Gardens & wildlife

London Road Station Open Space

Slow worm challenge to development of valued open space opp plat 1 of  London Rd Station










BH2012/03286 to build 4 houses on land rear of 140-146 Springfield Road - a well appreciated railway corridor wildlife 


Springfield Road



The open space is of obvious amenity-value to any member of the public using London Road Station since it is directly opposite platform 1 and is the very feature which gives this attractive portal to the railway network its rural-feel. The pleasant open space, just next to the garden of the Open House pub, can also be seen from the footbridge linking the staggered platforms. Though not the original 1889 footbridge, this still operates as a public right of way, overlooking this attractive section of the railway corridor (a designated greenway - as we were once told).
Springfield Road
Occupants of the houses could find the Open House pub too noisy, a second conflict of interests will follow, which could affect the operation of the pub. The outdoor smoking area for the pub is very near to three of the proposed windows for one of the homes. While the railway line has remained the closest neighbour to the south, this pub which has been a successful venue for activities ranging from folk clubs to Salsa evenings over many decades has been able to provide entertainment to several generations of Brighton & Hove's residents.

Springfield Road
Users of London Road Station will look across the tracks from Platform 1 onto a crammed development instead of railway corridor wildlife and an area of unspoilt greenway.
Springfield Road

Springfield Road
What scope is there for continued challenge?

Brighton and Hove City Council has been deterred from defending this open space by the appeal decision, dated 28th October 2009 of government planning inspector P.W. Clark, who overturned the Local Authority's refusal of the application BH2008/03194. 

This decision approved the construction of four houses on this sensitive plot - a permission which has now been sold on along with the land. 

Planning  permissions are valid for three years before they need to be extended if no work has started.
When permission to build on this open space came up for renewal on 13th March 2013, a majority of members on Brighton and Hove City Council's planning committee, wary of the appeal decision, reluctantly agreed to extend the permission until 13th March 2016.
When selling on a permission, it is of course better for sellers and developers if it has longer to run. The permission which ended on 13th March 2016 was publicised as a public notice was displayed (dated October 16 2012) near London Road Station.
However, just one year after applying for the first extension of planning permission, the site owner made another application to the Council for an extension, which went unnoticed by many residents who would have opposed it. By this time, The Council's online planning register was well established and although it logged applications to extend planning permissions, letters were not sent to residents who were immediately affected or who had previously expressed concern.

The first point of challenge:

1) Failure to consult residents on extensions to planning permissions.

Residents do not spend their lives monitoring The Council's online planning register, so when open spaces are prized by local communities, absence of consultation is both undemocratic and unsatisfactory.

There is no online record of a public notice being posted in the vicinity of London Road Station to inviite comments from the public on the subsequent application (approved by the officers on 14th March 2014) extending permission to build the four houses on the sensitive open space until 14th March 2017. 

Had the public been alerted to their right to comment on the most recent application,  five objections would have ensured tha this decision would have to have been made by elected members of the Council's planning committee, which would have allowed further representations to be made.

The officers may have argued that the decision of the planning committee to extend to 13th March 2016 was then fairly recent and may have assumed that fear of losing an appeal would still tie their hands, but the planning process should involve residents too and it is the duty of Local Authorities to involve communities in open space assessments.

The context for fighting appeals also changes as residents HAVE THEIR SAY and planning policies and designations evolve.

Recently, local residents (including some ward Councillors) have persuaded Brighton and Hove City Council to add  London Road Station to our city's list of Heritage Assets. The station is now the setting of a community garden run in partnership between local residents and Southern Rail. Users of Platform 1, which would no longer enjoy a rural-feel if it looks directly onto 4 crammed-in houses, number many more than those living in the immediate vicinity. The station with its unusual feature of staggered platforms is an asset to the whole of our city and beyond.

This failure to consult adequately was very undemocratic, but it also relates directly to a major weakeness in the Local Authority's methodology of conducting its statutory open space assessments.


2) Failure to offer city residents open space assessment referencing privately owned sites. 

Our Council's officers have never given the public a chance to value the land opposite platform 1 of London Rd Station through site-specific open space assessment compliant with the government's guidance. It would be easy to leave forms within the station waiting room of the pub, but the opportunity to follow a formal process which would have collected data on the public's view of the quality of the specific open space, was ignored. 

Other casualties from the Council's refusal to assess the amenity value (visual / green lung / screening potential / wildlife habitat) of open spaces on private land include:

[i] the green buffer to the NE of Princes Road recently lost to a cramped development of 6 homes uncomfortably located much to near the city's Waste Transfer Station and the Centenary Industrial Estate.

[ii] the narrow strip of land which separates properties to the east of Belton Road from properties to the west of Crescent Road in Round Hill.

In both the above cases, the Council showed no interest in open space assessment and the sites were stripped of trees and vegetation before subsequent planning permissions were even granted.

It is a great pity that the drive to meet housing targets now affords so little protection to the public amenity value of any open space which happens to have its footprint on privately owned land. The Council's open space surveys (the most recent was renamed future of our parks consultation!) only seem to want us to comment on the amenity value of public open spaces, of which Round Hill has none! The above (within the context of the Preston Park conservation area as well as a railway station which has been added to the city's list of heritage assets) should concern anybody who assumes that our own neighbourhood's 'green ribbons' are untouchable.

Is this really a Round Hill interest?
1. London Road Station is regularly used by many Round Hill residents; many of us also appreciate the amenities provided by adjoining neighbourhoods, such as the Open House pub which might have to reconsider the way it runs if it acquires new immediate neighbours worried by noise or the activities in the outdoor area, some of which is set aside for smokers.

2. There is a Round Hill connection responsible for permission being given by the planning inspector to develop "land to the rear of 140-146 Springfield Rd".

The connection is that:
the permission given by Brighton and Hove City Council in 2009 for Carelet to build 4 houses on another railway corridor greenfield site (i.e. "land to the rear of 67-81 Princes Road") proved decisive in overturning the Council's refusal on the Springfield Road site. The planning inspector who upheld the appeal on "land to the rear of 140-146 Springfield Rd" cited the Council's decision RE "land to the rear of 67-81 Princes Road" within point 11 the Appeal Decision in holding the Council to consistency in following a weakened open spaces policy.

Flawed open spaces policy remains the platform
unless the open space is on public land

So The Council's 2009 decision to disregard the value of the greenfield site/buffer zone to the rear of Princes Rd to Round Hill residents (who suffer the odour and eyesore of Hollingdean Depot) contributed decisively to the planning inspector's Appeal Decision (see point 11: extract reproduced below) RE "land to the rear of Springfield Road.

The assertion within point 11 of the Appeal Decision that open space assessment RE the Carelet site had been robust so badly represents the facts that I read it as "a mischievous attempt to punish Brighton and Hove City Council" for its inconsistency in seeking to protect the Springfield Rd railway corridor site while conceding "the principle of development" on the Round Hill greenfield site without any open space assessment at all.

Instead, that appeal inspector has punished local residents and conveniently ignored the government's own planning policy guidance on open spaces, tacitly weakening the input of local communities
Did the 2009 Carelet decision "make a robust assessment of the value of the identified open space"?

The Council did not pause to consult Round Hill residents on the value of the Princes Rd open space before advising the developer Carelet (prior to their purchase of the land in 2004!) that permission could possibly be granted for a residential development of up to four storeys if the right conditions were met.

The developer proceeded by paying two Princes Road residents circa TWENTY TIMES what they had paid for a previously protected greenfield site in 1997. The scale of the gain which this fortunate couple had made indicated to neighbours in Princes Road that EITHER the Council had made a mistake in conceding the "principle of development" without consulting local residents at all OR that the develooper had misunderstood the status of "informal advice' from a Local Authority" and set their expectations much too high: Carelet's first (2004/2005) planning application was for 30 flats and up to 6 storeys!

The "principle of development" on a sensitive hillside buffer-zone between a conservation area and an increasingly noisy industrial estate was therefore conceded in 2003 WITHOUT ANY OPEN SPACE ASSESSMENT TAKING PLACE AT ALL.

What would "a robust assessment of the value of the identified open space" have really required?

Recent policies have relaxed restrictions for developers so the following comments relate to the time when mistakes were made in relation to the Carelet site. These mistakes allowed a planning inspector to hold our Council to consistency by making a bad decision follow on from another.

For a satisfactory level of community participation, such open space assessment would have had to satisfy the government's PPG17 planning policy guidance on open space. PPG17 Diagram 1 is an easy-to-read flow chart, which makes it very clear what steps should have happened before "the principle of development" was conceded. PPG17 paragraph 10 links the government's policy guidance on open space assessment to individual applications where "redevelopment of an existing open space" is proposed on privately-owned land.

When nearly all of Round Hill's green open spaces (the distinctive green ribbons and former drying fields) are located ON PRIVATE LAND, our Council's record of restricting its City-Wide Open Space studies almost exclusively to parks & recreation grounds ON PUBLIC LAND shows a disturbing omission.

The precise inaccuracy in point 11 of the Appeal Decision which has perhaps "sealed the fate" of many valued open spaces ON PRIVATE LAND throughout our city is that

No open space assessment compliant with the government's own guidance PPG17 Diagram 1 and PPG17 paragraph 10 (WHICH APPLIES EQUALLY TO PRIVATE LAND) has been carried out in relation to either of the two railway corridor sites.

Appeal Decision Permitted development affecting the greenway opposite Platform 1 on London Road Station The Appeal Inspector's decision to grant permission, constituted a set-back to the attempt by Brighton and Hove City Council to put together an Open Spaces Policy which would protect attractive plots attractive both to the immediate neighbourhoods and to residents in a much wider area of our city.

Extract from recent APP/Q1445/A/09/2105969 Appeal Decision by P.W. Clark of The Government’s Planning Inspectorate, overturning The Council’s refusal of the application BH2008/03194 to build 4 houses on "land to the rear of 140-146 Springfield Rd" (and opposite platform 1 of London Road Station)

Open space parameters

8. The site lies within an extensive area of railway cutting and embankment but it Is no more than a piece of surplus land adjacent to the operational railway. There is no public access to it, nor any use made of it. The wider open area extends on either side of the railway from a viaduct at its west end to a tunne) at its east end. It has London Road railway station at its centre. This is crossed by a public footbridge. The site lies on the north side of the railway, Immediately to the west of the public footbridge. It forms a small part of the overall open area.

9. At face value, Brighton and Hove Local Plan 2005 (the Local Plan) policy QD20 would deny planning permission for any proposal that would result in the loss of areas of public or private open space that are important to people because of their recreational, community, historical, conservation, economic, wildlife, social or amenity value unless the proposal is of national importance or essential to meet social, environmental and/or economic needs, which cannot be located elsewhere. Although criticised in the report of the Inspector who considered the objections to the Local Plan, the policy is adopted and the validity of the plan has not been challenged.

10. Likewise, government policy, set out in Planning Policy Guidance 17: Planning for open space, sport and recreation (PPG17), asserts that existing open space should not be built on unless an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space or the buildings and land to be surplus to requirements.

11. In practice however, as made clear in the justification to its policy, the Council will seek to balance the competing claims of different land uses and the community's long term requirements for open space. I was referred to recent examples of this more pragmatic approach in decisions taken by the Council itself at 67-81 Princes Road, Brighton and in an appeal decision at 55 Highcroft Villas, Brighton (APP/Q1445/A/08/2081266). In accordance with both Local Plan policy QD20 and government policy in PPG17, that decision made a robust assessment of the value of the identified open space together with consultation with the local community. In order to gauge whether the land could be utilised for alternative purposes. I take the same approach.


It is difficult to know how the Appeal Inspector can claim "robust assessment" in relation to the "value of the Carelet site as an open space to the local community", when no PPG17-compliant open space assessment has ever taken place.

Who gains & loses when PPG17 is not applied
In the absence of robust open space assessment allowing local residents to address individual threats to wildlife havens & green buffers, we lose more and more of our open spaces to poorly located developments. The winners are not those who protect and enhance our conservation areas.

Lucky winners - Princes Rd residents knew there was something "not quite right" about The Council's Open Spaces Policy when a couple's £12,000 purchase of a backland site in 1997, brought them a price of circa twenty times that amount in 2004. What had earned them that gain was a developer's offer, after the developer had taken "informal advice" from Brighton and Hove City Council a few months earlier. The gain was only made because the developer was led to believe that "the principle of development" protecting this greenfield site had been conceded. Where was the PPG17-compliant open space assessment following Diagram 1 and PPG17 paragraph 10 . The latter was non-existent, both at the time that "the principle of development" was conceded and throughout 7 subsequent planning applications and three appeals.

The first planning application in late 2004 was for up to 6-storeys and 30 flats on the green space to the rear of 67-81 Princes Road. Weak open spaces policy set the Round Hill community a huge challenge in preventing the expections of a developer from placing a considerable burden on their neighbourhood. The Council did not raise any objections to 30 flats on transport grounds, but think how that would have affected our parking situation. The planning inspector who dismissed Carelet's appeal made it clear that genuine car-free development would have been impossible in this location.

Hundreds of hours of residents and Case Officers time have been spent since 2004 in contesting planning applications and appeals on a site where local residents have ever since been deprived of a PPG-17 compliant assessment of its value to them as a green buffer zone - now more important than ever as a screen between the conservation area and The Waste Transfer Station.

The cost of all this time to residents (as ratepayers alone!) must be somewhat more than the administrative fees for having planning applications considered.

Transparent policies are needed to prevent further waste. If the policy is now to ignore the Government's policy guidance on open space, it should be made clear that there is going to be no such opportunity for the community to identify valued amenities. Pretence will cost us further!

Below is some guidance to prospective purchasers of the Springfield Road site written by local residents. While Open Space policy remains so weakened, there are still gains to be made by buyers of attractive plots who can get the Council to concede the principle of development, obtain planning permission for residential development, and sell on both land + permission. Up to £500,000 can be asked for such a site, e.g. the one which exchanged hands for just £12,000 in 1997 when the open space was protected.

Open Spaces policy must come under closer review when local residents know that amenities which contribute to the character & appearance of their neighbourhoods are being re-defined and traded in this way.

This page was last updated by Ted on 24-Oct-2018
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