As Conservatives we strongly believe the City needs a diverse economic base in order to prosper and this must include families and family businesses
A diverse economic base helps the City survive shocks such as the Coronavirus pandemic and come out the other side in one piece.
It also helps provide a stable tax base for the City – families and small family businesses, for example pay council tax that provides services for many.
That is why as Conservatives we were concerned to see new council statistics released which should be a canary in the coal mine for the City.
The figures confirm what many have thought for some time - that families are moving out of the City at a steady rate.
The statistics show that the number of primary school places required in Brighton & Hove has fallen so dramatically that the council is out to consultation on reducing the Published Admissions Number (PAN) for 9 schools across the City.
The Council is recommending a decrease of 420 school places.
In an interview this week the Conservative spokesperson on Schools Vanessa Brown said that the figures confirmed in her mind a trend of families migrating predominantly westwards but also eastwards away from the City.
So why is this happening? Where is the City going wrong?
Two examples from recent weeks, highlighted by our Conservative Councillors, show how the city may be exacerbating, not alleviating the flight of families - eroding areas with a stock of family homes in the city; and driving out family businesses of the City.
At a recent planning committee meeting a proposal was put forward to convert two family homes in an area of predominantly good-sized homes into blocks of flats.
This caused much concern and attention as it was viewed as a precedent-setting decision that could impact the wider area.
Conservative Councillor Samer Bagaeen, who is also a Professor of Planning, gave a presentation explaining why he thought this would be a bad idea.
At the meeting Cllr Bagaeen referred to Dwelling Mix Lifestage Modelling.
He said that modelling shows that Cities need a mix of areas with some family homes in order to prosper.
After all, if families move out, then the tax base of a City erodes. Students do not pay council tax.
Hove Park ward is one of the few remaining areas in the City with a large stock of family homes.
Cllr Bagaeen argued that if a precedent was set for conversion of family homes to flats then the loss of family homes would escalate.
These arguments were rejected and the Committee voted in favour of the development and another 2 family homes - and perhaps another two families - will be lost.
While the Council is busy converting family homes to flats, it is also introducing policies that push out diverse family businesses.
Conservative Councillor Dee Simon has recently raised the issue of two stables that are set to be lost under the City Plan Part 2.
The Ingleside Stables and South Downs riding school are family businesses in Brighton.
The stables provide something different for Brighton & Hove and are just as much a part of the City as Brighton Pier or Saltdean Lido.
They also service the racecourse, a key part of the City’s identity but also an industry that provide jobs and also pays taxes to the City that pay for local services.
But the City is proposing to drive these family businesses out – all to build 45 units on the site –half of which will not even be family-sized.
As Councillor Simson said of the Ingleside site, the Council is chipping away at our heritage and this proposal would be a great loss to City.
It is more than just a beautiful spot nestled in the South Downs with an old farmhouse feel to it. It is also a successful business in the City that the council wants to take away.
These two decisions show that the council is not properly thinking through the planning needs of this City.
The Conservative Group has put forward positive solutions to protect family homes.
In our amendments to the City Plan put forward by Councillor Mary Mears we proposed protecting more houses from conversion to flats, toughening the threshold required for conversion.
If Brighton & Hove is to be a City for all, it must be a City for families as well.