Sunday, 29 May 2016

A plaque to Mir Dast.

A ceremony was held today at the Indian Gate to commemorate the departure in 1916 of convalescing Indian soldiers from Brighton & Hove's military hospitals. The soldiers, whose service could have been critical in keeping the enemy from the Channel Ports, were brought over from the Western Front for medical treatment and care.

The programme consisted of:
  • Introduction by Davinder Dhillon, Chair of the Chattri Memorial Group. 
  • The Last Post, one minute's silence, Reveille. 
  • Laying of wreaths. 
  • Address by Cr. Pete West, City Mayor/
  • Address by the Deputy High Commissioner of India, Dr Virander Paul.
  • Address by Duncan Cameron, formerly of the  Blue Plaque Panel.
  • Unveiling of a plaque to Mir Dast by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field.
  • Closing remarks by Davinder Dhillon.

Madeira Drive Terraces - update

A statement from the Leader of the Council, Cr. Warren Morgan on plans for the Terraces et al. :-

""Just wanted to post a note about the Terraces, on where we are and what the next steps will be. The condition of the Terraces was revealed by a surveyors report before I took office. It was a report written on the advice of qualified engineers, and based on that the Terraces were closed to prevent any risk to safety. The estimate for repair or replacement with new sections was approximately £30 million, with the caveat that it could be more or less once work began and they discovered exactly what needed to be done with the ironwork buried behind concrete.
I said right from the start that I wanted to see the Terraces restored. A detailed plan was drawn up last summer for one scheme, and efforts have been underway ever since to make that work financially. In recent months we have looked at variations on that plan, a more modest scheme. We can't present a scheme and ask for funding as that would break procurement rules, but we can set out a brief based on an idea in principle.
We are putting in a bid for £4m Coastal Communities Fund money - the maximum we can bid for in the extremely short window the Government allows - to get our scheme underway, but it won't pay for all of it. An empty covered walkway won't pay back any investment or loan. There will have to be some commercial element involved. I want this to be as minimal as possible to preserve the Terraces as far as possible in their original form. I want to preserve the green wall too.
We will be presenting our plans in a few weeks. We are likely to invite further partners and investors to get involved in order to get it done, and the process for doing that will be public. Through all of this we are working with Heritage England (English Heritage) on getting it right. They are the statutory national authority.
The intervention of the Victorian Society this week has not been helpful. The debate has moved further and further from the facts and I've spent a lot of time this week reassuring people that the Terraces are not about to be demolished. There will always be claims that costs are overestimated, but there would be outcry if costs were underestimated and work stopped because of lack of funds or budgets were overspent.
The Terraces are just one of the major infrastructure projects I and council officers are dealing with - the hospital redevelopment, the arena/Churchill Sq "Waterfront" project, Circus Street, Valley Gardens, King Alfred and more are placing demands on our limited capacity. We are working at the same time on reducing the size of the council to cope with a 40% reduction in funding, to a point where almost all of our revenue funding will have to be spent on vulnerable adults an children, people with disabilities and children at risk, around 3% of our population. At the same time we have to lead in tackling growing poverty and homelessness. Everyone has their own priorities, as a council we have to try and address each with rapidly shrinking resources.
I understand and accept the bad feeling, the scepticism and mistrust over the Terraces, I can only assure you that I have kept it near the top of the list of things we are dealing with, and that we need to present our plans in a few weeks or quite rightly lose trust and credibility. There is no guarantee of success but I can guarantee my best efforts in getting the Terraces restored.

Comment: The intervention of the Victorian Society that Cr. Morgan refers to consisted of the visit of a very experienced structural engineer running a practice that specialises in historic buildings and worked on the restoration of the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. It is disturbing that this should be thought of as "not helpful" instead of being welcomed as an opportunity of finding out from him the true scale of the problem.

Elsewhere Cr Morgan states, "An empty covered walkway won't pay back any investment or loan. There will have to be some commercial element involved. I want this to be as minimal as possible to preserve the Terraces as far as possible in their original form." This does not inspire confidence inasmuch it is difficult to envisage any commercial intrusion into the restoration that does not seriously degrade the elegant utilitarianism of the Victorian design.

But we shall have to wait and see and keep in mind that the economic situation the Council finds itself in is, after all, the responsibility of a central government wedded to the dogma of private enterprise solutions.

Monday, 23 May 2016

18 Circus Street

18 Circus Street in May 2009
This old building with the weirdly-proportioned gambrel roof has been in a poor condition for several years and recently lost its slates. It is situated directly opposite the Circus Street development site.

Inevitably perhaps the end may now be approaching. Planning application BH2016/01641 proposes its demolition and replacement with a three-storey building comprising 3, one bedroom flats. 

It is good to see that local Yelo Architects Ltd. have preserved some of the quirkiness of the roof shape.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Brighton's brilliant beaches

Brighton Central beach
The city’s beaches have been classified as ‘excellent’ by the Environment Agency, with two of them winning Blue Flags from Keep Britain Tidy.

All four beaches tested by the Environment Agency – Hove, Brighton Central, Brighton Kemptown and Saltdean – passed with flying colours. The results are based on the past four years (2012-2015) water quality test results.

Blue flags were awarded for the city’s two main resort beaches of Hove and Brighton central. They are used to highlight coastal destinations that have achieved the highest quality in water, facilities, safety, environmental education and management.

Saltdean beach has been recognised with a Quality Coast Award for achieving the highest standards of beach management.

Seasonal lifeguards support the regular seafront team and will be patrolling beaches from the Marina to Hove Lagoon.

During an average year Brighton & Hove’s lifeguards carry out more than 100 water rescues, and save many lives. They also administer first aid to around 250 beach goers, give safety advice to around 19,000 people and reunite hundreds of children with their families, proactively working with them to prevent incidents occurring and ensure their visit to the beach is a safe and happy one.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Secret i360 test-flight

Seems to work . . . :-p

Edward Street - then & now

Two views looking east up Edward Street  from alongside the Dorset Gardens wall.

No. 30 Edward Street, on the left in the top view, started life as a Riding School c.1840 and gave its name to the lane seen alongside it running north to Carlton Hill. It was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1890 and demolished in 1965.

The only unchanging feature of the scene is the flint wall on the right which probably pre-dates the Citadel building. Our modern edifices are nowhere near so long-lived. The American Express building has the hoardings up and demolition has started after a life of less than 40 years.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The i360 business case

The council has published information which explains the wider business case for the Brighton i360 here. They explain they are not publishing details of a commercially confidential nature because, as a major new enterprise the Brighton i360 is still in the process of negotiating with prospective suppliers and sponsors. They are concerned that publishing background pricing assumptions for new contractual relationships can prevent a fair negotiation of the most beneficial terms.

The council is currently appealing a decision of the Information Commissioner that this information be placed in the public domain. They are presumably hoping that by the time the appeal is decided the new contracts will have been decided.

The background to this is that Brighton journalist John Keenan has, for some time, been using the Freedom of Information Act chasing the Council to release all the details of the i360 business case. In his Spectator's City Metric Blog he says:

 “Following my appeal, the Information Commissioner’s Office decided that it had not been shown how disclosure of the information would prejudice the operator’s or the council’s commercial interests.
The commissioner also noted that it has not been shown that there would be an actionable claim for breach of confidence. It ordered the council to release the full report.
Now, however, the council has decided it will not accept the ICO ruling. It will instead appeal to the first-tier tribunal, spending thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money in the process."

Watch this space.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Patcham problems

In the northern wilds of the city battle lines are being drawn. In Old London Road, Patcham, immediately south of the conservation area, London developers McCarthy & Stone are proposing the demolition of 4 detached houses and their replacement by a large "assisted living" block of apartments. The planning application has not yet been submitted but, if the early proposals come to fruition it would mean that where at present about a dozen people live there would eventually be over 80.

The proposals

The environmental costs would be high. About fifty mature  trees , and most garden shrubbery would be lost. Proposed on-site parking is limited and the development would increase traffic in an already busy area with staff daily competing for the limited parking spaces in nearby, already congested, streets. The area has a flooding problem and to counter this the 3 storey building would be erected on a metre-high concrete platform which would result in it towering above neighbouring property and dominating the streetscape.

Some might argue that in the light of the country's housing needs these are costs that have to be paid and difficulties that have to be overcome or endured wherever the development. Yet a two-storey building of half the size could still make a useful contribution to housing without significantly damaging the  "peaceful suburb, full of leafy streets and large green spaces" that McCartney & Stone boasts of in its brochure.

Obviously maximising profit from the site is the prime concern of the developer. This makes it vital that plans such as these that substantially and suddenly change the essential character of a neighbourhood be subject to rigorous criticism. Without effective opposition the trend would inevitably be for greater densities, greater environmental degradation, wherever development is proposed.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Festival programme covers

The subject of the first post in Brighton Bits, in February 2009, was the rather gloomy appearance of the programme cover. Perhaps, as the Guest Director that year was the distinguished sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor, CBE RA, something enigmatic was only to be expected. In any event his other contributions that year were highly intriguing and made a significant contribution to the Festival's prestige.

This year the Guest Director is Laurie Anderson, an experimental performance artist, composer, musician and film director, so presumably she had no hand in this year's austere cover, apart from providing the photo.

Underwhelming rather than eye-catching, perhaps the design has been dictated by the cost of colour printing.

Apparently 1988 was a rather more 'festive', maybe less cash strapped, year:

Friday, 6 May 2016

Captain Theodore Wright V.C.

119 Landsdowne Place, Hove

The Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Mr Peter Field, today unveiled a plaque to Captain Wright at his birthplace in Hove. The unveiling was preceded by a welcome address by the City Mayor and an account of Captain Wright's heroism by Lt.Col.Stuart Brown of the Royal Engineers. Captain Wright received the V.C. posthumously after being mortally wounded while assisting wounded men to shelter.

The unveiling was followed by the Last Post, sounded by the Salvation Army trumpeter Mr Brian Warren; one minute silence; Reveille; prayers by the Archdeacon of Brighton & Lewes; and the National Anthem. The ceremony was closed by the Interim Chairman of the Commemorative Plaque Panel, Mr Roger Amerena.