12 September 2013

Blueprint to regenerate area around Brighton's Amex HQ

A new planning brief to guide development in the area around Edward Street in Brighton, which includes one of the city’s largest employers, American Express, has been the subject of an extensive public consultation and exhibition.

Comments from residents and traders who took part in the consultation on the planning brief, were broadly supportive of the council’s development principles designed to enhance and regenerate the area. 

They were commenting on Brighton & Hove City Council’s draft planning brief for the Edward Street Quarter, which includes land north of Edward Street bounded by William Street to the west and White Street to the east. The development area also includes land to the west of John Street and Dorset Gardens Peace Park - to the south of Edward Street.

The area was hugely affected by the construction of the new American Express building and will be again in 2016, when the demolition of the old offices is scheduled. It is this that provides an exciting opportunity to regenerate the wider area to the benefit of local residents and workers and the city as a whole.

The planning brief outlines provision for 15,000-20,000 square metres of office space, 65-plus residential units, some minor retail, restaurants and community facilities.

The brief emphasises the importance of high quality architecture and design, good transport links to bus and rail, along with improved pedestrian and cycle access.  It also puts forward a greening strategy for Edward Street which is currently a drab concrete environment, lacking in greenery and good quality seating.  Developers will be expected to address this in their design of buildings, with features such as  green walls and landscaping proposals for public spaces.  The brief also suggests improvements to both Tarner Park and Dorset Gardens Peace Park, to encourage better access and use of these important green spaces in the local area.

During the six-week consultation period, the council sent letters to 3,381 properties in 56 streets in the vicinity of the development area and held a public exhibition over a two week period.  Local landowners and 100 groups and organisations were also invited to comment.

The results of the consultation showed that residents were particularly supportive of the brief’s greening strategy and provision for quality public spaces.

A minority of respondents said they would have liked to have seen St James’s Street included in plans for the area.  However, the aim of the planning brief is to provide planning guidance to developers of the Amex site and the wider development area.  Although St James’s Street does not fall within this area, it is likely to benefit from an increase in customers generated by the new office and housing development, better pedestrian and cycle connections with Edward Street and the proposed improvements to Dorset Gardens Peace Park. 

The Better Bus Programme Initiative should also make the whole area easier to access by public transport.

Any proposed changes to St James’s Street, including the possible introduction of shared space, would need to be the subject of a separate in-depth consultation exercise.

Two respondents were keen for Kingswood and Milner flats to be included in the development area. Since the core purpose of the planning brief is to give certainty to American Express and other future developers of the site, it was not felt appropriate to include the Kingswood and Milner flats within the development area.  Nevertheless the council is aware that residents would like to see their estate improved and housing officers are currently in dialogue with them about how best this could be achieved.

A small number of residents suggested that the old Amex HQ building should be retained and re-used. However, the demolition of the building was agreed and is a legal requirement as part of the granting of planning permission for the new American Express HQ that was completed and opened earlier this year. 

The need for new community facilities, support for improved bus services and preservation of the peaceful character of Dorset Gardens were also highlighted by respondents.

Councillor Geoffrey Bowden, chair of the Economic Development and Culture Committee, said: “We are very pleased that so many residents, business people and representatives of local organisations have taken the time to comment on the brief and share their views.  The area around Edward Street is a key site for the city and the planning brief aims to make sure it is put to the best use for future generations “.

Members of Brighton & Hove’s Economic Development and Culture Committee will be asked to approve the final version at its meeting on 19 September.