Thursday, 18 December 2014

A Conference Centre for Black Rock?

The Brighton Centre on King's Road, the City's main venue for conferences, exhibitions, shows, is not ideally placed. It occupies a prime seafront site that  would be better utilised for buildings that  take full advantage of the southerly aspect, i.e. the sea views and proximity to the beach. One would have thought that the station site would have been a better option for a multi-event centre likely to attract visitors from a wide area. 

However it is where it is and does have the advantage that attendees can arrive and leave in three different directions, north, east, and west and quickly access  a variety of modes of transport. It is now over 35 years old, and needs replacing, but the site at Black Rock proposed for its replacement does not enjoy even this limited advantage. The entire audience, which could be as much as 10,000, will all have to travel eastwards along the Madeira Drive as the first section of their journey home. One can imagine that, on a cold or wet winter's evening, not many will fancy a mile and a half stroll along the seafront in the face of the prevailing wind; so how is this number of people going to be transported?

One Councillor has airily mentioned "park & ride" yet it only requires a few quick calculations to show that in the worse case scenario it would take over a 100 double-decker buses, one leaving every 10 minutes, nearly 17 hours to transport a capacity audience away from a Black Rock venue. This is why the site is better suited to a use that attracts a smaller number of people over a longer time frame and who then depart over a longer time frame. This type of usage, such as hotels and leisure centres for example, in which the seafront location can be a positive asset, also avoids  heavy peaks in transport demand.  

Palace Pier to Black Rock
The Black Rock Site

Monday, 24 November 2014

A plaque to Sir Charles Barry

Charles Barry was apprenticed to Lambeth architects, Middleton & Bailey at age 15, did the Grand Tour, and set up on his own in the early 1820's when he received several commissions from the Church Building Commissioners. The last of these was St. Peter's, Brighton, in the Gothic Revival style. Concurrently with St. Peter's he was designing St. Andrew's (see above in Waterloo St. Hove) in the Italianate style. 

Unveiled by the City Mayor on 8th November 2014.

Brighton kept Barry very busy in the 1820's, reflecting its growing popularity as a seaside resort. He also designed the Attree Villa in Queen's Park, now demolished, and the Royal Sussex County Hospital, shortly to be demolished. St. Peter's and St. Andrew's, both grade I listed, will soon therefore be the only remaining examples of Barry's work in Brighton. He is said to have eventually taken a dislike to these early works.

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Stanmer Water Catcher

View looking west showing the section added in the 1890s

High in the woods to the north-west of Stanmer village are the grade II listed remains of a rare victorian water-catcher.  About 70 metres long and 12 metres wide it was built in 1870-5 to the design of Thomas Jones, estate foreman, to supply water for Stanmer House and the estate buildings. 

It is constructed of brick, cement and a mixture of tar and sand and was enlarged to the west in the 1890s. The brick divider between the sections can be seen above. The surface was coated with tar and sand in the 1930s. It was originally surrounded with timber walls carrying a slate roof from which rainwater was channeled down on to the surface of the catcher. Below the surface are three 1 metre deep tanks said to contain 40,000 gallons each. There is a gully along one side, an overflow at the north-east corner, and the remains of a filter system to the south end.

It was first listed in 1999. OS map ref. TQ 3335 0978.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Free WiFi coming to public buildings

From next March visitors to more than 50 public buildings and offices across the city will be able to access free WiFi. Sites will include the Brighton Centre, Portslade Village Centre, Hove Town Hall, King Alfred Leisure Centre, Foredown Countryside Centre, St Luke's swimming pool, youth centres and the seafront office.

The City Council won government investment to provide improved digital connections and Brighton & Hove are one of only 17 places across the UK to be selected for the super connected cities programme which complements the innovation and energy of the growing digital economy.

Funding has been provided by Broadband DeliveryUK through the government’s super-connected cities programme. Other projects in the city include a broadband voucher scheme where businesses can apply for a grant to improve their broadband connection, and a 'digital exchange' to offer ultrafast low-cost broadband for local creative and digital companies, based in New England House.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Funding bid for Stanmer

B&H City Council and the South Downs National Park Authority, have submitted a bid for £5.9 million to the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore Stanmer’s historic farm buildings and bring them back into use.

The council is leading on plans for the Stanmer Park and Estate Restoration Project which has the aim is to restore the park’s landscape and buildings, protect natural features and encourage wildlife. A separate bid of £6 million was submitted to the 'Parks for People' fund in the summer to carry out improvements and restorations in the rest of the park.

There are 27 listed buildings in this park, from the big house to the village cottages. At the heart of the estate lie 18 agricultural buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. These are in urgent need of restoration and currently closed to the public. They include include cattle shelters, a dovecote dating back to 1615, a dairy, an 18th century walled garden and a Grade 2 Sussex Long Barn. Together they tell the story of farming in this part of the South Downs over the past 250 years.

Inside the barn
Plans include a new visitor centre and a base for the South Downs National Park Authority’s local ranger team.

If approved, the funding would be spent in a five year investment programme estimated at £11.9 million, starting with drawing up detailed designs with the help of the public and partners. Development work would begin in February which is when the outcome of the bid is expected.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

St. Luke's Pool opens again

Following last year’s storm damage to the polycarbonate roof and subsequent closure of St Luke’s Pool, Brighton & Hove City Council decided to turn tragedy into triumph by seizing the opportunity to re-glaze the entire roof and remove the suspended ceiling that was above the pool and blocking the view.  A total of £190k council funding was allocated to to restore the facility to its former Victorian glory.

Now this stunning Grade II Listed building’s architecture, which includes a vaulted glass ceiling - and the sky - can be admired while doing laps of the pool. The self-cleaning glass selected for the roof not only enhances the building’s beauty, it has also improved the building’s efficiency by minimising heat loss in winter and reducing solar gain in summer.

To celebrate Freedom Leisure, who operate the pool in partnership with the City Council, has laid on a weekend of activities for the whole family to enjoy.

On Friday November 7 there will be a disco swim session from 18:00-19:00 with music. Entrance costs £3.50 per person. On Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th November from 09:00-18:00 families are invited to swim for just 10p the kind of price likely to have been charged when the building opened in 1903.

Monday, 3 November 2014

"Keep the Brighton Hippodrome"

Brighton Bits was originally rather sceptical about the last ditch campaign to save the Hippodrome as a live performance space. We were concerned at the parlous state of the interior and conscious of the 7 years that had passed since it was closed as a Bingo Hall.  7-years that had produced no realistic proposals for restoration of the building and its return to viable use. Under those circumstances the cinemas/restaurant plans seemed the only possible chance of avoiding the complete loss of the building through disuse and neglect in the same way that the Astoria has been lost. The conversion proposals also essayed to preserving the important historical features of the building and making all alterations reversible. Theoretically therefore, the building would be returnable to theatre use if the demand ever arose, but many, having regard to the likely costs of this, were sceptical whether this could ever be a realistic possibility after the building had been converted.

However a last-ditch campaign "Our Brighton Hippodrome" (OBH) was mounted and against the odds seems to have gained an influential foothold in the debate. OBH have submitted a viability study and a business plan for returning the Hippodrome to live theatre use, particularly for the large West End shows which no other theatre in Brighton is large enough to handle. The OBH submissions claim to show that restoration of the Hippodrome as a theatre is not only viable but fundable and sustainable.

The latest news is that the retail/cinema application is still under consideration by the City Planning Department while they study the OBH submissions. No target date has been announced for release of the formal determination.

A Save Our Hippodrome rally will be held near the Max Miller statue in New Road, Brighton at 2:00pm on Saturday 8 November.  A chance for all supporters to demonstrate the overwhelming strength of public feeling for theatre restoration.

An online petition to Keep Brighton Hippodrome  has now passed the 10,200 mark.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Parking at the Odeon cinema - addendum

A previous post has already covered some of the complications and possible pitfalls of car-parking at the Odeon Cinema but since then another little trap for the unwary has come to light.

Unbelievably, even in these days of radio- or internet-controlled time-keeping, you cannot rely on the clocks in the ticket-issuing machine being set to the correct time.

For example, you may find, for any of a number of reasons, that your drive to the cinema took a little less time than you allowed for and you therefore find yourself in West Street, approaching Churchill Square 2, a few minutes before 5.30pm.  To be on the safe side you may also decide to pull over to the side of the road for a few minutes, until your phone, Omega watch, or car clock indicates 5.35pm, on the mistaken assumption that you would thereby safely qualify for 3 hours free parking. If so you could very well be unlucky since you cannot rely on the clocks in the ticket-issuing machine being synchronised with national time. 

On two occasions over the past few years the ticket has shown my arrival a few minutes before 5.30 when I had timed my arrival for a few minutes after. On both occasions I was charged at the minimum rate (currently £3 for 2 hours) for those few minutes and on both occasions the car park attendant agreed that the ticket machine time was in error. On the first occasion I managed eventually to obtain a refund. On the last occasion, several weeks ago, I am STILL waiting.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

A Blue Plaque for Ken Fines

A plaque was 'unveiled' in North Road this morning to commemorate Hove-born Ken Fines who in 1970 was appointed 'Director of the Greater Brighton Structure Plan'. This, occurring after his 20 years experience with the East Sussex Planning Dept., made him the right man at the right time to save the North Laine from the 1960's mania for redevelopment. He was introduced as 'Our Hero' at a talk he gave to the North Laine Community Association in 2003. 

The City Mayor Brian Fitch 
The Mayor & Mayoress with members of Ken Fines family
The plaque over 'Infinity Foods'
'From Stone-age Whitehawk to Millenium City'. Published 2002

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Arts Council grant for Dome complex

F - Corn Exchange
M - Studio Theatre
V - Site of new Viewing Gallery

Arts Council England has pledged £5.8m towards a refurbishment of the Grade I Brighton Dome Corn Exchange and a major renovation of the Grade II Studio Theatre. This complements previous major works completed in 2002.

It will enable Brighton Dome’s three venues – the Concert Hall, the Corn Exchange and the Studio Theatre - to improve their sustainability, working conditions and facilities, whilst also encouraging new audiences, supporting artist development and enabling the organisation to realise its vision to be one of Europe’s leading arts festivals and a year-round destination for artists and audiences.

The main construction proposals include:

  • Major improvements to the Studio Theatre including a ground floor bar/cafĂ© opening on to New Road.
  • Creation of a magnificent new Corn Exchange viewing gallery (V) and audience circulation space.
  • Transformation of the Corn Exchange with new seating and more efficient infrastructure
  • A dedicated creation space.
  • Provision for additional offices, back of house accommodation, storage, WCs, catering
  • A service tunnel linking the Dome, Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre.

These plans form the first phase of a larger and longer term ambition to reconnect the historic buildings and landscape of the Royal Pavilion Estate to create a world class destination for heritage, culture and the performing arts influenced by the unique spirit of Brighton.

Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival received a development grant (of £199k) from Arts Council England (ACE) in January 2012 which allowed the exploration of concepts and plans for capital development to secure long-term sustainability. The overall fundraising strategy for the project seeks to secure funding not only from Arts Council England but also a phased application process to the Heritage Lottery Fund and a wide range of Trusts & Foundations and individual donations.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Aquarium Terraces development

Area of development
Cylindrical building 'A'
Planning application BH2014/02654 proposes some fairly drastic alterations to the first floor level of the Aquarium terraces over the Sea-Life Centre.The top floor of building A would be demolished and replaced with a much larger building on two floors housing 3 restaurants and, at the east end, a private members' club.

Each unit has its own sun terrace, the club's with a plunge pool with changing facilities under. The south elevations are fully glazed but the north elevation presents a mainly stone-clad elevation to Marine Parade, meaning that for a distance of about 65 yards views of the sea and Pier will be denied to the pedestrian in Marine parade.

On the plus side however the existing unattractive roofs will be abolished.

The work will include restoration of the existing stone work, paving and the 1920's pavilion at the west end of the site. The oval glass building 'B' will be removed, so enhancing the setting of the pavilion.

Building 'B'

Monday, 20 October 2014

Fencing for Patcham Place

An application SDNP/14/03236/FUL to the South Downs National Park Authority to fence the immediate surroundings of Patcham Place has been approved. The green line in the map above indicates the line of the fencing which will be made of mild steel in a traditional estate style. Traditionally wrought iron would have been used but this is no longer commercially available.

There is no evidence that Patcham Place was ever provided with gates but the proposed design is borrowed from existing 18thC examples and is typical of that which would have been used by the provincial gentry. They will be hung from piers of Portland stone with inset panels of knapped flint.

The installation of fencing has been prompted by:- 
  • uncontrolled vehicle parking by third parties whether commuters or users of the adjacent public park and sports pitches.
  • the lack of any perimeter control at night and hence the ability of vehicles to gain free access to the immediate vicinity of the building. 
  • recurrent problems of lead thefts from the roof and the resultant costs and potential for serious damage to the fabric of the listed building. 
Previous post: Patcham Place proposals.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


'Jigsaw" was a 1962, British film based on the novel "Sleep Long,- My Love" by Hillary Waugh. It was directed by Val Guest and starred Jack Warner and Ronald Lewis as two Brighton detectives investigating the murder of a woman at Saltdean. The plot involves them methodically following up leads and clues, mostly in Brighton and Hove, which results in many fascinating glimpses of the 1960s local townscapes. It is also a taut, well-paced detective thriller typical of British films of that period. 
Copies up to now have been rare and fetched high-prices. But it is now being officially re-issued on DVD. It will be available at the beginning of December and can be pre-ordered from Amazon. Why not take a trip down memory lane?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Go-ahead for Open Air Theatre.

Planning permission has been granted for BOAT, the Brighton Open Air Theatre.

A disused bowling green in Dyke Road Park will be landscaped to form an amphitheatre shape, with a three-metre acoustic wall to dampen noise during performances.

Highest parts would be just 1.5m above the existing footpath, with the stage about the same depth below.

It would have seating capacity on grass terraces for 425 people.  Lighting would be set up when required.

The permission will allows performances up to 10pm, Monday to Saturday and 6pm on Sunday.  They may take place up to six times a week or 22 times per month.

The charity Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) will run the venue.   Performances would be staged by local schools, colleges, community groups and touring productions.  It would also be a Brighton Festival and Fringe venue.

When not in use it would be a sitting-out area for the general public.  Wifi would be installed in due course.  The adjacent Pavilion would serve as offices for production staff.

See also:- Brighton Open Air Theatre.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Rosehill Tavern

Earlier this year this, now vacant, 144 year old public house became the second property in the City (after Saltdean Lido) to be added to the Council's "List of Assets of Community Value".

A building or other land is an asset of community value if its main use is - or has recently been - to further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community and could do so in the future. The Localism Act states that 'social interests' include cultural, recreational and sporting interests. Homes, hotels, assets being transferred between kindred businesses, and Church of England land holdings, are exempt from listing.

The "Save the Rose Hill Tavern Campaign" has a facebook page here and a petition here.

The Brighton & South Downs branch of  the Campaign for Real Ale, (CAMRA)
has a more general, but relevant, epetition on the BHCC website here.

Save the Hanover Crescent path

The path runs through the Crescent garden parallel with the listed flint wall
After almost 200 years of peacefully existing by the listed front wall, this original feature of the Hanover Crescent gardens is now under threat from a majority of garden committee members intent on change & not preservation. It has been, wrongly, portrayed as a no-go area & a magnet for anti-social behaviour but if you'd just wander down there you'd see it's a pretty & magical little path that residents have strolled for almost two centuries. Anti-social behaviour is conducted in sheltered & hidden areas of undergrowth so planting over this old path will only serve to harbour such activity. It is an ill conceived strategy that will be expensive & ineffective. Please sign the petition to keep this path & insist that our money is spent on more appropriate & immediate solutions - we should fight to preserve this lovely old garden - it's our responsibility.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Museum gets HLF grant

The  "Fashioning Africa" project of the Royal Pavilion & Museums has been awarded a £240,000 grant through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) 'Collecting Cultures' programme.

The museum has an extensive collection of historic African textiles mainly from the colonial era. With this award, and working with members of Brighton & Hove’s African communities, fashion and dress specialists, and a range of partners in the UK and in African countries, the Royal Pavilion & Museums will extend its collection with strategic acquisitions of post-1960s African dress. No other UK museum is consistently collecting in this area so the result will be the creation of a new national resource.

Items from this new collection will be made publicly accessible through a planned 2016 exhibition, "Fashion Cities Africa", through social media, a lively events programme and a community engagement initiative.

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Changing Marina

Construction has started on a new engineered platform on the West Quay as part of the Brunswick Developments' scheme. 

Other platforms are to be constructed over the Spending Beach to the west. This scheme will eventually provide 853 flats and 496 parking spaces in 11 buildings ranging from 6 to 40 storeys in height.

The Spending Beach from the west. This will disappear under the new development.

The Spending Beach from the south

Architect's visualisation from the Eastern breakwater showing the footbridge across the harbour entrance.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Horsdean traveller site - update

See latest news at Brighton & Hove News.

Valley Gardens scheme - update

Grand Parade showing some of the vulnerable trees
It is good news that the 2013 plan agreed for Valley Gardens, to simplify traffic flows and create an urban park,  could now be refined to preserve 16 trees on the west side of Grand Parade and create more green space.

The original plan called for two northbound and two south bound carriageways along the east side of the Valley Gardens, but more detailed traffic studies,  including modelling of junctions on the eastern side, has now shown that ‘second lanes’ are only required for short distances  before and after junctions with traffic lights. Simplifying the road network effectively means traffic can flow more smoothly, and so less road space is required to hold traffic waiting at lights. As a result, traffic capacity can be maintained without building new roads in Victoria Gardens.

The government recently confirmed £8m of Local Growth Funding was available to enable Phases 1 and 2 of the improvements - between St Peter’s Church and the Royal Pavilion. Funding is subject to approval by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) of a council business case, in November.

Old Steine. East.
The government also announced an additional £6m funding for Phase 3 of the scheme between the Pavilion and the Aquarium, including  improvements to the notorious Aquarium roundabout.

This part of the scheme envisages the north & south bound carriage ways being separated for some length by a line of trees. When mature these extra trees will result in a very significant improvement in the streetscape.

This phase is again subject to a business case being approved by the LEP.

Business cases have to demonstrate that government funding will unlock financial benefits in the local economy.

These options for extending green space and funding Phase 3 are contained in a report to the next environment, transport and sustainability committee on Oct.7.
Assuming approval of the business case, Phases 1 and 2 of the scheme would be built between 2015 and 2017.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Old Town traffic plan - another step

East Street
A scheme to pedestrianise East Street could soon go ahead after the council met a government inspector’s calls for a safe alternative route for vehicles.

In October 2012, the city council approved a plan to remove traffic from three key locations in the Old Town, including East Street.  However at a subsequent public inquiry a government inspector said the effects of the scheme on Little East Street should be looked at in more detail.  

Traders in Little East Street had voiced concerns about the impact of passing traffic on the ambience – particularly for people eating or drinking outside.  They also cited congestion, delivery problems and safety of pedestrians.

As a result the council has now amended the scheme, with features like speed humps and safety railings.  To ease deliveries, a new loading bay and passing points will be created.  An independent safety audit has since said the plan is now categorised as ‘low risk’.  It concluded pedestrians would be safe because of low vehicle speeds involved – typically 12mph at the north end and 5mph at the seafront end.  Analysis has concluded that even the very largest vehicles could move safely though the street.

On congestion, a council report says there would be roughly one extra vehicle a minute through the area between 11am and 7pm and no increase outside those times.  Lorries would be banned from the entire Old Town area between 11am and midnight.

If a final go-ahead is given by councillors, it is expected East Street will be pedestrianised by the end of November, with no access for vehicles between 11am and 7pm daily.

Under the Old Town plan, Ship Street has already been closed to vehicles at the junction with North Street.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The East Cliff - then & now

Bathing machines had disappeared from beaches by 1914 and for some years before that were used as stationary bathing boxes. The photo above shows them still being rolled into the water.


The world-famous seafront, which includes many listed buildings, remains substantially intact. And those buildings that have been added since, notably the Van Alen, sensitively respect their surroundings. 

The map  shows the boundaries of the East Cliff conservation area for which The Kingscliffe Society is the registered amenity group.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Hippodrome cinemas plan to go ahead.

From Stage News:-

"Brighton Hippodrome campaigners have lost their battle to see the building restored as a live venue after the government decided not to intervene over plans to convert the space into a cinema complex.

The Department for Communities and Local Government has decided it will not use its powers to call in the local authority-approved plans – which could have seen a public inquiry launched into whether the conversion should go ahead.

A DCLG spokesman said: “This is a matter for Brighton and Hove City Council. Only a very few planning applications are ‘called in’ each year, as this involves the planning decision being taken away from the local council and community.”

Complete article

Preceding posts:-
The Hippodrome application - a clarification
Public enquiry for the Hippodrome