Council chiefs to be grilled on housing crisis, state of the seafront and Brexit

Madeira Terraces licensed by Creative Commons, image by N Chadwick
Madeira Terraces licensed by Creative Commons, image by N Chadwick

Three of the council’s most senior officials face a grilling from councillors next week, with a focus on the housing crisis and the state of the seafront.

Geoff Raw, the chief executive of Brighton and Hove City Council, and two of his leading colleagues, Nick Hibberd and Larissa Reed, will be in the spotlight.

They will take questions from councillors about significant risks facing the council and the city, with Brexit – Britain’s exit from the European Union – expected to merit a mention.

Members of the council’s audit and standards committee are expected to ask what the council is doing to deal with the various risks.

Larissa Reed, the executive director for neighbourhoods, communities and housing, has been asked to talk about the housing crisis.

A report to the committee touches on student housing, including schemes in Circus Street and at Preston Barracks, both in Brighton.

These are aimed at increasing the number of purpose-built student rooms with the aim of reducing pressure on the stock of family homes in areas near the universities.

The report notes that the growth in student numbers at both Sussex University and Brighton University is expected to slow or even stop after 2020.

The council is working more closely with the universities and has been carrying out a student housing study.

Officials are also tracking the number of homes sold to tenants under the “right to buy” as well as the number of shared houses, known as houses in multiple occupation (HMOs).

In an effort to increase the supply of council houses and flats, the council now has first refusal on the first resale of homes bought under the “right to buy”.

It has also set aside money to buy properties in new developments including small numbers earmarked for “affordable” housing.

But the biggest gambit is the joint venture between the council and housing association Hyde.

The joint venture plans to build 1,000 genuinely affordable homes at various sites across Brighton and Hove including a scheme in Whitehawk which has attracted a measure of opposition.

Nick Hibberd, the executive director for the economy, environment and culture, is expected to answer questions on plans to revive the seafront – another sticking point for the council.

He is responsible for a number of big projects including plans to build a new concert venue and conference centre at Black Rock, restore the cordoned off Madeira Terraces and replace the King Alfred with a new swimming pool and leisure centre, funded by hundreds of new flats.

Despite funding setbacks for the grade II* listed Madeira Terraces, the council is preparing to spend the proceeds of a successful crowdfunding drive, with a project manager now in post.

The audit and standards committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall on Tuesday (January 8). The meeting, which starts at 4pm, is open to the public.