Newsletter, January 2012

Chairman’s letter

Dear Members

A very happy New Year to all of you.

It will be a challenging year for many of us individually, at city level and for Hove Civic Society.

One of the key issues we need to look at are the implications of the Localism Act and whether the Society should apply for neighbourhood forum status. This would allow us to play a larger role in the planning of our area and possibly have some say in the way funding from the community infrastructure levy is spent locally. Your committee has agreed that we start discussions with the Council on the matter and we hope to become clear about the direction we should take by the time of our next AGM. If we do decide to formally apply for neighbourhood forum status, we would need to agree a slight amendment to our constitution. Moving in this direction would give us more influence on one hand, but also involve us in much more work such as preparing a local development plan. We need to be absolutely sure that such a change adds value to the society and the city. While we are pondering the issue I would welcome hearing from any members who would like to be actively involved in such a forum.   

By the time you receive this newsletter the public consultation on the Rampion off-shore windfarm outside Brighton will be well underway. The proposal will entail some 100 turbines, capable of generating an estimated 650MW. The committee has decided to firmly support the proposal and we will be preparing our case in the next few months. We believe this is essential for our energy security and welcome the job opportunities it will bring to the city. You will receive a fuller report in the next newsletter. Our submission will also be posted on our new website.

Yes - our new website! It is now up and running, providing the latest information about our activities. Under City Planning you can find our responses to the first City Plan consultation, which closed in December 2011. Our submission supports option 2 of the housing paper (some 11,200 new dwellings in the city by 2030). However we entered a number of provisos in terms of the size and range of dwellings provided in new developments. We also supported the recommended approach on the employment paper, which recommends intensification in a number of locations across the city. In all cases we urged any intensification to be accompanied by the installation of district heating.

On the website you will also see our deliberations on individual planning applications. We only make formal representations on a few, mainly larger proposals, either in writing or by commenting on them at the Conservation Advisory Group.

Our Renewables Infrastructure Group is busy marshalling the arguments for district heating and supporting the off shore Rampion proposal. John Kapp, our vice-chair, makes his point when he draws attention to the energy wasted in generating electricity at Shoreham. He takes a regular dip in the outfall from the power plant which flows into the sea at some 10 degrees higher than the surrounding water temperatures. He claims it is as warm as in the King Alfred swimming pool even on a winter’s day. He also suggests that the energy wasted at Shoreham is not far off the energy to be generated at the Rampion offshore windfarm. The group feels strongly that this energy needs to be harnessed.

Our public sculpture group has jumped straight into the deep end by visiting a number of sculpture parks and researching venues across the country, which could give inspiration to public sculpture in Hove and Portslade. They have started discussions with the Council and are preparing an option appraisal which your committee will consider in February. See also the separate item in this newsletter.

The Restoring our Victorian Tree Heritage group is now recruiting members to be able to start effective action. Look out for more details coming soon.

The new website is looked after by Sarah Kirk-Browne, who also takes over as editor of this newsletter. A warm welcome to Sarah, who now has the unenviable task of making sure that all the contributions come in on time. At our next committee meeting we will discuss how we can use social media to engage more with members and you will hear more about this later on. 

Thanks to all members who have completed and submitted their standing orders for the changed membership fees. Those of you who prefer to pay annually by cheque and haven’t done so yet, please forward your renewal subscription to Sue as quickly as possible. And please remember that the annual membership fees have gone up to £12 for one person and £20 for two.

From February onwards Louis Grabsky will take over the membership secretary function from Sue. Again, many thanks to Sue for her many years of dedicated service to the Society.

Finally a special thanks to all those who have made separate donations to the Society this year. These funds are incredibly useful as they allow us to carry out all the activities we otherwise couldn’t tackle.

With best wishes

Helmut Lusser


City Planning

The City Plan

The Council has recently decided to produce a City Plan, which will provide a framework for future development in the city up until 2030. This supercedes the work done on the Local Development Framework, which has now been abandoned.

Initial Policy Options Papers were issued for consultation on four key areas of the City Plan, and on November 24, 2011 the Society made representations on two of them. Further consultation on the full City Plan will take place in the coming months. For full details and updates, please see our website.

Planning Applications for Hove and Portslade

We have begun to monitor the planning applications posted on the Council’s website for the six months beginning January 2012. Summaries will be posted regularly on our own website. We select those that are equivalent to at least six units of accommodation and have a particular focus on the following features:

  • Conservation and improvement of the appearance of our streets;
  • Sustainability in terms of energy conservation and generation;
  • Room sizes in comparison with the minimum public housing standards;
  • Achievement of Lifetime Homes standards, to enable residents to live in their homes despite ill-health or infirmity;
  • Compatibility with the emerging City Plan.

We provide some comment on the applications and indicate where we have made representation to either the Council or the Conservation Advisory Group (CAG).

Our monitoring generally covers Hove and Portslade although we also work with civic organisations across the city to discuss and make representations about significant proposals, such as the development of the Royal Sussex County Hospital.


Report from the Public Sculpture Group

Our city has some impressive examples of Victorian monument but, alas, very little public sculpture has been added in recent times.  Hove Civic Society is setting about to change this. We think public art can play a major role in enhancing the urban environment and would like to see contemporary sculpture as part of the city’s street life and seafront vistas.  With public money being tight, we aim to fund the campaign from donations by both the public and local businesses – thus reviving the Victorian tradition of art by public subscription.

 Our vision for public sculpture includes:

  • Engagement - evoking a response of surprise and delight from residents and visitors;
  • Bringing to life the history and the character of Hove and Portslade;
  • Connecting with the sea and the seafront promenade;
  • Linking in with Brighton & Hove Festivals and Artists Open Houses;
  • An ongoing programme which could include both permanent and changing installations, including the idea of a ‘Hove Plinth’ and a variety of sites.

A small steering group of Society members and specially invited participants are driving the initiative. The group is convened by Karin Janzon (committee member) and also include Jill and Peter Seddon (Brighton University and Sussex Public Sculpture Recording Project), Hazel Reeves (Sculptor) and Mike Daniels (Hove Arts). We are liaising with the Council and have made some inspiring visits to sculpture parks in the region. Currently we are at the stage of looking at and thinking about the possibilities and options regarding sites, type of work, and permanent versus temporary installations, different ways of procurement and ways of engaging the public. Once we have firmed up proposals we will start to raise funds – so watch this space.

For more information about this initiative, or if you wish to donate funds, please contact Karin Janzon, email:, Tel: 07917 888997


Heritage round-up by Elaine Evans

Three cheers! Out of six city parks that have recently been awarded Green Flags, four are in Hove and Portslade: St Ann’s Well, Stoneham Park, Hove Park and Easthill Park. I’m particularly glad that St Ann’s Well Gardens has regained its Green Flag. When I last visited, the so-called sensory garden looked abandoned, hopeless, with no sensory planting at all. Thank goodness that the loss of the award prompted action to put things right.

Looking back to our 50th anniversary celebrations last year, we were very fortunate that Mr Leslie Weller gave us such an interesting private tour at Michelham Priory, focusing on the 16th/17th century furniture. He donated his fee to the historic church of St George’s at West Grinstead, and as a personal thank you I donated to one of his favourite projects, the restoration of the Tudor panels at Chichester Cathedral. It was therefore heartening to receive their Restoration Newsletter with the news that Lambert Barnard’s paintings have been successfully stabilised and surface cleaned, greatly improving their clarity.

On my recent holiday in Devon, I at last visited the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture at the University of Exeter. Knowing my interest in Brighton and Hove’s grand cinemas of the 20th century, the curator had delved into the archives. It was a thrill to hold the souvenir programme of the Astoria Cinema when it opened in 1933, though alas the building will soon join the other majestic cinemas that are  no longer with us – the Regent and the Academy. The Granada in Portland Road, Hove, also 1933, is hanging on by its fingertips but I’m told demolition is approaching.

Bang up to date is the news that Foredown Tower, Portslade has reopened as a learning and visitor centre for the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy. Mike Weatherley, MP, officially opened it on December 9, and adult learning classes have started there on such subjects as antiques, cakes decorating and local history. A day school on January 17 looks at astronomy and I am giving a short presentation regarding my recent visit to Sir Patrick Moore. I felt privileged to meet the great man in his study. My notes are enclosed with this Newsletter, and if you watch “The Sky at Night”, you may recognise some of the items mentioned in my interview. Sir Patrick has such a great intellect and lively personality.

Foredown Tower still has that amazing camera obscura on the top floor. We are so lucky to have this working feature here in Portslade. There are only two open in England – one in Bristol, one in Greenwich. Eastbourne Pier also has one, usually open during the summer school holidays but sometimes closed due to private functions. My fervent wish is that demonstrations at Foredown Tower will recommence at the end of 2012, with any luck. Such a rare and special feature should not be lying unused. Volunteers are needed – do please contact me at 01273 777784.


Energy Efficient Refurbishment of Your Home

Whether you are concerned with dwindling natural resources, climate change or rising energy bills, you will probably want to know what you can do to use less gas and electricity whilst not lowering your standard of living. The good news is that there is a whole range of simple things you can do that really work and make sense financially.

Firstly, let me say that measures to reduce the amount of energy you use are more cost effective than installing new equipment to produce your own energy. I am referring to such things as solar panels, wood burning boilers and heat pumps. The 'fabric first' approach makes sure that you minimise the energy you need before you think about new ways to generate energy.

Draught proofing: Did you know that on a windy day an average property will have a complete change of air every 15-30 minutes? Windows, doors, floorboards, cracks, badly sealed piping and your loft hatch can all contribute to a house that will leak warm air in the winter.

The good news is that there are lots of cheap DIY solutions to draughts such fitting draught seals around doors and windows, letterbox covers, filling gaps around openings for drainage pipes and electrical cables that pass through external walls. If your loft hatch is not airtight, and ideally it should have draught proofing tape snugly fitted around it, then any loft insulation you have will be offset by warm air rising up and away through the hatch.

A word of warning as regards draught proofing your home, though. Completely sealing your home will lead to a build up of carbon dioxide, moisture and possibly mould, none of which provides for a comfortable or healthy living environment. If you have dealt with all the uncontrolled leaks of air, the key is to have controlled ventilation by making sure you have fans in kitchens and bathrooms and using them when cooking and washing. There are even 'heat recovery' fans on the market now than capture the heat from outgoing air and give it to the incoming fresh air. These fans run pretty much constantly on very little electrical power and can pay for themselves through money you will save on your heating bill.

Insulation: Insulating your loft is the cheapest way of reducing heat loss from a house and there are a number of grants available for the next 12 months to help the elderly and those on low incomes to do this. Don't forget to insulate the loft hatch: an uninsulated a loft hatch will leak 40 times as much heat per given area than the rest of an insulated loft. I recently cut and glued some waste polystyrene packaging to the top side of my loft hatch to insulate it – proof that you don't have to spend lots of money to make a difference.

The next most cost effective thing you can do is to insulate your walls. If you have cavity walls, they should be filled and there are several local contractors who can do this at little cost and disruption. Solid walls obviously need to be treated differently. I will not go into too much detail about solid walls here, but if you have implemented the measures I have suggested and are thinking about redecorating or other home improvements, then external or internal wall insulation will make your house warmer, cheaper and can make it look fantastic.

Wall insulation is generally not a DIY job and needs expert advice and professional installation.

There will be more information on solid walls in the next newsletter, but if you have questions in the meantime feel free to contact me, David Porter, at Efficient Refurbs, on 07753 935 670.



Winter Programme

Our winter programme of illustrated talks is now underway.

We have a variety of lively and knowledgeable speakers providing lectures on topics such as the history of cinema, the development of Aldrington, sustainable living and travelling and literary landscapes.

Come along for plenty of opportunities for informed and friendly discussion with local experts. Admission is free to members.

Cinema in Brighton & Hove

Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 14:30

Sarah Tobias, an experienced speaker on social and cultural history will talk about “The Development of Cinema in Brighton and Hove” from the pioneering activities in Hove and Shoreham in Victorian times to the ‘flea-pits and picture palaces’ that became the popular venues of the 1930s and 1940s, and an escape from reality during the war.

Development of Aldrington

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 14:30

Valerie Mainstone, an active local historian and expert on research into family histories will talk about “The Development of Aldrington”, from the late 19th century when her great grandfather, Francis Ignatius Dominic Mainstone, was bailiff on the Portland Estate, through to the industrial and residential area that it has become.

Sustainable Living and Travelling in the City

Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 19:00

This meeting will take the form of a discussion forum on the topic of “Sustainable Living and Travelling in the City”. The panel will consist of a housing design expert, a local authority planner and the managing director of Brighton and Hove Buses, Roger French. Please bring along some of the questions you would like the panel to address.

Literary Landscapes

Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 19:30

Geoffrey Mead is well known locally for his knowledge about the geological, geographical and historical development of Sussex landscapes. His talk entitled “Literary Landscapes – a new perspective” has its origins in his research into the work of William Camden who has left us writing and sketches of his walks across Sussex in the 16th century. As Geoffrey retraced his steps, with a camera, he pondered about continuity and change, and the establishment of the South Downs National Park.

Venue for all talks: Courtlands Hotel, The Drive, Hove, BN3 3JE.

For more information please contact Louis Grabsky on 01273 202203.

Membership Fees

Thanks to all members who have completed and submitted their standing orders for the changed membership fees. Those of you who prefer to pay annually by cheque and haven’t done so yet, please forward your renewal subscription to Sue as quickly as possible. And please remember that the annual membership fees have gone up to £12 for one person and £20 for two.