Inspectorate gives green light after Lewes District Council refused planning in October 2022

The student accommodation developer Downing has been granted planning permission to build a 555-bedroom block, in Falmer, near Brighton.

CGI of Downing dev

Downing Students’ scheme near Brighton & Hove Albion’s AMEX stadium in Falmerreceives approval

The purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) will provide 555 bedrooms within two six-storey wings, with an interlinking two-storey social hub between the two buildings.

The accommodation will consist of 397 student cluster rooms, 130 self-contained studio apartments, 18 accessible studios and 10 accessible cluster rooms.

The scheme is targeting a BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) ‘excellent’ rating as a minimum, which requires a sustainability score of between 70% and 84%. 

Lewes District Council turned down the planning application in October 2022.

The planning officer’s report at the time recommended refusal on the following grounds: “Its substantial height, bulk and unsympathetic design, coupled with its positioning and proximity to the South Downs Nation Park, would appear as an unacceptably [sic] and incongruous feature”. The report also noted “the intensification of development at the stadium” and an increase in recent years of “speculative and poorly designed student residence blocks to the south of the Stadium”.

It added that the design of the proposed development would “create a poor contrast with the stadium building”. A further reason for refusal cited was that the development would affect air quality.

However Downing Students and the owners of the land, Matthew Bennett and Richard Bennett, appealed to the Government’s planning inspectorate, following Lewes District Council’s decision.

The Government planning inspector granted planning permission for the development. A separate decision will be made regarding whether Lewes District Council should pay for Downing Students’ appeal costs.

The planning inspector’s report noted: “there is no escaping the fact that the proposed building is large and would be at odds with the bowl-shaped ACS [Amex Community Stadium] building”.

However, it concluded that the design, produced by Tp Bennett a London-based, independent architectural firm, would not harm the character and appearance of the area. Also involved in the project are structural and civil engineers Walsh, Tetratech, who provided the air quality assessment, Sanderson, the highway, traffic and transportation engineers and Open, the landscape architects. 

The appeal report also notes that as the PBSA development will be located in a built-up area, “with large buildings in its vicinity”, it will not harm the setting of the South Downs National Park.

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Downing provided a revised air quality assessment, which has been accepted by the council “as overcoming its concerns on the matter”.

The planning inspector concludes that there is also support through the National Planning Policy Framework for the re-use of under-utilised land, including car parks, where this would meet a need for housing and land supply is constrained.

The purpose-built student accommodation will be built on the former Benett’s Field car park, which is located close to Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s home ground, the American Express Community Stadium (ACS).