Toad’s Hole Valley

It may well be that the fate of Toad’s Hole Valley on the outskirts of Hove was sealed 75 years ago when it was purchased by local builders BW Cook (Brighton) Ltd in 1937. Now that a ‘Vision Document’ has been released by Enplan to pave the way for the development of ‘toads hole valley [sic]’, what is certain is that the desire to build on this unloved piece of countryside is more pressing now than ever before.

At 98 acres, Toad’s Hole Valley is Brighton & Hove’s largest potential development site. But it is an untouched piece of the South Downs, directly adjacent to the South Downs National Park.

Whilst I am personally opposed to the development of the site, which Adam Trimingham from The Argus called a “scruffy stretch of land” back in 1999, I do appear to be in a minority amongst local commentators. Neither David Robson from the Regency Society nor Tony Mernagh from the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership place the same level of emphasis as me on the importance of the land as a buffer to urban sprawl. I believe though that the bar should be set incredibly high when building over green spaces on the edges of urban areas.

The most recent large-scale development to take place locally was the New England Quarter. I wonder how different the 21-acre scheme would have been if its best feature, the Greenway, had been built to snake around the whole site. It is too late to change it now of course so the lesson must be that the fundamental decisions, upon which a successful scheme relies, must be taken at a very early stage.

If Toad’s Hole Valley were to be developed, my dream development would be high-density. There would be no social housing, just homes of all different shapes and sizes to suit the differing needs of those who choose to live there. Cash saved from subsidising social housing would be poured into better landscaping and architecture. Indeed, each large building or terrace would be designed by a different local architect. Without uniformity, the buildings would evolve gracefully, without detriment to a composition or rigid theme.

Enplan’s plans for the site do inspire to some degree, especially the proposed high school and adjacent ecology park. If the land is to be built on, let’s not rush it. A few more years will make little difference.