Controversial Hove synagogue plans receive more than 1,000 letters of feedback

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More than 1,000 people have written for and against controversial plans to redevelop one of Hove’s orthodox synagogues, writes Local Democracy Reporter Sarah Booker-Lewis.

Currently there are 723 objections and 440 letters of support for the scheme which is recommended for approval by Brighton and Hove City Council planners.

Brighton and Hove Hebrew Community wants to replace its existing synagogue, community hall, nursery, school rooms, underground car park and rabbi’s house with a new complex in New Church Road, Hove.

Objections range from the height and design of the buildings to overdevelopment of the site.

One objector wrote: “It is inevitable that a development of this size will result in increased traffic volume, congestion and noise and it will exacerbate an already difficult challenging parking problem.

“An underground car park for approximately 50 cars is not enough for a site that could accommodate as many as 150 people at full occupancy.”

Another objector wrote: “This is a huge overdevelopment in an area already overburdened by local flat development.

“The huge height, overshadowing and number of properties being proposed are just the first, most obvious problems for the surrounding residents.”

Parents at neighbouring St Christopher’s School are also concerned.

One parent wrote on the council website: “Seven windows at St Christopher’s School will have diminished daylight and this reduction is outside BRE (Building Research Establishment) guidelines.

“The height and positioning of the western block will also severely diminish daylight to the playground, which is used from 8am to 6pm each school day, impacting the lives of 300-plus individuals, the majority of whom are young children.”

Supporters are in favour of the design and the community elements of the scheme.

One anonymous commenter on the council website, who described themselves as a Hove-based architect, said that they would welcome the development on their street.

They said: “The construction of 45 new homes is essential and an increasingly rare opportunity in a city with inadequate housing provision.

“The extra classroom spaces and facilities to support the Jewish community in the area are also vital.

“There is far too much ‘nimbyism’ in Hove, which wouldn’t be the city it is without the contribution of the local Jewish community.”

Another supporter said: “Brighton and Hove has a longstanding Jewish community which has made substantial contributions to the city over its long history.

“For the community to continue to thrive and contribute to the rich and diverse city life as it has always done then a new community centre and hub are essential to provide a focus for the community and place of interaction with the wider city community of which it is part.”

The congregation has carried out two public consultations, with the last event attended by 38 people in May 2018.

The redevelopment includes 10 houses at the back of the plot as well as four, five and six-storey buildings with 35 flats, a nursery, classrooms and a kosher café.

The new synagogue would be a single-storey building at the back of the plot.

Currently the site includes two villas housing the Rabbi and nursery, plus the synagogue at the rear.

Five homes will be classed as “affordable” and be offered for rent through a Jewish housing association.

The Hebrew community is working on the scheme with the Bloom Foundation which was set up by Brighton and Hove Albion chairman Tony Bloom.

Marc Sugarman, writing on behalf of the Bloom Foundation, said: “There is a serious risk that the community totally disappears from Brighton and Hove in a decade or two.

“Brighton would not be alone. We have seen many provincial communities die. This is unhealthy.

“Brighton’s identity, one of progressive multiculturalism, is one of which we can all be truly proud. This needs to extend to religion.”

The Jewish community arrived in Brighton and Hove in the 18th century, when the area became fashionable. Since 2001 the city’s Jewish population has shrunk by 20 per cent.

The Brighton and Hove Conservation Advisory Group has objected to the scheme as the existing Victorian or Edwardian detached houses are “in keeping” with the conservation area.

The county archaeologist described the two buildings as including historic architectural detail making them of archaeological, social and architectural interest.

It is recommended that the details are recorded before they are demolished.

The planning application is due to go before the council’s Planning Committee at Hove Town Hall next Wednesday (20 March). The meeting starts at 1.30pm and is open to the public.