Environmental protests were promised as Brighton and Hove City Council approved plans for flats in Coldean Lane.
The scheme involves building 242 homes on a triangle of land between the A27 and Coldean Lane as part of a joint venture between the council and the Hyde housing association.
Hundreds of people objected to the scheme for two seven-storey and four six-storey buildings, writing letters and signing a petition.
One of them, Becky Hobbs, criticised the proposal when the council’s Planning Committee met at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (July 10).
Ms Hobbs said that ecological surveys carried out on the site were “inadequate” and disputed findings about the number of badger setts there.
A report to the planning committee said that there were eight badger setts of which five were in use.
Ms Hobbs said that there were more and added that people living in new developments in Saltdean were complaining about badgers because homes had been built on the animals’ setts.
She mentioned the protest campaign Extinction Rebellion and said: “This will be the next Newbury bypass. There will be protests. Extinction Rebellion are sitting on our doorstep.”
She reminded the council about campaign in Whitehawk where another project put forward by the council’s joint venture with Hyde had been shelved after protests.
The campaign was led by East Brighton ward councillor Nancy Platts, who is now the Labour leader of the council, and former Conservative council leader Mary Mears.
She urged the council to look at “brownfield” and derelict sites as well as Brighton General Hospital as alternative locations.
Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty asked about the status of the Coldean site after suggestion that it was a “wildlife site”.
He was told that it was not in the Stanmer Park Conservation Area nor in the South Downs National Park and was not designated as a wildlife reserve.
He was told that wildlife had been considered even without a “wildlife reserve” designation.
Councillor Mac Cafferty asked for a woodland management plan to be agreed – and his request supported unanimously by the Planning Committee.
Despite his reservations he said that he would support the scheme which had to address two important things.
He said: “We need affordable homes desperately and we need to look after the environment we live in.
“These are genuinely affordable homes when we are living through an affordability crisis.”
Labour councillor Gill Williams how the wildlife on the site would be maintained and managed.
County ecologist Kate Cole said that the small population of slow worms and common lizards could be managed on site and the habitat kept.
Of the eight badger setts, one was a main sett, one was unoccupied and the other six were “outliers”.
Three, including the unoccupied sett would be closed under licence from Natural England. Fencing would protect the remaining setts.
Conservative councillor Joe Miller asked about the reduced “section 106 contribution” – payments by developers towards infrastructure and community projects to offset the effects of a scheme.
He was concerned that it had been capped at £1 million for the scheme but the reason was because all the homes would be affordable.
Half the homes would be for shared ownership while half would be available at a “living rent”, making them affordable for people on the national living wage. The living rent rate is defined as 37.5 per cent of the market rate.
Of the £1 million developer’s contribution, £517,000 would go towards open spaces and indoor sports and £252,000 towards secondary and sixth form education, probably at the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA).
Councillor Miller opposed granting planning permission, saying: “I am concerned about the ecology and design. It looks like halls of residence which might be more useful.”
The joint venture’s plans are part of a bigger £120 million investment in building 1,000 truly affordable homes across Brighton and Hove.
The Coldean proposal is the first to achieve planning permission, after the joint venture dropped plans for its Whitehawk scheme.
Plans for 111 flats in a six-storey block and an eight-storey block in Clarendon Place, Portslade, are due to be decided by the Planning Committee in September.
Work is expected to start on the eight-acre site in the new year, with construction taking between 18 months and two years.
Councillor Tracey Hill, who chairs the council’s planning committee, said: “This imaginative scheme will make an important contribution to helping us meet urgent local housing needs for those least able to afford a home.
“It will provide a mix of housing for residents on low incomes in the city.
“The proposal also seeks to provide more trees and chalk grassland than are currently on the site, offer long-term wildlife management and incorporate large areas of natural habitat within the development.”