Difficult to discern - amid the ramshackle, near-derelict buildings of what used to be Patcham Court Farm - lies a community asset of remarkable potential.
Within sight of the South Downs and within earshot of the A27, any visitor who happens to stumble across it is surprised by the enormity of what is possible.
Not John Cook. He is the community liaison officer of Patcham Community Association, a charity that was formed in 1945 and has deep roots in the area. Mr Cook has worked for the best part of a year on proposals that today are being unveiled for the first time.
The proposals, which from today are the subject of a wide- ranging public consultation, envisage a 120-bedroom hotel, a 25-metre swimming pool, and a 300-seat community theatre. All of it is aimed at restoring neglected land in the village on the outskirts of the city.
But the vision – with a price tag of £35 million - is much more than bricks and mortar, and concrete, and car-parking.
“The residents of Patcham have been deprived of community investment for far too long,” Mr Cook said, in an exclusive interview with Brighton and Hove Independent.
“With their support, this vision can become a reality.” A study is being funded by the government-supported Social Investment Business Group,which awarded the community association its first grant last month.
This is no get-rich-quick scheme by corporate developers. Brighton and Hove has had too many of those. No, this is intended to be a collaborative, community enterprise. The price tag has not deterred potential investors. Far from it.
Mr Cook said: “We feel the best route to take in these negotiations is one of collaboration with the city council.
“All parties can benefit from this exciting development on a piece of land that has been unused for over 22 years.”
This is Regeneration, a Brighton- based consultancy specialising in economic development and regenration, is helping the charity with a detailed study to demonstrate the commercial viability of the proposals.
Scott Marshall, a director of the consultancy - the city council's former director of housing, culture, and enterprise - said: “We have been asked by the Patcham Community Association to bring forward this exciting, community-led project on a site that has been vacant for many years with a number of proposals that have not come to fruition.”
The charity has also enlisted the help of the Democratic Society - a membership organisation "promoting participation, networked democracy, and active citizenship" - to put together a list of public questions about what people want to see from the development. Its researchers made their first foray into Patcham yesterday (Thursday) to ask citizens what they need from any development.
Anthony Zacharzewski, DemSoc founder and former head of policy for the city council, said: “We are working with Patcham Community Association to help them make independent and fair decisions for their project. Results of the questions will be openly published throughout the development at www.demsoc. org.”
The proposals follow the introduction of the 2011 Localism Bill, which encourages communities to actively engage with councils to take ownership of disused land.
Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, told Brighton and Hove Independent: "Patcham Court Farm has been disused for over 20 years and these are potentially exciting plans for the site that could provide excellent sports and community facilities for Patcham residents.
“When we see the planning application, we will have a clearer picture of the scheme and it will be very important that residents are able to have their say on the proposals.”
Emma Hobley is a journalism student at Brighton Journalist Works, The Argus, Argus House, Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury, Brighton, BN1 8AR. For more information, visit: www.journalistworks.co.uk
[box type="note"]For more information, visit: