Liquid and Envy site: a missed opportunity

The redevelopment of the Liquid & Envy site (or the former Odeon cinema) in Redhill for apartments was approved on 17 May, despite opposition from several councillors. Most agreed the need for action on what has been a derelict site but many expressed concern and disappointment at the design and the limited amount of affordable housing proposed, falling far short of the 30% threshold.

The previous proposed mixed use (homes and retail) is now to be a scheme comprising a housing tower block. The new development will include five ground floor apartments which may experience noise and air quality issues from the main road, and there is no outdoor amenity space planned for new residents. Several councillors objected to the design of the new scheme and its “looming presence” over the town centre. Only 10 affordable units were offered by the developer out of a total of 133 being provided.

Officers also reported the developer wants to knock down the front of the former Odeon (which is still standing) on grounds of its condition. The benefit of this is hard to see as it will not increase the number of homes further, but will just replace it with a small area of open space on the corner of the site. Although the condition of the façade was not proven to be beyond repair, the developer offered a further five affordable units within the scheme if it was demolished.

Councillor McKenna (Redhill East) spoke against the application on design grounds, the limited amount of affordable housing and the loss of the facade and proposed reasons for refusal. Other members supported the points made but the reasons for refusal were voted down.

Councillor McKenna commented: “We all want to see a high quality mixed use development on the site but not at any price. Part of Redhill’s identity is being lost, and an opportunity to create a really high quality design on this gateway site has also been missed.

“I think in future such high quality locations should have a development brief prepared that sets out what is expected of the developer in terms of layout, design, and content of the scheme.

“Most importantly, in this case if the scheme had offered the full 30% of affordable units we would have had 40 affordable units not 10 (only raised to 15 by losing the façade) and whilst I am disappointed at the outcome I did propose a condition to potentially secure more affordable units on the site in the future and that was supported by a majority of other members.”

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