Proposals for ten homes on school playing field to go before Brighton planners

Varndean Artists Impression by DLA Architecture
Varndean Artists Impression by DLA Architecture

Planners have given their backing to a proposal to build 10 houses on an unused part of a college playing field in Brighton despite neighbours’ concerns.

Officials have recommended that councillors grant outline planning permission to Varndean College for the homes on a strip of field next to Surrenden Road.

Varndean Surrenden View

Varndean Surrenden View

If planning permission is granted by Brighton and Hove City Council’s Planning Committee next week, a more detailed set of plans will be decided at a later date.

The proposed homes would have “green” roofs and sit on a slope on a step above the college’s sports pitches but be lower than properties in Surrenden Road.

Opposition has come from nearly 300 neighbours while 27 people have sent letters of support.

Objections to the scheme include loss of green space, the narrow access road and problems with parking in the area.

Varndean Field

Varndean Field

One anonymous comment on the council’s website said: “School playing fields should never be used for commercial building, depriving future generations of children the use of open spaces.

“The iconic view from Surrenden Road would be lost to the general community for the benefit of the few.

“Open spaces are precious in Brighton and must be preserved.”

Another objector had concerns about biodiversity and said that the area was home to the college’s butterfly bank.

The objector said: “It will have a big impact on the wildlife which use the area as a sanctuary and this is all for the sake of 10 homes.”

Withdean ward councillors Ann Norman, Ken Norman and Nick Taylor have sent objections, as have Patcham ward councillors Lee Wares and Geoffrey Theobald – all Conservative.

A joint letter from the three Withdean councillors said: “The land has been designated a nature reserve and the loss of this land will do much to harm the local ecology of the area.

“In particular the green area gives the area an open green space and the permanent loss of such a space will be detrimental for the area.”

No objection has been raised by the council’s ecology team.

Councillors Wares and Theobald said that the area was characterised by large detached houses with gardens and the development would be much denser.

Their letter said: “The subject area forms part of the character of the community and neighbourhood and provides significant openness with a considerable strategic view across the city.

“The ‘Urban Design Framework’ requires that such strategic views must be protected into, out of and within the city.”

Sport England, the organisation responsible for encouraging grass-roots sport,  is not opposed to the plans describing the area of the field as “unused”.

The organisation said: “The strip of land is on a significantly different land level from that where the pitch is laid out.

“Historically, it would not appear to have ever formed part of a playing pitch.

“It is not considered that these houses would prejudice the use of the playing pitch, which has always been laid out for football and currently has existing housing to the west.”

Another supporter wrote on the council’s website: “The voices that will not be heard on here are the hundreds/thousands of future students that will benefit from a continued strong and successful Varndean College, serving the community and providing a necessary and valuable education that, in a larger sense, all of us benefit from.”

One of the teachers at the college has written in support, pointing out that the area is not public land.

The teacher said: “This is such a tiny proportion of our open space that is being proposed for development – space that is private land but that local residents are allowed to use.

“There are no playing fields being lost – in fact the sale would generate income to improve the sports facilities by including an all-weather pitch.”

A separate application for an all-weather pitch at the college is due to go before the Planning Committee at the same time as the homes proposal – next Wednesday (6 March) – at Hove Town Hall.

It is also recommended for approval despite dozens of letters of objection.

The planning committee meeting is scheduled to start at 2pm and should be open to the public.