Gardens & wildlife

Richmond House 2013 2nd Proposal

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This proposal was refused on 20th November 2013. No members of the planning committee supported it. The developer could still launch an appeal

Click here to see how the planning committee voted and the views they expressed.

The proposed building (internal floorspace: 4164.7 sq m) would have over five times more internal floorspace than the existing (internal floorspace: 803 sq metres) pictured below: Richmond House

Application BH2013/02838 Richmond House, Richmond Rd
Matsims Ltd has lodged a revised application to demolish Richmond House and erect a 138 room student hostel.

Richmond House 138-room proposal
1. Disproportionate size - it's like extending a home in NE Round Hill so that the building covers the whole garden, also eating up the green hillside which defines the boundary between the conservation area and the industrial estate
Several Round Hill residents are concerned that a huge building with over five times the internal floorspace than the current Richmond House would effectively delete D'Aubigny Road from the conservation area, making a nonsense of the Article 4 restrictions (on doors, windows, bays etc) which attempt to preserve the character & appearance of the neighbourhood's period architecture. The existing gaps between ends of terraces provide an open-feel to a neighbourhood which already has over twice the population density of the average UK city suburb. Stopping up these gaps will sever the connections between our conservation area and neighbouring suburbs.
2. Who exactly is the building for? The developer repeats the mantra about "housing students separately from residents". However, their justification for a huge building seems to rest on an agreement between the University of Brighton and a private company which is predominantly providing English as a Foreign Language to overseas students of a younger age group than those you would find in HMOs. Has it been made clear to you who would be using the proposed building during term-times and holiday times, or will local residents and The Council only find out once planning permission has been granted and the construction is up? Are the stated uses (pre-university students!) both credible and sustainable or will we end up with a poorly specified hotel on an industrial estate?
If the proposed development were truly to accommodate university degree students (including some from the UK), there may be some justification that it is needed in terms of returning HMOs to family accommodation. Housing 16-18 year old (Secondary School aged pupils from overseas) in large numbers with inadequate supervision, would not relieve such pressures. It would merely damage Brighton's host-family economy, a far more appropriate way of providing adequate supervision for this age-group, giving the young visitors greater access to native English speakers, distributing income more evenly (i.e. to hard-working families) and fostering good cultural and international relationships. A giant hostel, deprived of natural daylight on two of the five floors, with poor access onto an industrial estate, would isolate language learners from the settings they need to apply what they learn in class.

3. Noise breakout into D'Aubigny Road & the bottom of Richmond Road would alienate the visitors from the very families who should be hosting them. For successful language learning & social integration, these young visitors need to be dispersed and to be hosted at in some ratio with native speakers of English. Otherwise, the extra pressure on Brighton and Hove's limited infrastructure has little or no social or educational justification. Economically, a huge hall of residence (for these vaguely defined visitors) would make money for a developer. If (as it seems) the intended occupants are principally 16-18 year old EFL learners, the precedent of isolating the group in this way could undermine the success of the host family system which spreads rewards to residents while delivering both socially and educationally. Noise breakout from a giant isolation block could also set the interests of "adolescents from overseas" (who should be seeking integration with native English speakers) against the interests of "local residents".

Justification for the development
will it free up accommodation for people on the housing list?

Is this kind of accommodation sustainable for students from overseas whose main aim is to improve their English language skills?
Will political events, developments in technology, social trends or awareness that educational opportunities are being wasted change the current demand for it?

Mortar Developments are using the University of Brighton's affiliation with Kaplan, which specialises in pre-university language programmes (currently English) at Brighton International College (not university degree programmes), as a justification for the proposed Richmond House development. This suggests that the learners who the developer seeks to accommodate would be in the 16-18 age range.

The developer refutes that tenancies would be short-term, though after 5 weeks (at the age of 17) learning French in Paris on The University of The Sorbonne's summer course in French language and civilisation, my memory is that I was quite glad to return to my 6th Form in the UK.

Having taught EFL to multilingual classes of students (including this age range) in Brighton and Hove for almost two decades, I would not deny the educational value of cross cultural exchange, whatever the language used. However, in terms of English language development, I always felt that "time spent in the classroom" and "time spent in an English-speaking host family" went hand in hand. The latter consolidates learning by making it necessary to use English outside of the classroom soon after new syntax, vocabulary and language functions have been presented. The value of "the host family" is capitalised on in the design of many language teaching materials (I offer my own as an example to show my long-held belief that learners gain most from being hosted in this way) First Time in England. Another such material is Welcome To Britain by Brighton-based authors Jimmie Hill and Michael Lewis.

The policy of the school where I taught is still to refrain wherever possible from placing more than one student of the same language background in the same host family. This promotes use of the target language: i.e. immersion in English rather than over-use of students' native languages, wasting the opportunities provided by a UK setting.

Impact on RH Conservation area
What will Richmond Rd look like if BH2013/02838 is built? View the developer's own photomontage on page 42 of their 55-page PDF Design and Access Statement (Enter the page number).

What will D'Aubigny Rd look like if BH2013/02838 is built? View the developer's own photomontage on page 44 of their 55-page PDF Design and Access Statement (Enter the page number).

The gaps between Round Hill's street terraces facilitate the long views into & out of the conservation area which many Brighton and Hove residents value. Filling them with buildings which are unsympathetic architecturally to their surroundings will destroy what makes Round Hill special.

The developer contends that creating a crescent to fill the outer junction of Richmond Road and D'Aubigny Road would improve the streetscape. My own view is that filling this gap would give an unwanted sense of enclosure to residents living at the east end of Richmond Road. Living in Princes Road, I would not like to see the gap between the terrace of the east end of my own street and the northern end of Mayo Road plugged in a similar way. This would take away the feeling of openess which people get when they look eastwards from the summit of Princes Road.

Would residents of D'Aubigny Road still feel part of a conservation area?

The developer refers far more frequently to Richmond Road than to D'Aubigny Road when describing the impact of their own proposal on our conservation area. Of the two streets, I feel that the impact on D'Aubigny Road is a lot more depressing. D'Aubigny Road is a short street with circa eight Victorian houses on each side. The addition of six large dormers, each providing window space for four studio apartments (two on the 3rd floor and two on the 4th floor) with 36 studio rooms (three floors of 12 rooms) looking out onto the east side of D'Aubigny Road risks removing the feel of a Victorian-period conservation area from the whole street.

Different CA rules for different interest groups

Existing residents would still be expected to observe the Article 4 direction which regulates window & door design at the front of their homes, even though the windows in the proposed Richmond House proposal are grey-coloured, polyester-powdered coated aluminium, composite double glazed.

It is fair to mention that the windows in the existing Richmond House are blue single-glazed crittal metal. However, this building predates the Article 4 direction attempting to preserve the unity of our period architecture and covers a far smaller footprint.

Proposed Floor Plans: Ground | 1st | 2nd | 3rd | 4th | Roof There is no provision on the Centenary Industrial Estate for any outdoor amenity space. Close supervision will be needed to ensure that the students do not congregate outside the main entrance where too many of them would spill over onto the service road to Sainsbury's delivery yard. The small enclosed triangle of outdoor amenity space at Round Hill level is unlikely to prove satisfactory for a 138-room development. The revised application limits access (to & from the proposed development) to The Centenary Industrial Estate. However, with on site outdoor amenity space so limited, it is difficult to believe that access via Round Hill entrance(s) would not not be requested at a later stage with better public open space (borrowed infrastructure!) so close at hand and quicker and safer routes to transport links such as London Road Station.

Creating a precedent which could quickly take away the feeling of living in a conservation area

Granting this proposal would create a precedent which could allow similar development along the tree-lined embankment between the end of the NE terrace of Richmond Road and the junction with D'Aubigny Road. Industrial units may be removed to make way for more intensive development. This is called maximising a site's potential or urban cramming depending on your point of view.

The gap between the ends of terraces at the junction of Princes Road and Mayo Road may also invite similar proposals if a first high-density residential development on the Centenary Industrial Estate is granted. The recent 5-storey residential development on the old Esso Garage site in Hollingdean Road was cited as a precedent by this developer, and so it goes on at such a frantic pace now.

For well over one hundred years, our densely populated conservation area has been compensated by the open-feel of its green ribbons (the former drying fields for laundries), the Coastways railway corridor (which was meant to be a designated greenway) and tree-lined northern boundary to the NE of Richmond Rd once leading to Lewes Road Station - the first stop on the Kemp Town branchline at the junction of Richmond Rd and D'Aubigny Road.

Removal of the vegetation and trees, filling the gaps which afford long views into & out of Round Hill, can only take away the feeling that our neighbourhood its connected with other parts of NE Brighton. The openness which people feel when walking down streets like Richmond Rd and Princes Rd or looking out onto neighbouring districts from their windows would disappear, to be replaced by a feeling of enclosure. The period-feel of a mainly Victorian neighbourhood will also disappear. The unity of our neighbourhood's architecture, which has for the most part been spared from the conflicting styles of building which have been erected in most other parts of Brighton and Hove, would no longer define a conservation area.

Click here for proposed versus existing building materials

[Microsoft Word documents]
why the application should be refused and proforma letter

These documents may have helped in getting the proposal refused. Click here to see how the planning committee voted and the views they expressed.
This page was last updated by Ted on 13-Feb-2019
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