At first mention the Council's proposed temporary ice rink on the eastern lawn of the Royal Pavilion Estate conjures up a delightful image of a sheet of ice, dotted with skaters gliding and twirling against the backdrop of the floodlit Pavilion; something like a cross between a Dutch winter scene and a setting from the Arabian Nights.
Unfortunately the proposals also include ancillary structures to house a restaurant, crèche, café, toilet facilities and skate hire, and require a marquee with transparent walls and roof to be erected all along the eastern side of the lawn, especially placed to shelter the ice from wind. The effect as viewed by a person 5ft.11in tall standing in the Old Steine is as shown in the mock-up photo below.
In fact, it seems that the only place the skating will be clearly visible is from a small area at the southern end and from within the venue itself.
Including set-up and break-down time the lawn will be occupied from 26th October to 23rd January 2011, and the grass will be severely damaged over this period. Resurfacing is to be completed by 23rd February but it is doubtful that even after this time the grass will be fully restored. However it is not the temporary loss of the lawn which is the greater concern, as it is not intensively used, especially in winter, but rather the loss of the iconic, most photographed, view of the Royal Pavilion.
On the plus side the rink will provide an important source of income which will help to fund repair and maintenance of the cash-strapped Pavilion. It will provide a leisure/sporting activity which will encourage tourists and engage with local communities. It will increase the capacity of the historic site temporarily, bring a wider range of visitors and go some way to provide for the aims of the "Keep Sussex Skating Association". Although footfall in the area will be greatly increased by this event the provision of 24-hour security should reduce graffiti and vandalism on the east elevation.
It seems that Pavilion and Council staff have put a lot of effort, planning and preparation into this project, and approval must be a foregone conclusion. We should perhaps give a guarded welcome to a first trial.