Monday, 23 December 2013

The Circus Street development


Up until the 1930's the area bounded by Carlton Hill to the south, Circus Street to the west, Sussex Street to the north and the now non-existent Carlton Row to the east comprised a warren of mean houses dating from the early 19thC.  They were clustered around insanitary courts and twittens and by the 1930's had been classified as slums, compulsorily purchased by the Council and, apart from the  Circus Street School, demolished. Among the premises lost was a chimney sweeps, a public house, general store, newsagent, and sawdust merchant.

On the cleared site the Municipal Market, later the Fruit & Vegetable Market was erected (see above). A remaining vacant site in the south-east corner became a small NCP car park. The lower part of Carlton Hill was renamed as Kingswood Street. In 2005 the market closed and the building has become increasingly derelict.

Planning Application BH2013/03461 by Cathedral Limited proposes a high density mixed-use development on the site which reproduces something of the original grain of twittens and interconnected courts as shown in the schematic plan below.

It is an appealing idea to refer to the original character of Brighton's townscape. However the buildings proposed for the site are 2 to 6 floors higher than nearby buildings and, seen from the Valley Gardens, will loom unattractively over the elegant houses in Grand Parade and degrade their roofline. The drawing below gives some idea of the extent of the effect. 

Strangely, the site is owned by the Council but the height of the development proposed seems to contravene the Council's own Tall Building policy since this is not a scheduled Tall Buildings (over 6 stories) Area. This may reflect the Council's need to cram the maximum number of housing units on to any available site to satisfy the Government housing policy. Perhaps the blame needs to be laid at the Government's door.

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