Letter to Brighton and Hove City Council on the L3 Harris retrospective planning application

Dear Jane (cc Nicola),

Re: BH2023/03236 – retrospective planning application for the permanent retention of a temporary structure after the applicant failed to remove the building after the planning approval timeframe passed  

I am aware that there is a significant amount of public interest in this planning application because of the nature of L3 Harris Release and Integrated Solutions Ltd (previously known as EDO MBM). I very much share the views of many of those objecting that businesses who are potentially complicit in human rights violations, which have seen the loss of life in overseas conflicts, are not welcome in our city. 

I will return to my concerns about the presence of L3 Harris in the city, but from a purely planning perspective, I believe there are multiple reasons why councillors could, and should, refuse this retrospective planning application. 

L3 Harris are very well aware of their presence in the city being controversial, so I find it surprising that they were careless enough to allow their current temporary planning application to lapse and thereby be forced to retrospectively apply. The planning system must not condone large, well-resourced companies failing to adhere to the terms of previous planning agreements.  

Moreover, the site backs on to Wild Park, one of the city’s largest nature reserves. Whilst it is of course possible for the existing industrial buildings to co-exist alongside the neighbouring natural environment, it is important that businesses using industrial space are respectful of this, and that they adhere to planning rules and understand their obligations in this regard. The fact that such an established business has either flouted planning rules, or not understood them, is worrying.  

In short, L3 Harris breached the planning agreement as defined in section 171A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, by “failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted.” I trust this disregard for local planning decisions will be borne in mind by councillors when considering this application. 

I have looked at the previous application made by L3 Harris in 2017, and it is clear that the agreement was for a temporary structure. I cannot see anything in the documents submitted by the applicant which satisfactorily evidences that the reasons given previously have been fully addressed. The previous decision notes that: 

“2. The temporary side extension hereby permitted shall be permanently removed from the site on or before 5 years from the date of this permission and the land reinstated to its former condition.” 

“Reason: The structures hereby approved are not considered suitable as a permanent form of development and permission is granted for a temporary period only and to comply with policies CP9 and CP12 of the Brighton and Hove City Plan Part One and TR7, TR14, TR18 and QD14 of the Brighton and Hove Local Plan.” 

The above points remain relevant, and I hope that, in the light of no new material information, councillors will respect the previous decision not to approve a permanent structure.

Regarding L3 Harris in respect to any contribution to the local economy, whilst their application refers to them as an employer in the city, which is of course true, they were operational before the addition of a temporary structure at the site, and I have seen no evidence to confirm that the addition of the temporary structure equates to supporting any specific increase in local employment opportunities.  In supporting documents, L3 Harris refer to looking to “allow for immediate short term expansion of the business, including providing space for a growing staff base” but no further details of numbers, or information about the ongoing nature of the work is given. As information around the ongoing nature of need is vague, I believe the applicant has failed to make an adequate business case for the temporary structure to be made permanent.  

The L3 Harris premises in Brighton is ultimately linked with the US arms supplier of the same name – L3 Harris, with international shareholders profiting from this business. Therefore, direct impact on the local economy, aside from supporting jobs, is somewhat limited. 

I recognise that planning processes are not the most appropriate forum for human rights considerations to be factored into decision-making process. Yet, to be clear, fragments of a bomb with the words EDO MBM, the then name of L3 Harris, were found at the site of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen, the UN concluded that the attack “violated international humanitarian law.” A Cage Code, (Commercial and Government Entity number) which are used internationally as part of NATO systems links the fragment found to the Brighton factory, rather than simply the international arms of EDO MBM / L3 Harris.

There’s also credible basis to think that bomb racks and bomb release mechanisms that L3 Harris manufacture for F-16 and F-35 planes are being used by the Israeli Air Force in its assault on Gaza. I have raised this in Parliament and received no response that indicates this is not the case.

Many of my constituents and interested parties objecting to this application cite Brighton and Hove City Council’s constitution, which sets out the need for councillors to maintain the highest standards or conduct and ethics, and which refers to respect for human rights in its principles of decision making. Given the controversial nature of the presence of L3 Harris in the city, it is vital that councillors on the Planning Committee scrutinise this application carefully in line with their constitutional responsibilities, as well as with planning law.

Yours sincerely, 


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