Nobby Clarke worked on the railways in Sussex for much of his life. He was also a councillor in Brighton for almost 50 years and his proudest moment was when he became Mayor of his adopted town. He used to write a column for a local paper quaintly entitled ‘Twixt Down and Sea’ and one of his greatest passions was housing.
Twixt Down and Sea could summarise why there are few options available to tackle the housing shortage in Brighton and Hove, hemmed in as it is between the South Downs National Park and the sea.
But because there is an ever-increasing demand for homes in the City, compromises must be made and something must be done. And something can be done. Here are four measures for tackling the housing shortage in Brighton and Hove:
Go up: if we can’t go north, south, east or west, we can go up. There is a presumption against tall buildings but perhaps, with good design, some should be allowed. I think there has been a missed opportunity not putting 20 stories of student housing above the Open Market. There are excellent transport links to the universities, outdoor space on the Level, and would have helped to regenerate London Road.
Greater density: my colleague at BHT, John Holmstrom, has coined the phrase ‘Transition Housing’. It describes a new type of housing, compact, self-contained kitchenette and shower room, with communal facilities such as shared laundries and allotments on the roof. It would be short term accommodation aimed at those struggling to compete in the housing market, allowing them to create a track-record as tenants and save for deposits. BHT is involved in a scheme that incoporates transitional housing but early indications suggest that we might run into difficulties with the planners. That would be a shame since there is private finance available to enable the development of this housing which would be used for social purpose.
Empty properties: the City Council does a fine job in this regard but there is more that could be done, not least in properties above shops. Robbust action should be taken when homes are left vacant or allowed to fall into disrepair.
Toads Hole Valley: this is a political hot potatoe at present, but I can’t see why. There is a desperate need for housing and this last undeveloped site MUST be used for housing. It is an unkempt site and is suitable for development. It is has been suggested that 750 homes could be built on the site and is a real opportunity to include hundreds of council or housing association properties. If this opportunity is not taken up, future generations will not thank us.
PS: There is confusion over the name: is it Toad’s, Toads or Toad Hole Valley? Different authorities use different variations.