Ninety three homes have been approved on the site of a former prep school in Rottingdean despite hundreds of objections from neighbours.
Opponents of the scheme packed the public gallery at Hove Town Hall as the future of their village was decided by Brighton and Hove City Council planners.
More than 400 people wrote to the council to object to the proposal to create 93 homes on the site of St Aubyns School.
But the council’s planning committee granted permission for the scheme to go ahead on Wednesday (October 10).
Most of the scheme’s critics focused on concerns about pollution, air quality and a growing number of cars driving through the village.
One resident, Sean Flanagan, spoke on behalf of his neighbours about Rottingdean High Street as an air quality management area (AQMA).
Former council leader Mary Mears, one of the three Conservative councillors for Rottingdean Coastal ward, said that, under article two of the Human Rights Act, the committee had to take into account people’s life expectancy when considering air quality.
Cllr Mears said: “There are high levels of pollution and our pavements are small and narrow.
“Residents need to go past quite close to traffic, with vulnerable people and babies in buggies close to exhausts.”
East Brighton Labour councillor Warren Morgan, another former leader of the council, said: “There is huge concern about the traffic in Rottingdean but I do not such how this makes it much worse than when the school was open.
“Were the school to reopen as a school then there would be traffic movement with that.”
Nitrogen dioxide levels were described as ‘way above legal levels’ by Rottingdean Parish Council.
However, the parish council supported the scheme, which includes 37 ‘affordable’ homes.
Parish councillor John Bryant said: “Our young people cannot afford to live in the village where they were raised.”
Green councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty asked how the developer, Fairfax Acquisitions, would deal with concerns about air quality and whether a car-free development had been considered.
Fairfax’s air quality consultant Paul Beckett said that air quality policy requirements had been met.
Cllr Mac Cafferty said: “I may be dancing on a pin head here but on the one hand it says it will have no impact then says there will be cumulative (impacts) with other developments. Clearly we should not be doing this.”
While the scheme will not be car-free, Fairfax’s highways expert Phil Hamshaw said that people moving into the new homes would be offered membership of a car club. In addition, half the parking spaces would have electric charging points.
Rottingdean Coastal councillor Joe Miller, a Conservative, said: “In this area, traffic is going to increase and that will result in a decrease in air quality.”
He asked about the level of extra traffic that the scheme would generate.
He was told that Brighton and Hove City Council and Rottingdean Parish Council used different methods to work out traffic levels but the models were sound.
The traffic modelling suggested that there would be only marginal increases in the length of queues and traffic delays.
Planning officer Chris Swain said that the air quality officer had described the impact of the scheme as acceptable, with the amount of extra traffic likely to be ‘relatively small’.
Councillor Miller also asked about the financial contributions to be paid to the council by the developer. They total more than £920,000.
Fellow Rottingdean Coastal ward councillor Lynda Hyde said: “This has been the most difficult application I have ever had to deal with in my ward.
“It is controversial and when I speak to people they are 60-40, with 60 wanting the housing and 40 not.”
She said that many people in the village had received leaflets saying that the scheme would bring affordable homes for local people but that those homes would be allocated to people from across Brighton and Hove.
Labour councillor Julie Cattell, who chairs the committee, said: “The school really is in a terrible state. It is a wonderful historic building and it would be a shame just to let it go.
“Leaving it does not benefit anybody in the village at all. I welcome the fact a listed building is being restored.”
Councillors voted nine to one to grant planning permission for the scheme, with only Cllr Mac Cafferty opposed.
Sarah Booker-Lewis is the Local Democracy Reporter for Brighton & Hove.