Housing plan for former Brighton grassroots music venue after noise complaints closure

Freebutt Artists Impression By Turner AssociatesFreebutt Artists Impression By Turner Associates
Freebutt Artists Impression By Turner Associates
The owner of a grassroots music venue which closed after noise complaints 14 years ago has made another bid to turn it into housing.

One Phoenix Place has submitted an application to Brighton and Hove City Council for a change of use for the former Freebutt pub to create commercial premises on the ground floor and housing in the floors above.

A seven-bedroom house in multiple occupation (HMO) would be put on the first floor and two, one-bedroom flats are planned in the roof.

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In 2020, the council refused same company permission to build an extra storey and convert the building into “cluster flats” including three wheelchair-accessible units and 23 “bed spaces” on the first, second and third floors.

The following year a planning inspector refused the scheme on appeal, citing loss of the pub, impact on the neighbourhood and inadequate living conditions.

This time One Phoenix Place’s plans keep the redevelopment within the constraints of the existing structure with “minimal external change”.

The change of use application comes after two years of constant marketing as a pub through the Fludes, The Commercial Property Network, Rightmove, Estates Gazette and others.

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The application, written by agent Absolute Town Planning, includes a report into the future viability of the pub site by specialist valuers A W Gore and Co director Patrick Walker.

A 2019 report into the cost of refurbishing the now derelict venue, which dates from 1821, came to more than £1 million, which Mr Walker states does not account for soaring inflation in the last five years.

Mr Walker highlights how Hanover has lost ten pubs in the last 20 years.

There are currently nine potential “surrenders/transfers” occuring in the Brighton pub trade at the moment.

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As the Freebutt closed so long ago and was not profitable for many years before it closed, he said it is unlikely to trade successfully again.

Rising energy costs, beer and food prices, business rates and staff costs were described as “the real killer” for the pub trade and warning of a “deep” recession.

Mr Walker said: “There is only a limited amount any government can do to ‘prop up’ the pubc trade, and I am sure any grants/support will be greatly appreciated.

“The problem is unlike the aftermath of covid, where people had a fair bit of disposable income they had saved from not being able to go abroad or go out in general, now there is very little money to spare, and the last place people want to go when their mortgages and costs of living are soaring, is the pub.”

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The Freebutt is not an asset of community value, and an application to make it one was rejected in March 2021.

Keeping the ground floor as commercial space is described in the main application papers as compensating for the loss of a pub with a use better suited to a site near housing.

The housing element is described as “high-end” and generous surpassing required standards.

Absolute Town Planning director Ian Coomber said: “HMO accommodation remains an affordable form of housing for many and the goal here is to provide an exemplar aiming to be one of the best HMOs in the city.

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“Ideally this will be seen as a model for others in terms of its exceedance of standards.”

The application is available to view on Brighton and Hove City Council’s planning website by searching for the application number BH2024/01283.