be planted annually (including matched funding by the council). Where local residents top up as recently in Poet’s Corner this would give us in excess of 30 trees. However we would like to do more – it seems to us to be one of the best ways of investing in our environment. So please consider becoming a Tree Angel or Cherub.

The Plinth is making great progress. We have now signed the license agreement and memorandum of understanding with the council and major fund raising efforts are now starting in earnest. Please remember that we have a ‘just giving’ button on our website that allows donations to be made instantaneously.

Next time I hope to be able to tell you what we would like to see happening to our main restaurant and shopping street, Church Road. Two young architects are helping us to sketch up some ideas based on the report produced for the council in 2007 by the Danish architect Jan Gehl.

Let me finish by thanking you again for your much valued continued support

With best wishes

Helmut Lusser

City Plan – Inspector issues initial conclusions

After the two week examination in public in late October, the Inspector has now come back to the council with her initial conclusions. This is not the final report, but it is clear that the Inspector is expecting the council to respond to the points she has made very firmly.

Firstly, she believes that the council should use the higher end of their estimates to assess housing need. This is 20,000 households. She notes that the attempts to cooperate with adjoining authorities have not succeeded and are unlikely to succeed. The housing need therefore has to be met locally.  

This means a substantial increase over the supply offered through the City Plan policies (currently at 11,000) and will mean a more challenging examination of urban fringe land. She cites Toad’s Hole valley as an example where the council takes a positive approach, in contrast to the negative approach taken to other sites. The proposed review of urban fringe sites, which the council thinks may offer another 100 sites, is deemed to be too restrictive and she considers that a more rigorous assessment is needed.

In the same vein she also challenges the rather inflexible employment policies and suggests that the policy should be reassessed to explore whether employment land can be lost to housing.

Overall, she feels part one of the City Plan falls well short of meeting identified housing needs and is currently not convinced that the plan is sound. She concludes on the housing need with the words:  “I recognise the constraints faced by the Council but if I am to find the Plan sound, notwithstanding such a significant shortfall in the provision of new housing, I would need to be satisfied that the Council had left no stone unturned in seeking to meet as much of this need as possible.”

She rounds up her letter with some conclusions on the areas which featured in the examination in public and which have an impact on housing provision.

On the Brighton Marina development she considers that there are sufficient safeguards for the design of schemes. She also considers that the cliff height restriction should be removed to allow a viable scheme to come forward, which can make a significant contribution to meeting housing needs.

On specific housing standards she questions the need for Brighton to have standards for development which are over and above national standards as required by building regulations. This point again aims to increase viability on scope for new development in the city.

The council has been set a major challenge and it is far from certain that we will have an approved City Plan in the near future. Unless we have such a plan the National Planning Policy Framework applies which removes many of the protective policies we have for the city. This would be the most undesirable outcome possible. 

Helmut Lusser

Rampion and our campaign for Combined Heat and Power / District Heating

As you may know, we have been campaigning for renewable energy in Sussex, to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas, the price of which keeps rising due to world demand. Politicians pretend that they can control it, but they can't. The only way to control it is to make as much as possible ourselves from our own sunshine and wind. We are therefore in favour of the Rampion windfarm project, but have objected to the gold plated way that E.ON have proposed to connect it to our homes, via Bolney substation, instead of to our local substations on the south coast. We have given evidence to the enquiry, which is expected to report in the spring.

We recently had a meeting with Patrick Allcorn, the officer at DECC responsible for district heating. We urged him to back our campaign to properly evaluate the potential for carbon saving of connecting Shoreham power station to the radiators in the city. He told us that Newcastle has discovered a geothermal source of hot water several kilometres below them, and are planning to tap into it. We pointed out that we have a source of hot water on the surface, which is thrown away into the sea, amounting to 2 bn kWh pa. At the current gas price of 5 p/kWh, that would be worth £100m pa. We also pointed out that the government is backing fracking and nuclear power, which has much environmental impact on our water supply and disposal of radioactive waste, whereas CHP/DH would have no environmental impact at all once the pipes are laid in the streets. There are some pipes on the continent that have been supplying hot water for over a century.

John Kapp

Visit to Southern Water's sewage treatment plant

Last summer, about 20 of us visited this new sewage works plant north of Peacehaven. It is invisible from the surface, as it is built below ground level. We were given the conducted tour. It takes all the sewage from Brighton and Hove at Portobello, on the coast near Peachaven, and pumps it through filters and floculators, before discharging it through a pipe several kilometres out to sea. They take great care to avoid smells emanating from the plant, and there was hardly a whiff when we were there. We tend to take our water supply for granted, but it is remarkable that each one of us uses about a ton of it each week, and it costs us only about £1 per ton delivered, and £1 per ton to be taken away.

John Kapp

A reminder from the Membership Secretary

As the New Year arrives so does the need for all members of the Hove Civic Society to ensure that they have paid their subscription for 2014, so this is just a timely reminder. To all those who have already forwarded cheques to the treasurer or paid by Standing Order - many many thanks. However, the New Year is also a time for resolutions so I appeal once more to all those who do not pay by SO to resolve to do so. I am sure you will understand how much easier this is for our hardworking treasurer, reduces our administration and makes life easier for you, too, as you enter each year.  Just to remind you the annual membership is £12 for one person and £20 for two persons. Cheques, made payable to “Hove Civic Society” should be sent to Andrew Haicalis at Flat 6, 32 St Aubyns, Hove, BN3 2TD. The Standing Order form can be downloaded here and should be forwarded to Andrew. (If you do not have the facility to download the form get in touch with me on 01273 417303 and I will forward one to you).

Thank you for your support in the past and I look forward to meeting you at events in 2014.

Angela F. Turner

Feeling good in the new year

By the time the month of February comes around most of us are already thinking along the lines of ‘giving up’ all those ill considered New Year’s Resolutions designed to make us feel fitter, healthier or just better about ourselves…. Well if you are struggling to fulfil those promises or indeed are succeeding and saving money by giving up smoking etc., we have campaigns which you can support and which will make a real difference to the look of our local environment – and what’s more you can feel jolly good about the results all year round……

We are currently asking for financial support to help with two major environmental community projects:

By becoming a Tree Angel and committing the sum of £250 you can help cover the cost of a tree – thus helping to restore those lost in the recent storms and adding new ones to line our streets in the way they once were during Hove’s great Victorian Heritage.

And if you are encouraged by the Visual Arts then the new Hove Plinth Campaign is for you. HSC has now full planning permission to build a stone plinth on the seafront on the Kings Esplanade just south of the Queen Victoria statue. It will hold a series of changeable contemporary sculptures – much in the same way as the Fourth Plinth does in Trafalgar Square. It will showcase the work of recognised, contemporary sculptors including our own local talent but with an added digital dimension as the area will have its own Wi-Fi hotspot through which up to date information about the current artwork and its creator can be accessed via your mobile phone.

Both projects are excellent ideas and a great deal of hard work has already been put in to get them established. But like all good ideas more funding is required to complete them and here is where you can help. Whether you are a local business or an individual you can donate to either project by accessing the Hove Civic website and clicking on the suitable link on their homepage. So go on, do your bit for our community today. No donation is too small but of course should you wish to give more then it will be much appreciated and there are added incentives including a year’s free membership of HCS for any donation £100 or over. So check our website now for more information and a chance to feel really good throughout 2014!

Helen Phillips

Tour of No. 33 Palmeira Mansions

On 5th December, Jackie Marsh-Hobbs met us on the steps of the language school which now owns the building. She welcomed us in from rain, wind and darkness into an amazing ground floor room which in itself seems to justify the Grade 2 listed status of No. 33 Palmeira Mansions. There were thirteen of us on the tour and we will each have our significant memories of the initial impact of that room – in my case the colours of the ornate plasterwork on the ceiling, the marble and the items of dark wood furniture. I got some insight into the influence of other cultures on late Victorian style. Jackie explained how the interior had been commissioned by Mr. A.W.Mason, the owner of a prosperous ink company, from the years following his purchase of the house in 1889, well into the 20th century. The longevity of this family’s ownership and subsequent occupiers has enabled key features of the interior to be preserved.

The conservation and restoration work is carried out by Jackie and a small group of enthusiasts and it was clear to me that co-operation with the language school is essential. As we were guided upstairs we saw astonishing features such as the stained glass conservatory, partially restored, and an ornate wooden screen that has been uncovered and maintained. All the way up to the billiard room we had our imaginations and understanding stimulated by Jackie’s talk – an engaging combination of social history and the emergence of this unique style. Jackie’s knowledge and her feelings for the building ferried us through a huge amount of fascinating detail.

I can strongly recommend that those of you who are interested in what makes our city special should book for one of Jackie’s public tours of 33 Palmeira Mansions, now a regular feature of the Fringe Festival.

If any HCS members are interested in helping me identify and organise more visits to places of interest, either about heritage or environmental conservation, then please contact me on 01273 727973 or claretikly@gmail.com

Clare Tikly

Hove Plinth update

Throughout the autumn the sculpture group has been raising the profile of the initiative and developing contacts with individuals and organisations that may be interested in supporting the project.  You may have seen the brochure we produced to support the funding effort and the two-page article in the Brighton and Hove Independent that appeared on the 22 November. We had a very successful Mayor’s Parlour Reception attended by members of Hove Civic Society and other great and good people of Brighton and Hove, where we again had the opportunity to put our message across. Thank you to all who supported that event!  Keep spreading the word and don’t forget that you can donate funds directly from at www.justgiving.com/hovecivicsociety

 We are developing further our ideas for how to exploit digital technology embedded in the plinth for interaction, creative digital displays and art and heritage learning programmes.  We have embraced the idea of having an ‘Artist in Residence’ scheme to engage with schools and interested community groups to develop these aspects.  We have also had a very informative meeting with the project manager of the Fourth Plinth in London, with many learning points from their experience of commissioning public sculptures.

We are researching and exploring opportunities for grant applications. The Heritage Lottery Fund, while not able to consider funding the plinth itself, have indicated that they would  welcome an application for a heritage based commissioning and learning programme, once the plinth is in place. We have had a positive meeting with the Arts Council South East, following which we are now preparing an application under their Grants for the Arts Scheme. To be successful this would require firmly committed matched funding from other sources, so we are continuing to explore grant giving trusts and potential corporate funders.  The cost for the plinth itself, including lighting, landscaping, BT and power cabling and VAT now runs to £104,000. Attracting the funding for the plinth itself will be key to the funding effort – once this has been achieved we are convinced that a range of funders will be prepared to come onboard for the programme costs (approx £ 80,000 per year for the initial three years).

And finally, we will shortly send out a press release announcing a very distinguished first Patron for the project. More details next time!

Karin Janzon

Heritage update

I always enjoy going to the Sussex Heritage Trust Awards and noting down awards made in our area.  Nominations for the awards can be made by architects, contractors, clients, and there are various categories.  The projects include conversion, extension and/or renovation of existing buildings, and occasionally a new development sympathetic to an old site.

At the 2013 ceremony an award was given in the Building Crafts category to Colin Wallington, of Clarke Roofing Eastbourne for his work on the roof of the Grade II listed Madeira Lift, Brighton.  The tiles are made of copper and had to be individually handmade and applied to the roof.  His work also won “Best Example in the UK” at the National Federation of Roofing Awards.  It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, so the next time you walk along Marine Parade, pause to admire it.

Other local nominations winning “Highly commended” were:

-           7 Aymer Road, Hove: renovation and extension of a Victorian double-fronted house in a Conservation Area

-           The Chapel Royal, North Street Brighton:  conservation repair to the exterior brick and terracotta elevations

-           1-7 The Courtyard, Stanmer Village: the refurbishment of the 17th century Well Pump House and the protection of a below ground Ice House, together with a development of 7 new homes.

Elaine Evans

Restoring our Victorian Street Tree Heritage

By the end of 2013 our campaign had managed to obtain a small start up grant from the council of £2500, had raised and spent about £6700 for two planting schemes and associated publicity, leaflets etc, and had produced a research report that provides the rationale for the campaign and contains a number of recommendations for systematically increasing street tree provision in the city. In addition, a system of street Tree Angels had been set up for individuals who are prepared to fund one street tree per year via standing order – this also confers membership of Hove Civic Society.

Our second planting took place in December 2013 in Marmion and Stoneham Roads in Poets Corner. The scheme includes almost 40 trees. After an intensive fundraising campaign local residents managed to raise in excess of £2100. This was a contribution to the cheque of £5184 that Hove Civic Society sent to the council to pay for the trees.

It was a delight to work with the local residents on this scheme and we were also very pleased with the positive cooperation with the council’s Arboricultural service. As a result of this scheme and the publicity arising we have now residents from a number of streets across Hove that also want to plant up their streets. Our limit is the contributions we can make and we call on all members of the society to consider becoming a Tree Angel or a Tree Cherub.

Do you want join us in investing in Hove’s environment?

Become a Tree Angel or Tree Cherub to support local groups in their effort to get street trees in their road.

Becoming a Tree Angel costs £250 per year with gift aid. This funds one new street tree per year.

Becoming a Tree Cherub costs £125 per year with gift aid. This funds half a new street tree per year.

Click here for more details

The experience of tree planning in Poets’ Corner

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the residents in our initial visits to find out  if they were in favour or doubtful about this project.  But the overwhelming response -  I would say about 98%  in Stoneham Road  -  was of excitement and enthusiasm.   

In later visits to ask for help in funding some anxieties arose about possible problems,  especially in Marmion Road:   disrupting the pavement; sap on car paintwork; dogs’ doings; slippery leaves; leaves blocking the drains; difficult to open car doors; nobody would look after them….. and so on.  But without too much further persuasion we were still able to go ahead with the idea.

The residents in Stoneham Road are quite a diverse bunch with very different income levels and some of the houses were rented with sudden occupancy changes - or were empty - during the period of time I covered.  Nevertheless I was heartened by the donations.  Marmion Road residents were able to be more generous, but maybe there was more artful persuasion! 

Unexpectedly, for me anyway, it was planned for our Mayor to come for a planting ceremony, along with our MP, some councillors, and members of Hove Civic Society, of course.  In full regalia the Mayor made a pretty thorough job of it in both roads, and also stayed to talk to young and older residents. It was a welcome and enjoyable celebration after all our hard work.

One outcome for me is that I’ve enjoyed getting to know more of my neighbours.  In addition people in two neighbouring roads have approached me about tree planting, and I am currently in the process of helping them to get started.

So now we have flowering cherries in Stoneham Road in this first stage of the planting, and a variety of trees in Marmion Road.   We are very much looking forward to having the remaining trees - and, of course, to the Spring, bringing both greenery and a cheerful flowering.

Sincere thanks to the Hove Civic Society and the council for their help and generous financial input.

Beryl Thorne