Watching the tweets from the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce Big Debate on the motion “this house believes that Brighton’s night time economy is tarnishing the city’s brand” was interesting.
But I was very surprised to see people praising “responsible” firm Brighton Holiday Homes, represented on the night by Managing Partner Michelle Stonehill. Apparently she talked* about the measures her company takes with rowdy guests. Brighton Holiday Homes lets flats and houses to tourists in our great city by the sea.
Apparently, Stonehill waxed about how Brighton Holiday Homes care about the neighbours and make efforts to shield locals from unruly guests. They have a 24 hour hotline for neighbours and a car patrols all the properties (especially the party houses), every hour, on Friday and Saturday night to ensure all is tickety-boo. That’s what she said, I believe.
I was aghast. Open mouthed. This woman has more front than Brighton herself, I thought. Even Martha Gunn, our fair city’s most distinguished dipper, never saw so much cheek. I live opposite one of Michelle Stonehill’s Brighton holiday homes and I know that she was talking, shall we we say, bollocks.
I won’t go into details but we’ve experienced some very rowdy weekends this year down our way as a result of our new, unannounced, local Brighton Holiday Home. My neighbour Alice Wright very eloquently blogged about her own concerns a few months ago on the Argus website.
In short: Brighton Holiday Homes took on the house across the road in a very quiet spot of Hove. It was marketed originally as a house for groups on their website and no patrols were ever to be seen until complaints were made about the noise.
I’m almost impervious to noise but some of Stonehill’s guests were rowdy beyond belief. The nadir was the Jubilee weekend. Brighton Holiday Homes let the small three-bed house on our little street to a party of at least fifteen people. Party being the operative word. A bit of noise is fine. But their din was non-stop for four days.
Let me say: we never did see that patrol car Michelle Stonehill raves about. Not once. Let alone every evening. One neighbour thinks he might have seen a seen a seagull declaiming Shakespeare in a tiny ruff collar (those reports are unconfirmed), but we certainly NEVER, EVER did see that Brighton Holiday Homes patrol car.
When everyone in the street complained though, Brighton Holiday Homes did eventually listen. But it took days to get a response. Now, at the holiday let, family groups are preferred and it’s been much quieter. (We still have to act as “concierge”, on occasion, to arriving guests who can’t find the house: the chat on the Brighton Holiday Home‘s website about hosts and welcoming parties is as mythical as the patrols. Blimey. Did you just see that unicorn?)
A fair outcome? Yes, perhaps. But a lot of heartache and annoyance to get there. And it took time to get Brighton Holiday Homes to even open a dialogue with the neighbours.
As for the 24 hour hotline? We didn’t know the house had become a holiday let, we didn’t know who was letting it and so we had to snoop about to find out anything.
But this isn’t a post about noise. It’s a post about community. A holiday home in the street adds nothing. It only takes away. People come and go at weekends, often it stands empty, there’s noone to get to know, build a bond with, learn from. That holiday home on my street is just a community void.
What angers me though, and spurred me to write this post months after the event of rowdy visitors, is the lie. The claim from Brighton Holiday Homes at the Chamber debate that they are responsible and care about the neighbours. No. No. Just not true.
Where is the prominent, frontpage neighbour link on the Brighton Holiday Homes website for starters? And if Michelle Stonehill cares about our street. Why has she has never been to visit the holiday let that in part pays her (doubtless lavish) salary?
As a Brightonian, I am wedded to the notion that to complain about visitors and tourists is like moaning about the pebbles on the beach. It’s what we are. The city must be welcoming to all the people who come and enjoy the place. But it does seem to me that if there are people seeking profit from tourism, such as Michelle Stonehill, that they should respect their fellow citizens rather more than they do and contribute a lot more to the city’s coffers.
And I may well have a few ideas on that… (watch this space!). It is surely time to ensure that holiday lets, and agencies such as Brighton Holiday Homes, pay their way rather than just leach money and spirit from Brighton and Hove.
* I wasn’t there. I take the info from tweets reporting the event.