Friday, 29 July 2011

New ice rink for Portslade?

City Gateway Developments has proposed plans to build an indoor ice rink as well as a climbing wall and fitness centre at the former Flexer Sacks Factory on Wellington Road, Portslade.

The rink will be about 22 metres square. (22m x 22m). I wonder if the skating fraternity will be getting very excited about this? Maybe its better than nothing.
See Argus report here.
Planning Application BH2011/02135

Rottingdean from the east - then & now

Earlier posts on Rottingdean:-

Thursday, 28 July 2011

"Health & Safety" strikes in the Rockery

Double rails to protect visitors (who of necessity will have had to be fit and agile to get to this point) from a dizzying 12 inch drop into 6 inches of water. How did we survive for 70 years without them!

The railings are an unsightly intrusion and will become even more so when they start to rust.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

The Level row rumbles on. . . .

Adrian Morris, one-time local Labour candidate for St. Peters & North Laine, has presented a 3000 signature petition to the Council against the proposals to move the skate park to the northern section of the Level. (Brighton Society report). As a result of this, opposition councillors have united to ensure the decision was sent back to environment cabinet member Cllr Pete West for reconsideration. One hopes this is a mere formality. What force can, or should, a one-sided petition have in the face of a long, thorough public consultation exercise which showed that 55% of people were in favour of moving the skate park. The issue is a finely balanced one. The only way this petition might have been given any legitimacy is if, for the purposes of comparison, a counter-petition had been launched for moving the skate park; and the results had been presented at the same time.

Previous post.
Council approves Option 2 for the Level.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Backstreet Brighton

Nearly 200 years old and showing it, but there is something intriguing in the ad hoc jumble of walls, roofs, and chimneys. The assembly of competing planes and jostling prisms call to mind the features of some modernist sculptures.

Such scenes must once have been commonplace in Brighton: in the Pimlico area, cleared in the 1870's; in the Carlton Hill area, cleared in the 1930's; and in the Russell Street area, cleared in the 1950's for Churchill Square. They are becoming rarer by the year, but more now by a process of piecemeal upgrading than by wholesale demolition. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Royal York Hotel Buffet - postscript

Since my critical earlier post (20th January) the glass in the roof lantern has been repaired, all the woodwork has been given a coat of paint, and curtains have been hung in the first -floor windows. So the most urgent concerns have been addressed and the building is looking better: but a length of guttering is still missing, and there are still some repairs needed to the ground floor cornicing. 

Brighton Bits is going to assume credit for progress so far until we hear something to disabuse us.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

Concrete groynes

The first two concrete groynes to be built were the East Street groyne (in the distance) in 1867, followed in 1876 by the Albion groyne (lower right) which also carries a storm water outfall. The seawall between them which carries the Grand Junction Road across Pool Valley (upper right) dates from 1829. Before its construction Pool Valley shelved gently into the sea and was liable to flooding at spring tides and high tides in stormy weather.

Related post: Wooden groynes

Friday, 15 July 2011

Mannock House

An earlier post, "The Preston Barracks site" dealt briefly with the history of the remaining buildings on this site with reference to the City Council's consultation on the, "Lewes Road: Preston Barracks and University of Brighton Planning Brief". This consultation is now closed but an interesting postscript is provided by a  constructive comment added to the "Development Principles" section. It seem worthy of further publicity:-

"With regard to the potential retention of MANNOCK HOUSE I would like to draw the planners' attention to my business very nearby, Brighton Electric Studios, 43-45 Coombe Terrace (Lewes Rd) we are within 100 metres of the development site. We are a large successful professional studio complex needing to expand. We have proposed that Mannock house be renovated & converted internally into a studio complex, containing production studios, recording facilities, retail & bar areas. We work with local charities & educational bodies & are very over-subscribed in our current 6000sq.ft. premises in Tramway House. This business success shows how a period property (Mannock house was constructed in the same few years as Tramway House) can be sympathetically internally converted into contemporary media industry usage without affecting the exterior. We will create new jobs, opportunities & business for Brighton that we are currently losing to London. We will submit a full proposal if there is further interest from the Council."

All public comments on "Development Principles" in the Planning Brief press for the retention of the existing historical buildings. One hopes the Council planners will now be minded to amend Scenario B to ensure retention of the Mannock.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

RSCH Planning Exhibitions

The Royal Sussex County Hospital will be holding 3 public exhibitions of its planning proposals:-
  • Saturday, 24th. September 2011 at 1900 at the Audrey Emerton Building, Eastern Road.
  • Saturday, 1st. October 2011 at 10.00 at the Jubilee Library.
  • Saturday, 8th. October 2011 at 09.30 at Hove Library.
See Facebook page.
Earlier posts:-

Wooden groynes

It is interesting to ponder that a few simple structures like this began in the 1720's to stabilise Brighton's seafront along basically the same line we have today. A great storm in 1703 had destroyed the old fishing village below the cliffs and, along the south coast, was said to have cost 8000 lives. There was a further bad storm in 1705 and the sea continued to encroach to such an extent that Brighton appeared on the verge of being devoured by the sea. It must have been a fairly wretched place but, for some reason, maybe good fishing, was thought worth saving, and money was raised to build two groynes adjacent the old town. These were spasmodically maintained and supplemented for the next 200 years until gradually, from 1867 onwards, they became supplanted by concrete structures.

There were several wooden groynes still to be seen on Hove beaches until well into the 20th Century. Their remains may be there yet, buried under the shingle. This photo is of one of two still visible near where the Hove-Portslade border enters the sea.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The London Road viaduct

The London Road viaduct was completed in 1846; is nearly a ¼ mile long, has 27 arches, and used approximately 10 million bricks. It was originally built without parapets but this caused the passengers such vertigo that parapets were added later, not that they would be of any practical use. It was grade II* listed by English Heritage in 1974. 

It is worrying to see buddleia growing out of the brickwork.

Friday, 8 July 2011

The Preston Street passages

Up to about 50 years ago this recessed doorway in Little Preston Street was the entrance to a passageway to 34 Preston Street under the first floors. These streets, running north-south, built back-to-back in the 1820s, are lengthy. The passage would have provided a useful shortcut for anyone wanting to pass west to east; labourers or artisans perhaps, seeking to service the large houses in Regency Square, who otherwise would have had a long diversion up to Western Road or down to Kings Road.  One wonders whose was the original initiative to provide such a facility? Perhaps the occupier had it created in connection with his own occupation or maybe it was just the altruistic whim of the builder.

The Preston St. entrance was situated under the "Eat In or Take Away" sign of China China which occupies numbers 33 to 35 Preston Street. The passage was probably never gated, and a public right-of-way must have been long-established. That notwithstanding, someone in the 1960's thought it worthwhile to terminate the right-of-way by whatever arcane legal instrument was necessary, and the space was incorporated into the ground floors.

There was  another passage in Preston Street next to no.5, illustrated left, for many years a chemist, but this was very near the seafront and consequently less used. This passage disappeared in the same period, when the modern building on the right was developed.
Similar passages in the City run between Gloucester Road & Gloucester Street, and between Western Road Hove & Farman Street. The latter is scheduled to be gated to reduce unsocial behaviour at night (see Council press release). There are others: and they continue to be designed into some modern "mews-type" developments.

If footpaths running "twixt and "tween" properties are called twittens, these types of passage ways should perhaps be termed "twunders".

Thursday, 7 July 2011


Tetrapods protecting the wave-spending beach at Brighton Marina. They were invented over 50 years ago in France as a substitute for large boulders which tend to get dislodged over time by the pounding of waves. They are designed to lock together in a random but open structure which dissipates the energy of the wave through turbulence. Numerous variations in shape have since been produced but all go under the generic name "tetrapod", borrowed from zoology. 

Their use became very widespread at one time, but the pendulum has swung against "hard stabilisation' of coastlines as this interferes with natural currents, material drift and deposition. Tetrapods now are only used in special situations such as that shown above; and Japan has undertaken a large programme of removal of tetrapods in an effort to beautify its coast. However they are intriguing objects and collectively form a fascinating abstract sculpture. Moderation is the key.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Council approves Option 2 for the Level

Option 2 with the skate park moved to north of the rosewalk
Following publication of the results of the Level Consultation Cllr Pete West, Cabinet Member for Environment and Sustainability has approved the ‘Option 2’ proposals and given the go-ahead to apply for funding which could see the Level completely transformed.

The council will now finalise and submit its final and competitive second round bid for £2.1 million funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund through their Parks for People grant scheme. The result will be announced in January 2012. See Council press release.

Option 2 requires relocation of the skate park from the southern section to allow a more faithful restoration of the 1930s layout. Moved to the north of the rosewalk the new skate park will be largely sunken to minimise visual intrusion and will only reduce the total open space of the north section by about one-sixth.  Coupled with that it is intended that the presently gravelled triangle be returned to grass so the net effect  will be a bigger area of grass than there is at present.

Other related posts:-
Public consultation on the Level plans.
The Level enhancement project.
Regency Society supports the "Keep the Level green campaign".
Keep the Level green.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Hove Seaside Villas 2

View looking east
Judy Middleton in her "Encyclopaedia of Hove & Portslade" provides a fascinating history of this  unusual development. The villas were designed by architect E J Holland for developer Michael Paget Baxter (MPB). From 1908 onwards piles were sunk 20 feet into the foreshore to support a huge concrete platform on which the villas were erected using 12" thick concrete blocks and railway sleepers. MPB and his wife lived in no.1 at the eastern end, the first one to be built. Originally it had tennis courts and a rose garden. They stayed put, even during WW2, when the villas were requisitioned by the Royal Canadian Airforce and an ack-ack gun was installed on the roof.

MPB was a friend of Edward VII and Lord of the Manor of Aldrington. When Hove Corporation were minded to convert what was then just marshland into Hove Lagoon, MPB claimed rights over the area by virtue of his lordship and entered into a dispute with the corporation which lasted from 1923 to 1926.

The villas are in great demand and fetch several £M when they come on the market. A succession of famous people have lived there: David Jones (artist); Robin Ray; Oscar Loewenstein; and latterly: Nick Berry; Derek Jameson; Heather Mills; and Norman Cook.

The Royal Pavilion Gardens: then & now

Judged by the parked mini and the clothing, this postcard looks to date from the early 1960s but the scene was basically unchanged until the start of the major landscaping scheme 25+ years later.

In 1803 Prinny had caused New Road to the west to be created to divert the 'hoi polloi' away from Great East Street that then ran past his front door. He later commissioned John Nash to draw up a design for the garden. Due to Prinny's dire financial situation this design was never fully implemented, and when the Pavilion passed to municipal control the gardens were altered beyond recognition. Starting in 1985 however, with the aid of a Heritage Lottery grant, the whole of the west garden was landscaped according to Nash's plans.  As much as possible all the plants used were those that would have been fashionable and available in Regency England, or modern strains chosen to better endure the seaside climate.
Earlier posts:-

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Aldrington Basin development

Planning application BH2010/03739 for the development of land on Basin Road North shows 6 separate "lozenge" shaped blocks. They are arranged like louvres to funnel the  prevailing south-west wind on to pairs of vertical helical windgenerators between each block. Solar panels are installed on the roofs. (Fig.1).
 The 'lozenges' rise 5½ storeys above Kingsway (Fig.2) and there are 1½ storeys below it for car-parking, with access from Basin Road.
The development is to be sited between Britannia House to the east and Magnet showroom to the west, which latter will be incorporated and converted to warehousing. It is not unattractive but I suspect will not find much favour with nearby residents on Kingsway (Fig.3) or in Derek Avenue (Figs.4), which will have their open aspects to the south very restricted.
View of proposed development down Derek Avenue
No one has an automatic right to a view of course, but developments that change the character of an area surely need special scrutiny. Kingsway at this point is not only a coastal road, open to the south, but also runs alongside a harbour, and from the road one can glimpse mastheads, cranes, funnels, and the castellations of Hove Sea Villas. All an indication that one is somewhere a little different from the norm. Most people now, even more in the future, will inhabit urban landscapes. Town planners should have some regard for  keeping the built environment varied and characterful in a way that signals a sense of place. Helical windturbines are quirky but whether  they are an adequate substitute for what will be lost is doubtful. One also wonder whether, sited so close to a busy road, they will offer distraction and danger to passing drivers.