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Proposals for the Royal Alexandra carpark site

1. Police report

Sgt Puddephat reported that crime was down 15% in the city centre. Still no progress on locking the cemetery gates. Graffiti seemed to be on the increase – residents were urged to report graffiti so that the ‘tags’ could be checked against police database to identify the culprits.

2. Presentation by Fishersgate Ltd and Morgan Carn, Architects on proposals for Royal Alex Carpark site

This section of the meeting chaired by Cllr Roy Pennington
Partners David Dalton and Fayak represented Fishersgate and Lap Chan and Rachel Newton represented architects Morgan Carn. It was noted that residents adjacent to the site in Powis Grove had been invited to a meeting by Fishersgate before Christmas, but relevant residents in Clifton Hill had not. Plans (which had been altered slightly since the first meeting) were on display at the beginning of the meeting.

David Dalton spoke of Fishersgate’s aspiration to leave a legacy for future generations –a potentially listable building – and this had governed their choice of architects who had been responsible for an award-winning development in a Lewes conservation area. Architect Lap Chan introduced the discussion, talking of ‘learning from the context’ and the ‘language of the area’ and the need for good workmanship; he stated that he had had discussions with Roger Dowty, Chief Conservation Officer. The developers proposed submitting a planning application for the 6 townhouses in 3-4 weeks.

A range of views were expressed, revolving around the following issues:

• Trees: it was pointed out that 3 of the trees did not appear on the plan; there was some confusion about whether the trees had TPOs and whether these 3 were diseased or not, but the developers confirmed that if they were not diseased these 3 would stay. The developers were reminded that if a tree was removed in a conservation area, it had to be replaced with 2; others queried the need to keep all 5;
• Overall response to the proposals: a wide range of views was expressed about the designs, but by and large, the scale and height of the proposed development were welcomed and relief was expressed that ‘we were not fighting a tower block’. A lively discussion took place on whether the modern appearance of the Powis Grove development was appropriate – some thought a Victorian copy would be preferable, others saw this as a pastiche and thought that watering down the design would be a disaster. Some argued that there was no coherent architectural style in PG, others that the development should attempt to link to the villas each side and as currently designed, it destroyed the village feel of the area. Another thought that the development would be ‘one of the nicest things in the ‘hotch potch’ of PG’. The architect believed passionately that modern buildings could work in a conservation area.
• Design details:
o Powis Grove side: it was suggested that an increased pitch of the roof might be an improvement and the appropriateness of balconies was challenged (the fact that there was only one other balcony on PG and problems of privacy- NB the balconies are not very wide); the thirties style windows were also queried.
o Clifton Hill side: here the developers proposed a stable-block type building behind the flint wall (which was to be reinstated and the entrance made smaller – the practicality of this, turning into the narrow road, was queried as was the continued use of this section of CH as a 2-way road. Not many views were expressed on the CH site apart from the thought that the proposed roofline was ‘OK’.

• Eco aspects: the architects confirmed that they were aiming at the smallest possible carbon footprint with underground carparking, greywater containers in the carpark basement, rainwater harvesting and that they were looking at solar panels.

3. The main Royal Alex site

Peter Freeman explained that before Christmas he had invited Wimpey to attend this meeting and had understood that they would be represented. Today he had received a fax (which he read) explaining why they were not attending but were hoping to attend a future meeting. The hope was expressed that Cllr Roy Pennington would re-convene the Steering Group which he agreed to.

Meanwhile, it was suggested that Wimpey should be informed of our disappointment that they were not there to hear residents’ views. Peter Freeman undertook to do this and to take up Wimpey’s offer to attend a future meeting.

Those present expressed their views as follows:

• John Oliver, Practice Manager at the Montpelier Surgery in Victoria Road (accompanied by Drs Marshall-Andrews and Roderick-Evans) outlined 3 problems which would be addressed by acquiring premises at the Royal Alex main site
1. the practice would be sold and have to move in 3-5 years when the current owners retire;
2. the problem of outgrown capacity: currently 20 staff were sharing desks, and patients sometimes had to wait in the street; with 6150 patients, in July they would have to close their books as had other local surgeries;
3. Want to be able to meet the needs of the elderly and disabled and that can only be achieved if the surgery moves, and the only possible site is the Royal Alex. The PCT sees the move as ‘number one priority’ and the surgery is launching a petition to be sent to B & H Council, the PCT and Wimpey which the surgery hope will illustrate the community’s ‘desperate need’ for these enhanced facilities to be made available at the Alex site.

The need for George Wimpey to be persuaded of the community’s needs was emphasised and it was pointed out that residents had indicated their support at several meetings and in a survey for a new medical centre  to be provided in the context of the Alex’s re-development. The CMPCA had sent a letter to the Council to this effect last summer, which had now also been passed to Wimpey.

Roger Dowty, Chief Conservation Officer, was invited to comment on the re-development of the Alex: he said that
• while Wimpey had shown the Planning Dept outline sketches and proposals in October, he was not clear what their final scheme for the site might be.
• The Council and Wimpey were well aware of the desire for a surgery/clinic on the site – and officers had made clear that they expected the felt community need to be included. Wimpey seemed prepared to accommodate space for community use – although had not specified its purpose. He hoped the community needs would come out in the pre-consultation stage and Wimpey had already been asked to contact the PCT
• Re what sort of homes might be built, 40% would be ‘affordable’ and a mix of houses and flats were expected with an element of owned, shared ownership housing and rented property.
• On what ‘limitations might be imposed on what Wimpey might do’, the development must ‘preserve and enhance’ the area; he mentioned the strong character of the buildings opposite on Dyke Road.
• Open space: the green garden space at the front was regarded as important and it was very unlikely Wimpey would be allowed to build over this and substitute with green space elsewhere in the site.

Adam Jones took over as Chair again at this point in the meeting.

4. Minutes of previous meeting

These were approved.

5. Update from Management Committee

Following the rejection of the application for charitable status, it was agreed not to pursue the possibility of an appeal at the moment. Small amendments to tidy up the constitution would be circulated for consideration at the 20 Feb meeting. Thanks were expressed to all involved in organising and taking part in the Christmas Party at St Nicholas; £1000 had been raised and would be divided between the Brighton Housing Trust and the St Nicholas Restoration Appeal. A reminder was given about the photo competition the deadline for which would be extended and the competition re-launched in the next CMPCAnews (with the possibility of using suitable prizewinning photos as postcards for the area).

6. Treasurer’s report

At 1 Jan 2007 the net balance in the account (taking into account the £1000 donation to charity and outstanding printing costs for CMPCAnews6) was about £1400.

7. AOB

Parking: Roy Pennington reported that all residents would shortly receive a new zone permit or could use their old permit until May; during that time, the council would monitor the way permits are being used and in the following 6 months will monitor internal commuting. CMPCA is asking to be involved in the review. Steve Crockett reminded the meeting that secondary schools’ admissions issue would be voted on on 2 Feb and those with a view should lobby councillors.

86 attended

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