Royal Alexandra Plans

The closest that most members of the public get to the planning process is objecting to an application. But in the case of the derelict Royal Alex, letters of support flooded in and the application was approved by the Planning Committee unanimously

The Royal Alexandra Hospital for Sick Children on Dyke Road opened in 1881 to the designs of Thomas Lainson, an architect whose work includes Middle Street Synagogue, Adelaide Mansions and Brooker Hall (now Hove Museum). It is defined by a soaring brick façade with enclosed stone balconies.

The site itself is roughly triangular and consists of an eclectic mix of charming outbuildings including a rather large rendered Victorian villa and a stonemason’s cottage. These two structures could be turned into dream homes so why did the area’s two respected amenity societies, the MCHA (Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association) and CMPCA (Clifton Montpelier Powis Community Alliance), not fight the latest proposed scheme – which involve these buildings’ demolition – tooth and nail

Appropriate buildings are rarely built because those who care are simply not equipped with the tools to mount a robust defence. Under the chairmanship of Mick Hamer, the MCHA has done a wonderful job at bargaining for the building’s famous façade to be retained and restored. The crux of the matter is that Taylor Wimpey paid too much for the site and only an inappropriate scheme will go some way towards mitigating their losses. With nothing left to bargain with, residents had little choice but to support these plans in case something worse comes along.

One resident who certainly is not happy is my friend Philippa Sankey, who lives on Clifton Hill. Her garden and those of all of her neighbours are set to be overlooked and, quite frankly, dominated by a monstrous replacement structure. I do not need to describe the architectural style of the proposed structure. It looks like every other builder-designed property that has been built in Brighton and Hove over the past 15 years.

To end on a positive note, I am convinced that pre-emptive planning briefs from Brighton and Hove City Council are key to working out what really is best for a site before large sums of money change hands. With a plan in place in advance, an appropriate value for a site can be calculated. Those who care enough to get involved can then spend their time being constructive rather than objecting.