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The Regency Society and Hove Civic Society discussed current proposals for the Royal Pavilion Gardens in their Joint Planning Forum and broadly support the proposals to improve the Royal Pavilion Gardens, but they object to the specific proposal to create a high metal fenced enclosure around the gardens and they object to plans to reduce drastically the provision of public toilets. The following is a summary of their comments.

Railings at the entrance from Prince's Place.

The Royal Pavilion Gardens are heavily used during much of the year. They form the setting for the Royal Pavilion itself as well as the Museum, the Dome and the Corn Exchange. They also provide a welcome public green open space in the heart of the city centre and an important pedestrian route between North Street and Church Street.

We fully support the proposals to improve the general condition of the gardens. It has to be said that they are looking down at heel and suffering from the consequences of over-use and under-maintenance. There is a lack of consistency in the detailing of the garden infrastructure and many features are clearly past their sell-by date. There is poor signage and a hotch-potch of inappropriate garden furniture.  We therefore support plans to improve the footpaths, refresh the planting, improve vistas, instal new lighting, rationalise the furniture, etc.

However, we oppose the plans to enclose the gardens with high metal fencing and lockable gates and thus transform what has been a public garden for 170 years into a stockaded enclave. We understand that although the aim is to create a lockable perimeter, the current plan is that the gates should always remain open. This being the case, why create the barrier in the first place?

In this regard, we support the objections recorded by Living Streets and The North Laine Community Association. The design of the proposed fencing is both ugly and oppressive, particularly when it is applied clumsily to the two historic gateways. We deplore the deliberate sleight of hand in the application where the impact of 2.1m-high fencing is minimised by adding figures that are two metres tall.

We are aware that there is a problem of anti-social behaviour in the gardens, particularly at night. However, we believe that this problem would be better addressed by making the gardens more open, improving lighting and increasing supervision and policing.

We do accept, however, that there is a case for enclosing the eastern garden that lies between the Pavilion and the Steine. That garden is not a thoroughfare and is used for special events. The current faux-Indian wall and bow-topped fencing could be replaced by a single 1.5m fenced enclosure with lockable gates (with a design based on the existing fencing in the south-east corner of the garden)

We believe that any changes to vistas should take into account the current situation rather than trying to recreate views from the time of Nash. In particular attempts should be made to improve views of the Dome, while screening the service area and views of the two historic gateways. We also feel strongly that the views from New Road towards the Pavilion should be opened up in order to create improved links between the gardens and New Road.  To this end we support the removal of the long bench than runs along the east side of New Road. But we would go further and replace the narrow, dark, chicaned entrance pathways in the north-west and south west-corners with a much wider and open access via the café and the café terrace. The existing café and terrace should be given a face-lift and extra seating should be added.

The proposed toilet and information block inside the gardens.

We also oppose plans to alter the public toilets which lie on the southern edge of the gardens and are currently accessed from Princes Place. They are the only public toilets in the central area of the city and serve the North Street area as well as the gardens. The changes reduce the toilet provision by two-thirds and insert a wholly inappropriate food vending kiosk. Again, we acknowledge that the toilets currently are beset with behavioural problems, but suggest that these could be solved with improved design and better supervision.

Images are from the planning application, which is available online.

Posted 6 January 2024

The Royal Albion is in one of the most important and visible locations in the city, as well as having considerable historic significance. The Regency Society reacted with sorrow to the fire in July 2023 but now argues that so much of it has been demolished that it presents an opportunity for a creative intervention.

The centre section used to look quite different when it was the Palace Pier Creamery and then Louis Tussaud's Waxworks. That closed at the end of the 1970s, but the way the frontage was re-designed when it was incorporated into the Royal Albion Hotel was frankly unimaginative and dull. Moreover, it appears that section has never been listed by Historic England along with the rest of the site and no wonder.

Once lost it would be difficult to insist on rebuilding as before. Building methods and techniques have moved on. Local and national regulations would not require that, although Brighton & Hove City Council must be mindful of the importance of the site and should encourage the owners to work for the optimum result.

So, rather than a slavishly faithful reproduction of the former appearance of the western (Grade II-listed Lion Mansion) section, the replacement should be harmonious with the seafront but could introduce new elements to add something fresh and dynamic to the streetscape. Cue imaginative architects and a meaningful public consultation.

If and when a planning application comes forward, the Regency Society will certainly consider it carefully, as it does with all major developments and restoration in the city, and hopes it will be subject to a meaningful consultation period.

Brighton (much more than Hove) has had an unfortunate tradition of leaving empty and damaged sites to decay for years, especially in prominent sites, such as Jubilee Street, King’s Road and West Street. This is a chance to show it need not always be like that.

Image (November 2023) by Felice Southwell, courtesy of Brighton & Hove News

The Regency Society is saddened by the devastation caused by the fire at the Royal Albion Hotel. This is a key building at one of the most prominent locations in the city and therefore of unusual significance. Restoration of the site will require considerable sensitivity.

In fact, the hotel comprises three elements that were not merged until a little over 40 years ago.

The earliest and least damaged was the original Albion Hotel, designed by the great local architect Amon Henry Wilds and built in 1826 on the site of the house of Dr Richard Russell, the promoter of sea-bathing that did so much to create Brighton’s popularity as a resort. This is Grade II* listed.

The western section dates from the late 1850s and was known as the Lion Mansion Hotel until the Second World War. This is Grade II listed.

In between were two lodging houses from the mid-1840s, although from around 1903 the ground floor was the Palace Pier Creamery. In 1938 the two houses became Louis Tussaud’s Waxworks. When this closed in 1979, the building was restored with a similar appearance to the original and, like Lion Mansion, was absorbed into the Royal Albion.

The Regency Society hopes that the external appearance of the building can be restored. It would be best if demolition could be limited to what is strictly necessary for safety and access reasons.

It is worth noting that there are two Brighton Corporation plaques, to a design by Eric Gill: one on the front of the original hotel commemorating Dr Russell and a second marking the visits of prime minister William Gladstone on the frontage of Lion Mansion. The RS hopes this can be recovered and replaced in due course.

18 July 2023

Image: RS James Gray Collection

Regency Society Occasional Paper 1

Brighton College is a fine example of an ambitious approach to building success in every sense. The history of its buildings recounted here demonstrates that the college has not always been the leading institution it is today. Vision, top quality design and a refusal to compromise have contributed centrally to its transformation. This has clearly not always been easy, and is an example we hope other institutions in our city will learn from.

This beautifully illustrated history by John McKean shows why Brighton College has created a benchmark for design in the city.

Occasional Paper: Brighton College

The site of the former East Brighton Brighton gasworks has been blighted since it was bombed in 1943. The land is contaminated and therefore potentially costly to develop. It has become something of an eyesore (see photos of its current state at the bottom of this page). We would welcome a proposal to transform it - especially for much need affordable housing and as a focal point for the local area. A developer has come forward with a proposal but we are unhappy with it. Here's why.

The story so far

Last Autumn, developer St William consulted us about their ideas for the gasworks site. Their initial proposal was for a development including 600 - 700 homes in a densely packed high rise development. We were not happy with this. After all, in the City Plan, this site is earmarked for just 87 dwellings. This is also not an area designated by the council as appropriate for tall buildings.

The proposal would be out of scale with the area and significant overdevelopment. We feel that any development on this site needs to be sympathetic to the immediate mixed environment and add value to the local community. Read our initial thoughts here.

Revised plans

St William have now produced a revised plan (read about it here).  We welcome some minor improvements, but little has changed from the first version. We are still not happy with it.

Too dense, too high, and out of keeping with the local area

We don’t think the current masterplan addresses the fundamental flaws we pointed out in our comments on the previous version.Minor improvements including treatment of Boundary Road and an improved northern entry to the ‘Green Link’ are welcome.

It is still as dense as the previous version. Despite a few perfunctory changes, the buildings are still too high. We think the illustrations are deceptive. The apparent size of the buildings in comparison to others in the neighbourhood is misleading horizontally and vertically. There is an impression of relaxed spaciousness and sunlight between the buildings. The reality will be overshadowing for much of the day by the crowded, high buildings in most spaces, and wind tunnels through the long corridors in this exposed area.

Claims are made in the proposal that the design of some buildings reflects local heritage. We are not convinced by this. This matters as this site is close to the Kemptown Estate.

We also believe that the cost of decontamination (claimed as the reason for the proposed excessive height and density) should be factored into the premium paid for the site, and not recovered through overdevelopment.

Read our detailed response to the design issues here.

Campaigning together with other groups

There is considerable strength of feeling about this proposal amongst amenity groups throughout the city and other organisations with a direct interest in this site. We’ve joined forces with them in issuing an open statement which welcomes housing on the site as long as a significant amount of it is affordable and any development is sustainable. The joint statement also opposes the overdevelopment and tall buildings in this location, and urges a safe and healthy outcome for this site.

Want to have your say?

The proposal has not yet been submitted to the Council for planning permission. There is still time to let the developer know your thoughts. The consultation is short: the deadline is 5 March. Use this link to tell St William what you think. 

Images of the site now

Boundary Road now and as proposed

Pictures from St William publications and by John and Mary McKean

Link

77 Holland Road is a sensitive site; careless detailing isn't good enough

The application under consideration is to demolish the unsightly Choice Vehicle Rental that has spoiled the otherwise attractive street in Brunswick Town Conservation area with a mixed development of flats, offices and commercial units. It's a sensitive site, adjacent to Palmeira Yard, a grade 2 listed building of distinctive yet eclectic design, said to of the French Second Empire style.  The applicant claims to have been influenced by this and to have responded sensitively. However the Regency Society disagrees with the detailing of the design response and has objected to the application. Our objection is below.

We welcome the removal of an inappropriate use and an appalling eyesore and agree with the proposed mixed use. We accept the proposed block plan.

However, the street elevation is a parody of the adjoining Grade II listed Palmeira Yard, detrimental to its setting and a missed opportunity to conserve and enhance the character of the Brunswick Town Conservation Area.

The glass-fronted balconies are particularly out of keeping. The proposed false mansard roof is a travesty of the true mansards and pavilion roofs of Palmeira Yard. The straight eaves demean the sophisticated swept eaves of the Yard. The flat top is unnecessarily raised to the level of the ridge, not the knee, of the Yard roofs. The partly recessed top floor balconies with their crude flat-topped dormers are an insult, not a compliment, to the elaborate Dutch-gabled dormers of Palmeira Yard.

We would question the assertion that it would not be viable to make a contribution to affordable housing given the value of flats in such a convenient and desirable location.

 

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Link

Moulescoomb, East Street Arcade & Kemptown Estate feature

YMCA seeking to build support housing in Moulescoomb

The proposal is for a three/four storey building for self-contained living spaces as an addition to their 'move on' supported accommodation programme. Thirty dwellings accessed by external galleries and with communal indoor and outdoor amenity space will, if approved, provide affordable housing for up to two-years for each individual to prepare them for independent living.

The Regency Society welcomes this application for much-needed and adequately designed 'move on' housing to encourage eventual independent living.  At the same time, the immediate neighbourhood will benefit from the improved street scene .

Do you know which is East Street Arcade?

Yes, it has an entrance on East Street and also on Market Street and Bartholomews. A visit to Sweaty Betty's or ISC Menswear will land you there.  But soon you may be irresistibly draw in by more contemporary advertising of these entrances with the addition of archways with illuminated canopies and framed light boxes.

 

Information boards to tell the history of Kemptown Estate

Five free-standing boards that explain the history of Kemptown estate will be placed at Upper Sussex Square, the east and west gates and south aspect of Lewes Crescent and on the Esplanade.

 

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Link

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Brighton Open Air Theatre wants to improve its facilities

The Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) site is located within the heart of Brighton and Hove in Dyke Road Park on the site of the old bowling green where, since opening in May 2015, it has become a well established part of the City’s cultural landscape.

BOAT is seeking permission to add a small one storey building to provide unisex toilets and an accessible WC, plus a booking office and crew room, with storage rooms on the lower ground floor.  This will supplement the only other small building on the site that is primarily a changing room for actors.

The materials will be grey, both walls and roof, with limited timber siding, thus keeping it's profile low and calm so as to enhance the site without detracting from its near natural outdoor setting.

The space created between the new building and the acoustic sound wall can, with the addition of demountable screens, serve as a more private “backstage” space than is currently afforded.

The Regency Society welcomes this application that is designed to respect the surrounding landscape and work with the contours and levels of the existing site, thus improving the experience for visitors, staff and players. 

Link

The Planning Forum, attended by members of the Regency Society and Hove Civic Society hovecivicsociety.org 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.

Circus Street

We frequently see how new developments result in the surrounding environment pulling its socks up whether through planning gain as with the i360 or inspired private opportunity. This application suggests the latter, inspired by the huge Circus Street mixed-use buildings quickly rising to unleash new vistas in a sensitive location.

No. 18 Circus Street is attached to 38 Grand Parade, a grade 2 listed building within the conservation area Valley Gardens. The application is for office space on the ground floor that includes a narrow and dilapidated shed/access on the south side. The first and second floors will be a two bedroom duplex. The intention is to achieve a change of use that will be a comfortable fit on an old street being offered a new life.

What do you think?  The Regency Society neither praises nor objects to this application.  It's a position rather saying 'it's good enough'.

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 our latest meeting we considered the following issue:

Tangle of buildings streamlined

The Regency Society welcomed this refurbishment and extension of 126-127 St James’s Street to provide four residential dwellings. Although access to the site is presently from St James’s Street the application site is to the rear of the Flemish Renaissance-style façade abutting the rear of Steyne Mansions on Stein Street.

The site covers a row of linked buildings on the north east side of Steine Street, which runs east from Old Steine to the corner (where the site is), then south towards the sea front.

Although the property is not of architectural significance, the area around it is. In the East Cliffe Conservation area it is surrounded by listed buildings at 1-4, 124 and 130 St James’s Street and the Star Inn at 7-9 Manchester Street.

The ground floor of the buildings are presently occupied by an amusement arcade and tanning parlour; the first floor is unoccupied and in decay. The proposal is to rebuild the upper floor and add a second floor to create four duplex residential units with access to the apartments via a new entrance and staircase located on Steine Street.

The application provides a sound heritage statement and is thus designed with sensitivity to the area, particularly in terms of its mass and materials. The design solution will significantly lift a somewhat neglected back street, once mews for the buildings on Old Steine, and enhance rather than compete with its heritage surrounds.

See application here

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