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.
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.
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.
The 2021 Masterplan
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.
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.
We’ve written before about the Council’s plan to create a new conference and events centre at Black Rock. They intend it to replace the Brighton Centre. We are aware that this has the potential to make major changes in our city and we are keen to know how this is progressing.
The University of Brighton Moulsecoomb campus along the Lewes Road presently lacks a visible sense of place, scattered as it is across a nearly pedestrian-impenetrable road with random buildings that have little relationship to one another. Planning intentions aim to transform the area. Committee members were invited to a presentation to learn more.
The Council has recently announced a new proposal for Madeira Terraces including self contained serviced glass fronted units within the terraces so that the spaces can be leased or rented as cafes, shops and other businesses. It hopes to completely replace the existing ironwork. The project is likely to cost £20 to £30 million, for which the Council will seek grants and loans. We welcome the principle of these proposals but await further detail to allay concerns about the replacement of the existing ironwork. Similar structures have suffered serious problems with damp penetration. We would also like to know more about the way the new structure will relate socially to the sea-front.
The Council is planning to create a new conference and events centre at Black Rock. The plan is for Churchill Square shopping centre to be extended to occupy the site of the current Brighton Centre, which would be replaced by the new facility at Black Rock. This proposal took a step forward at the Policy and Resources Committee meeting on 28 April where it received cross party support.
We are concerned about the possible impact of the new centre on heritage, and the capacity of the Black Rock site for such a large venue. The transport infrastructure is another worry if thousands of people are likely to be attending major events.
We will keep a close eye on this story and report as soon as there is more to tell.