Capability Brown is often hailed as the great master of 18th C. English landscaping. And yet there are some who regard his work as formulaic and others who consider him to have been a vandal. John Phibbs discussed this dichotomy. ...continue reading "Capability Brown: Vandal or Genius? Lecture by John Phibbs"
The Society keeps a special reserve for occasions when an exceptionally important conservation project comes along. We look after it carefully and do not dip into it often. After careful consideration, the committee has decided that Madeira Arches is an especially deserving and urgent cause. So this is the right moment to put our conservation project reserve to good use.
We've decided that we will contribute as generously as we can afford to the restoration of the Madeira Arches. The Society is pledging £10,000.
The Arches before and after closure in 2015. The structure has become so precarious that it is a danger to the public.
By setting an example we hope to encourage others, so we will be seeking as much publicity as possible for our donation. The Regency Society should be taking a lead on causes like this in the hope that others will follow. If our members, the general public and the conservation community locally and nationally join us in contributing we may be able to prevent disaster. You can help too: please click here to contribute to the crowdfunding campaign.
...continue reading "We pledge £10,000 to help restore the Madeira Arches"
The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant.
Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take.
In October 2017 we considered the following applications:
St Aubyns School, High Street. Rottingdean
Yet another attempt is being made to get permission for housing on the former playing field behind the school buildings. As with the previous plan, this one involves retaining part of the field as open space. The rest will be developed as housing.
There is a lot of opposition to this in Rottingdean because of its potential impact on traffic and local amenities. The society believes that the site should be used to contribute towards the city’s housing need. The housing proposed is thoughtfully designed to blend well with its older neighbours.
Valley Gardens/St Peter’s Church
The Council is resurrecting plans to reconfigure traffic flows from St Peter’s through Valley Gardens to the seafront. The east side will be a two-way route for traffic coming into and leaving the city centre. The west side will be for buses and taxis.
These traffic changes do not require planning permission. This application is for proposed changes to the central area. The hope is that the revised traffic scheme will make the gardens more accessible and hence better used.
The Regency Society has its doubts about the viability of the new traffic scheme. However, if it does go ahead we support the idea of attracting more people to enjoy what is the most significant green open space in central Brighton.
Sadly we cannot support this particular set of plans. They involve a bleak hard gravel square to the south of the church. The gardens themselves will undergo various changes but little detail is given in the application. What detail there is suggests a scheme which is unimaginative and unlikely to be well maintained.
Richardson’s Yard, New England Road
Brighton Housing Trust has made good use of this former industrial site, using former shipping containers to provide homes for those in real need, for example rough sleepers. This application is to continue the permission for a further five years. The Regency Society supports it.
We also support the similar application for the neighbouring site where containers are being used as workspaces. Read the application here.
Cottages in Station Approach, Falmer
If you pass through Falmer station regularly you will probably know the two boarded-up cottages which back onto the train line just on the Lewes side of the station. This application seeks to demolish them and build a residence for 90 students.
The cottages were probably attractive in their day but they are now looking very sad. The society does not oppose their demolition: they are not listed nor are they in a conservation area. Meanwhile the city needs more purpose-built student housing.
Even so, we are objecting to this scheme because of the poor design of the proposed new building. It uses white render and wood cladding, both materials which do not fare well in the local climate. Other buildings nearby are in brick, which would be much more appropriate. Read the application here and our formal comments here.
David Robson considers the current plans to remodel Valley Gardens and is disappointed.
Valley Gardens is a precious green lung that barely survives between two arteries of thundering traffic at the heart of our City. Framed by a theatrical backdrop of buildings of different styles and periods, it has the potential to act as an exciting urban promenade, as an event space, as a place of repose. However, plans currently being advanced by the Council fail to exploit this potential and promise little more than clipped grass, trampled flowerbeds and bonded gravel.
The Brighton Unitarian Church in New Road is a striking building. It stands on what was originally part of the Royal Pavilion gardens. The Prince Regent sold it to the Unitarian congregation in 1819 for £650, allegedly to help stave off bankruptcy.
Just over a year later the church was finished. The architect, Amon Henry Wilds drew inspiration from the temple of Theseus in Athens, giving the building an immense pediment and columns which still dominate the east end of new Road.
The story today
Sadly, these features of the building are now decaying. As a result, it has been added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. Attempts are being made to obtain a restoration grant.
Meanwhile the church’s activities continue, including an impressive series of weekly lunchtime concerts. The November programme starts on Friday 3rd (12:30 – 1:15 pm; coffee from 12 noon). Pianist An-Ting Chan will play music inspired by animals. See the full programme here.
The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society committees, meets monthly to discuss planning applications which the Forum considers significant. You can read more about the Planning Forum here.
Each society forms its own view on the applications and decides what action, if any, to take.
In September 2017 we considered the following applications:
2, The Conifers (Tongdean)
We considered a plan for demolition of a house in the Tongdean conservation area. The proposed replacement is very poorly designed so in this case we decided to object. You can read our objection here.
Royal Pavilion Ice Rink
There was quite a bit of discussion about the ice rink. There has been an ice rink in front of the Royal Pavilion for several years and this application was asking for permission to continue with it for the next six years.
The temporary structures required obscure an important view of our city’s most important listed building for almost one third of the year. On the other hand, the rink generates much needed cash for the maintenance of the Pavilion. So, there are good arguments for and against. After a useful discussion, we decided that proper maintenance of the building is essential so we will not object.
Plans for a large block of student housing in Lewes Road
The building is large but does step up from south, providing a number of different level roof spaces. This seems appropriate in the context of the larger scheme for the Preston Barracks site. We decided not to comment.
Other planning issues discussed at the Planning Forum
We also discusssed an outline application for housing on land of Overdown Rise, Mile Oak, The Jubilee Car Park at the University of Sussex and the replacement of windows at Hove Town Hall but decided to make no comment.
If you are a member of the Regency Society and would like to comment on our positions on any issue we would be delighted to hear from you: please contact us. Further details of all current planning applications are available on the Council’s website.
The Regency Society cares about our city. We want to preserve its wonderful heritage and encourage new, well designed buildings. This is why we keep a very close eye on planning applications in Brighton and Hove.
To do this we monitor proposed developments. We speak out about them when we think they are unacceptable as well as when we think they are good.
Until recently we did much of this through our membership of the Council’s Conservation Advisory Group (CAG). Recently we decided to withdraw from the group. You can read more about our reasons here. Hove Civic Society has also withdrawn, for similar reasons.
With regret, we have decided to cancel the discussion forum about the Waterfront Project planned for 18 October. We don't like cancelling events, especially at short notice, but in this case we feel we should.
The Waterfront Project, if it goes ahead, will be one of the most important developments in the city over the next few years. It will result in the construction of a 10,000-seat events venue at Black Rock and a major extension of the Churchill Square shopping centre.
So, if it is so important why did we cancel the discussion forum?
We have been monitoring the project for some time and have had useful discussions about it with representatives of both the Council and the owners of Churchill Square (Standard Life). We believed, based on what we were told and public statements by the Council, that by October the project would have moved forward and more detail would be known, and the parties would be willing to share their plans with us in greater detail.
In fact very little seems to have changed over the past few months and there is still very little detail available. As we have written before - this is frustrating as the people of Brighton and Hove need and deserve to know more. But a discussion at this stage, before a deal is agreed between the major players, could only have covered old ground.
The project is complex and controversial. Many people have questioned how it could work. We still believe that a public discussion will be needed.
We hope to resurrect the planned forum when more details are available and the major parties are available to explain their thinking. As soon as this seems to be the case we will be in touch.
Image shows Black Rock site
2017 marks the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death. Members of her close family were landowners and her cousin used Humphry Repton to ‘improve’ his estate at Stoneleigh Abbey. Her novels chart the shift in landscape and garden aesthetics from the Picturesque sensibilities of the 1790s to the development of Ornamental Gardening with its winding shrubberies and exotic planting. ...continue reading "‘A prettyish kind of little wilderness’- Landscapes and gardens in the novels of Jane Austen. Lecture by Timothy Mowl"
Our protests, along with those of other groups, about the latest damage to Marlborough House, one of our most important heritage assets have been heard. The Council has decided to refuse the retrospective application for permission to paint the exterior of the building. We await developments with interest.
As members know, Marlborough House is the second most important building in Brighton and Hove. The current Pevsner guide calls it Brighton’s 'finest late C18 house'. Its construction, formed from a previous red-bricked house owned Thomas Shergold, in 1786 to a design by Robert Adam predates all of Brighton's Regency Squares, Crescents and Terraces. Adam intended the original to look as if it were faced with Portland Stone. This was to achieve a classical effect and is typical of Adam. Adam's style has had huge influence on building design throughout Europe and beyond ever since. It must have been a magnificent and striking sight at a time when central Brighton had few distinctive buildings. ...continue reading "Marlborough House – the Council refuses the restrospective planning application"