Housing secretary refuses Squire & Partners-designed scheme on design grounds

Michael Gove has turned down plans for a 1,000-home redevelopment of Brighton Marina after concluding its “homogenous” design was not good enough for such a landmark site.

The housing secretary agreed with the inspector that the Outer Harbour scheme, designed by high-profile architect Squire & Partners for the Brighton Marina Company, should be turned down, arguing it “lacks the exuberance and ambition that the best of Brighton’s seaside buildings exhibit”.

Gove said the poor design would also impact on local Grade I listed buildings, while the homes themselves would not provide sufficient outside space for residents.

He said these failures put it in conflict with policies in Brighton’s emerging plan and with national planning policy, and carried “significant weight” against the scheme.

Brighton Marina Squire & Partners

Squire & Partners’ design for the Brighton Marina scheme

Gove’s decision comes despite the site having an existing permission for 835 homes and being allocated in the local plan. Brighton & Hove council also originally refused the scheme despite the council not being able to demonstrate the required five-year supply of housing sites.

It is the second major housing scheme situated in a council without a five year supply of land that Gove has refused since taking up the housing secretary role in September, following his decision to refuse plans for 1,250 homes in Rainham, Kent last week.

Both decisions have been in line with the recommendations made by the planning inspector.

The decision is likely to boost the fears of developers that recent changes to national planning policy over design will make it easier for councils to refuse schemes on allocated sites.

gove re-sized

Michael Gove

Gove’s decision said: “The Secretary of State considers that the negative aspects of the scheme in terms of its design, its impact on designated heritage assets, and the National Park, and its failure to provide acceptable living conditions for its residents outweigh the positive elements”.

The decision highlighted the “regularity of the façade treatments, and the homogenous mass that would be created, together with the failure to provide a proper landmark or bookend” to the site to explain the conclusion that the design was not of sufficient quality.

The decision added: “It would not, therefore, be a positive contributor to its context and in many respects, it would fail to take the great opportunity the appeal site presents.”

Brighton Marina declined to comment on the announcement.