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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 issues: 

Opening up the backlands

Most people agree that our city needs more homes. Once the discussion turns to where to put them that agreement is likely to evaporate.

There will be no single answer to this question. We must “look down every rabbit hole” as the planning inspector said when commenting on the City Plan. Hopefully she was arguing for a range of solutions, rather than suggesting that green-fields would be the only answer.

The Society has recently looked at two planning applications which both illustrate one such “rabbit hole”, namely backland development. The outer suburbs of Brighton and Hove were originally developed at low densities. Now that we are struggling to find places for new homes, is it perhaps time to use suburban space more intensively?

The first scheme is in Downs Valley Road, Woodingdean. The proposal is to build four new, two-storey houses behind two existing bungalows, literally at the bottom of the gardens. A vehicle entrance will be created between the bungalows so that on-site parking can be provided. Read the planning application here

The second is slightly different: the backland in question already has a building on it. It is a plan for the former Dairy Crest site in the Droveway. The site was first used as a farm around 1800. In the early 20th century it became a dairy, operated latterly by Unigate until it closed a few years ago. It is not nationally listed, but it is included in the Council’s list buildings of local interest. It is surrounded by suburban residential properties.

The current proposal is for a mixed-use development and aims to “retain the character of the existing agricultural buildings. Some employment space will be provided towards the front of the site, with 14 new housing units mainly towards the rear, replacing part of the existing building. Read the planning application here.

What do you think of these attempts to use the suburbs to help solve the housing crisis?

Proposal for Amex house site

We’re not happy with the proposal for the Amex house site – read about our concerns here.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

Last month, following our cabbage awards evening, we asked you to let us know if you have any favourite buildings of the last 118 years to redress the balance. It's nice to know we can praise as well as criticise!

Jane Carver nominates Brighton and Hove's tram (now bus) shelters because 'some have a delightful rustic charm and the one in Pavilion Parade (designed by Borough Engineer David Edwards) is thoroughly modern with straight lines and curves. Simple, elegant and fit for purpose'.

Elaine Evans nominates Frieze Green House on Portland Road, which won Development of the Year at the Chartered Institute of Housing’s South East Awards in 2016.

Alison Minns nominates John Howard Cottages in Roedean Road because: 'I like the Arts and Crafts feel about the group of buildings and the fact that the cottages are not visible from the road. It is a peaceful and little-known set of buildings with a homely feel. I have a personal affection for the cottages (a sort of philanthropic almshouse development by Sir John Howard) because my late husband's aunt - a retired nurse - lived happily there for many years.'

Mary McKean nominates 'Gossip in the Steine Cafe' because it is 'quintessentially Brighton....' and the matching bus shelters already nominated by Jane Carver an elegant but modest example of 1930s stylishness.

Roger Hinton nominates the now disappeared Amex building on Edward Street 'because unlike other office buildings in Edward Street it stood back from the roadside, providing a pleasant public space and a good view of its distinctive facade.'

Kevin Wilsher nominates Saltdean Lido because 'it is one of the finest examples of modernist lidos in the UK.  It's also a great example of the restoration of an important building driven by the energy and determination of a local community group'.

John McKean nominates the temporary installations at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, and has submitted a whole gallery of images to prove it (see below), because 'it is wonderful, thrilling, an extraordinary gigantic metallic ballet, and at night a firework display high above the city - especially exciting seen from high up Wilson Avenue or from A259 at Roedean... and then there's that amazing open-air roof-top race-track... Catch it before it vanishes! By far the outstanding sight of Brighton 2017-18'

An anonymous nomination selects the Jubilee Library because 'it shows what one truly excellent building can do to lift a previously dead space - empty for far too long.'

Photo credits: Frieze Green House: Jim Stephenson. Saltdean Lido: Simon Carey, Brighton tram shelter by Catchesthelight (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0),



Edward Street is not one of the city’s most attractive thoroughfares. The western section, between Grand Parade and Upper Rock Gardens, is a wide, pedestrian-unfriendly dual carriageway. Its north side presents a depressing series of unattractive, buildings, constructed right up to the pavement edge.

Amex House, previously amongst them, offered a “breath of fresh air” in this unrelenting gloom. Set back from the pavement, its frontage provided an attractive, sunlit public space. It was one of Brighton’s best pieces of late 20th century architecture. The design was distinctive, and the materials were sympathetic to its coastal location.

A proposed new scheme places tall buildings right up to the pavement, closing up this one gap in the street-scene. There are open spaces further back in the development, but their position is unlikely to be as successful as that in front of Amex House. Surrounding buildings will block out the sun for much of the time.

Cafés are included at ground floor level. The plans show open air tables and chairs, creating an inviting impression of vibrant communal spaces. But we do not believe that cafés would flourish in these spaces, starved of sunlight probably subject to wind tunnel effects. They would have a much better chance of commercial success located in a larger, sunnier piazza, open to Edward Street, where they could also enliven that street’s dreary north side.

A tall, dense development is not unreasonable on this city-centre site. The proposed south-west building (block F) could be moved 15-20m. back from the pavement edge to re-create the piazza on Edward Street. The floor space lost could be re-located further back in the site, by increasing the height of the rear-centre block. This would have the extra advantage of adding variety and articulation to the profile of the development.

The designs proposed for the new buildings themselves are boring and bland. They show no sympathy for their location in one of England’s most significant seaside towns. No attempt has been made to use the roofs to create additional green space.

This site offers an opportunity to create a striking architectural statement to match that of the former Amex House. That opportunity will be lost if the current plans are approved.

Read the planning application here

Read our submission to the council


We are grateful to member David Roberts for reminding us of a twentieth century building designed by our Vice President, John Wells Thorpe, which was not included in the RIBA map shown at the 'Mapping the best of Brighton Modern' event on 21 February.

...continue reading "Church of the Ascension in Westdene"

Several members enjoyed the presentation at the social event on 21 February by Paul Zara and Richard Wolfeströme about the new RIBA map of the best twentieth century buildings in Brighton. 

The map has sparked considerable controversy as some feel important buildings have been left out, or challenge the right of others to be included. This is perhaps inevitable with any undertaking of this sort which is bound to reflect personal preferences.

So, to allow members to redress the balance we've decided to create our own Regency Society gallery of members' favourite twentieth century buildings in and around Brighton and Hove. Do you have a favourite, completed between 1900 and 2018, which you would wish to include? It does not matter whether or not it was included in the RIBA map.

If so, complete the form below by April 1 and we will publish the results in a gallery with the April update. If you have a picture you can attach it - but don't be deterred if you don't - we'll find one.

Please note that the gallery is only open to submissions from RS members.

If you are a member you can complete as many submissions as you like!

Regency Society Members' Gallery of favourite 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove: submission form




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: 

Protecting a gem from the 1930s

An application has been submitted for a penthouse on top of Regent House in Princes Place in central Brighton.

The building was designed in 1933 by John Leopold Denman, architect of many of Brighton’s finest buildings from that period. Denman was also a significant figure in the history of the Regency Society.

It sits in a prominent position on the south side of the Royal Pavilion gardens, behind the Chapel Royal. It is in a neo-Georgian style with irregularly placed Crittall windows and patterned brickwork. Though not listed, it is a fine building of its period and deserves protection.

The proposal would involve adding an extra floor to create a rooftop penthouse, below a mansard with a balcony / terrace around.

The society has objected. Although the new structure would be set back, it will be highly visible from the Royal Pavilion gardens. The large windows are out of sympathy with those below and the glass balustrade above the parapet will further detract from the building’s original design.

You can read our full comments here.

Filling a gap in Oriental Place

Oriental Place is one of the most important surviving set-pieces of Regency Brighton.

It was built in 1825 by Amon Henry Wilds as part of a grandiose scheme to create a glass conservatory, the Athenaeum, on the site of what is now Sillwood House. It consists of two opposing rows of houses each composed as symmetrical palace fronts.

Sadly, this unique piece of townscape has been allowed to fall into disrepair and the facades have been spoiled by unsightly alterations and additions, including external downpipes.

The present application for 33 Oriental Place proposes to add an additional attic floor under a mansard roof. We have not objected since the addition will be similar to those on both neighbouring properties.

We welcome the proposal by the applicant to reinstate the first-floor balconies. However, we have urged the planners to persuade them to carry out repairs to the whole façade and to remove later additions such as the unsightly left hand down pipe and the valance boards to the upper windows.

A gateway to Hove

An application has been made to erect two car wash canopies in front of the grade II listed building, which is located immediately east of the current Hove Station. It was built in 1865 and was known as Cliftonville station. The list entry describes it as “Tuscan villa style” and draws attention to its similarity to the station building at Portslade.

In 1879 the station name was changed to “West Brighton” and the current station building was constructed immediately to the west, it is also listed grade II. The station was renamed again in 1895 to its present name, “Hove”.

The original Cliftonville building still forms part of Hove station. The proposed canopies would obscure views of it and are unsympathetic to its design. They would therefore detract from the special character of the Hove Station Conservation Area which derives principally from the relationship between the station and the surrounding late Victorian buildings.

Hove station is a major entry point for people visiting Hove. The existence of a car wash immediately outside creates entirely the wrong impression. Ideally, we would like to see the business re-located. We have objected to this application which would further degrade the area.

Would you like to comment on this article? The committee, RS members and other site users would be interested to hear your views so we are inviting you to share your thoughts online. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

13 Regency Society members prepared 1 minute presentations on their proposed 'Cabbage award' for the worst 20th century building in Brighton and Hove to follow the presentation on the RIBA Sussex map of the best 20th century buildings in Brighton and Hove on 21 February 2018. The audience voted to choose their least favourite building.

The presentations proved very popular so we are showing them again here. (All photographs were taken by RS members or derived from google maps)


I would like to see everything within the marina sea wall demolished. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could have a fresh start that is attentive to how the marina connects to the city that hosts it? I suggest that all entrances from whatever direction by whatever means are mean and an embarrassment. My photos look at one way in. I walk along the loveliest part of our seafront, eastward from the pier. On my left are the beautiful Madeira Arches. On my right only sky, sea and the undulating contours of the shingle beach - until I reach the marina entrance. A dark and dingy designated walkway, dominated by all things to do with cars. At least it runs east where I want to go - to the one place I might find respite - the boardwalk on a sunny day, hopefully for a good coffee and the tingling sound of ropes on masts of the boats. But the way ends abruptly. I cannot go forward. I am offered a choice of the Asda carpark to my left or descending into the bowels of the multi-story car park to my right. My journey continues thus - but my time is up. My message is this – there is no sense to this place.
Office building in New Road: Very little is worse than boring. This building is REALLY boring. Picture New Road: flamboyant Theatre Royal, elegant Unitarian Church, lively independent shops and cafes, imaginative paving and seating, musicians, street theatre, whistling bird man, drunks and campaigners, glimpses of the most blissed-out building ever - the Royal Pavilion. In amid all the life and colour sits this dour, unimaginative building, glowering like a disapproving relative at a party - who only comes to life when the vol-au-vents appear. It contributes nothing to the life around it. It is offensive in its boringness and needs to go - or (and here’s an idea) be painted gold.
In a supreme position, here is a vision in sombre grey and industrial green – born of the ingenious concept of an elevation composed of rough scaffold and leaky glazing. The pavement is squeezed into a margin where the view of the Royal Pavilion is disturbed by the lurking spectacle of a lacklustre subterranean car park glowering up through a sinister grille. The top storey is chopped back, skewing the outline. And the north elevation is a grim and featureless blockage of the face and outlook of the former Parochial Offices. A modest plot and its benign potential were forced into delivering this fiend. And they call it the Glass Pavilion. The bare-faced effrontery of this only adds insult to the injuries inflicted by this misconceived apparition.
Whatever else you think of this disfiguring lump, as Gavin Stamp called it, it directly added to the urban decay and inertia that afflicts the city. In 1955 a Rank Organisation spokesman described the Frank Matcham-designed Palladium cinema, the former Alhambra Opera House, as ‘an out-of-date place of entertainment in an unattractive and exposed position on the seafront’. It closed six months later, remained empty for eight years and the site was derelict for another 15 years until the Brighton Centre was built. In 1965 Rank opened the Top Rank Suite, designed by Russell Diplock & Associates . . . in an exposed position on the seafront . . . hence the blank façade, and closed the SS Brighton. Derelict for 24 years. When this place became the Kingswest cinema in 1973, Rank closed three other cinemas including the Odeon West Street. Derelict for 17 years. Even more reason to think that Kingswest should disappear.
No, I’m not proposing the demolition of the i360. Love it or hate, the i360 site has a coherent design. The restored West Pier kiosks on either side and the column in the centre create a striking symmetry. But what’s that thing by the right-hand kiosk? It’s a roof on four legs. It looks temporary, but sadly it is not: it even has planning permission. Its purpose is to keep the sun or rain off people during a security check before they enter the pod. Clearly security is important but it seems no one thought about it during the design. So, we now have this alien structure disfiguring the site. It should be removed. Do the security inside the kiosk. If that’s not possible, move the four-legged roof round the back of the kiosk to reduce its visual impact. Sadly architect, David Marks is no longer with us. Let’s respect his memory by restoring the integrity of his original design.
The last minute reprieve for the Mazda Fountain was a huge mistake - just because something has clung, by sheer fluke, to existence for a long time it doesn’t make it valuable. The council once described the Mazda Fountain as a ‘historical accident’. It is. It was an exhibition structure shipped here in 1930. It was not designed for this site. It wasn’t even designed as a park fountain. It was designed specifically for an ornamental lake. It was meant to be heard and not seen. The unsightly boiler-plate cylinder was intended to be submerged. The only thing you should have seen were plumes of water projected from the centre of a lake - nowhere near any onlookers. And here’s the thing, as anyone who has been unfortunate enough to walk past it when its on will know - it blasts turbo-jets of water into the air, like a vast broken water main, soaking passersby. Not only this but it’s so costly that it’s hardly ever on so most of the time it looks like this - a rusty industrial drum surrounded by litter floating in a puddle of green slime. Ignore the ill-considered campaign to save this monstrous cuckoo - lets melt it down and make something better.
Wellend Villas, is an example, but not the only one, of the sort of new "housing" prevalent in Brighton in recent years. Up the London Road on the old "Endeavour" site, it masks the listed railway viaduct from incoming traffic. it is a cheaply built, charmless bland block hung with galvanised metal balconies which have forced the residents to resort to a variety of ways to achieve privacy. Inside they're mostly narrow, deep plans, with 2.5m wide living rooms and tortuous access corridors. Ok the flats won't kill you, and they are somewhere to dump your stuff, but such a disappointingly long way from "lifetime homes". Unfortunately this block was approved by Brighton Council with no objections. A previous, much more interesting proposal by Piers Gough (our next Antony Dale lecturer), was rejected by the Council, having been ridiculed and objected to by members of the "conservation lobby".
My beef here is with bad planners and ever greedy developers. The central issue is with Brighton’s lack of civic pride. Here we are at the heart of Brighton’s Central Park: just imagine what a European city would do with an asset like Valley Gardens! Filled with people! The great inappropriate lump of space this building occupies was decreed by planners. But look carefully: - first, but for protesters (led, I gather by Selma Montford) it would have been a bigger lump, as was the nasty, 20thC telegraph house which it replaces. - second, it is really quite a careful and refined, if bland piece of building by a sensitive architect. But the key civic crime is the city’s dumb blindness: permitting the killing of public space at ground level with a building dumb and blind. So no one enjoys strolling past it, no one dawdles: in fact it denies the generosity of the park it faces. We have the repelling pavement level of black glass, prison walls, killing the space around. I’d not demolish. I’d (1) sack planners who think like this. and (2) demand the ground floor be entirely permeable, and open up to varied public uses, as befits its context in our city’s pedestrian heart: little shops, social spaces, workshops, cafés, the front three metres an arcade to shelter from the rain… anything just a little humane and inviting!
The UPAS tree is a very feared tree. It not only kills everything beneath it but it spreads its poison far and wide. They make strychnine from its seeds. The area around UPAS trees is always dead. No life can survive. We have an UPAS tree in Brighton and Hove. We call it Bartholomew Square. Our enemies have planted it very carefully to cut off a main artery into what was, in the 18th, 19th and a large part of the 20th century, the beating heart of our city, on Market Street, where there was not only our Town Hall but also our Market and once our poorhouse. It connected our heart directly to our lungs, our raison d’être, the sea. The area around our UPAS tree is already dead. I’ve marked it in blue. Very few go near it - sensing the deadness all around. It’s seeds, blown by the winds of municipal ignorance, are taking root all over the city. Kill it now.
A Cautionary Tale: Once upon a time, in Hove, there was a disused Gas Works with nearby a parish Church, a Victorian School, a Carnegie Library and a pleasant pedestrian street. All the ingredients needed to make Urban Magic But along came greedy Tesco and built an ugly out-of-town shopping shed, plonked in an ocean of parked cars. An opportunity missed…….the store could have faced George Street, the cars could have gone underground, there could have been a south facing piazza linking the school, the church and the library. Instead a total disaster – socially, aesthetically, spatially. But let this be a warning: we should never give developers a free rein. Standard Life will wreak the same havoc on Churchill Square and ultimately, on Black Rock, if we don’t do something.
Flag Court is a nine-storey block of flats which was built in 1959. It lies beyond the 30s block of Courtenay Gate at the west end of Hove Lawns, with cream stucco Courtenay Terrace to its right. The photographs say it all: • Flag Court is too orange! Its bright brick and cream-clad exterior relate in no way to other structures around it. • Its height and bulk loom over the surrounding buildings. • The orientation of the Vee-shaped building on its plot, with the point of the Vee facing seawards is out of line with its neighbours. • The result is that we have a group of three entirely disparate and unrelated buildings in this short section of Kingsway. • Finally, it is a towering and incongruous brick full stop at the sea end of Albany Villas with its 19th century white stucco houses. For all these reasons I suggest we wrap Flag Court in a Cloak of Invisibility.
Churchill Square is built on land which was once a thriving community of residential streets, pubs, breweries and a school. Until the 1930s the Western Road edge was fronted by some lovely Victorian shops. By 1967 the area had been improved to become the concrete, windswept canyons of the first Churchill Square. Despite it being probably the last open air shopping mall to be built it did have one redeeming feature - there was a link to the seafront via the Brighton Centre. Thirty years later we had version two. The link to the seafront has gone. In fact there is no link to anywhere else once you’re inside. The building is disconnected from the rest of the city. The current Churchill Square is a large shed with a bland glass facade full of boring, standard chain stores unlike the rest of Brighton. It’s too hot inside and it’s dull !
I chose the Gala Bingo Building for a few reasons. 1. It's awful. No architectural merit whatsoever. Horrible brick. Ugly roof. Disgusting blue metalwork. 2. It sites next to Brighton College - a fabulous listed building with all those great additions which are on the map. Buy one! 3. It has the worst public art in the city. A child-like representation of a train coming out of a tunnel. A cruel reminder of when the site contained this, the beautiful Kemptown Station.

Adding your comment

Would you like to comment on this article or add your own cabbage nomination? We would be interested to hear your views, which will be added below. If you would like to do so you will need to register first – it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on ‘you must be logged in’ at the bottom of the page.

...and demolishing the worst!


The Royal Institute of British Architects (Sussex) has produced a map that identifies and describes some outstanding buildings in Brighton and Hove of the last hundred years.

Map compilers Paul Zara and Richard Wolfströme introduced the map to the Regency Society at this light-hearted event. 49 buildings are included in this neatly produced and attractive map, coded as Modernist/Art deco, Housing, Brutalist and Contemptorary. Any such list is bound to be controversial but the thought which clearly went into its preparation and the attractiveness of the map itself impressed us - several were sold on the night.

If you missed this opportunity to buy you can still do so here.

After animated discussion over drinks and nibbles during the break, 13 RS members presented their notion of the worst 20th century building in Brighton, and a 'cabbage award' was voted on. The presentations were limited to one minute - but despite this restriction all 13 presented convincing cases for their 'cabbage'.

See the cabbage presentation and read the nominations here.



Image: Hove Town Hall

Would you like to comment on this article? We would be interested to hear your views, which will be added below. If you would like to do so you will need to register first - it only takes a moment and once registered you can log in and comment on other articles on this site in the future. Click here to register. If you have already registered, simply click on 'you must be logged in' at the bottom of the page.


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 issues: 

The Brighton Astoria story staggers on

The Astoria building in Gloucester Place, Brighton was built in 1933 to a design by  cinema architect, Edward A Stone. Some Georgian and Victorian houses were demolished to make way for it.  It was designed as both a cinema and a theatre but was operated, mainly as a cinema and then a bingo hall, finally closing in 1997.

In 2000 it was listed (Grade II) and the listing statement describes it as “ particularly unusual in its French art deco style”.

Since then various schemes have been proposed to develop it for office or residential use.  In 2011 demolition was approved together with designs for a six-storey business centre to replace it; the architects were the Conran Partnership.  Most recently a residential scheme was approved on appeal.

The planning authority is currently considering an application to modify this approved plan, including significant changes to the external appearance.

The original building has now been empty for over a decade during which time it has had several owners. Its current condition reflects the neglect it has suffered.  Historic England has indicated that it has no objection to demolition nor to this latest plan. The Regency Society shares this view.  It would be good to see the site re-developed to provide much needed homes.

Two contrasting housing schemes

The Regency Society has tried to support housing development in the city to provide much needed homes.  This month we have looked at two small schemes, both in Portslade.

The first is at 33 Mile Oak Road.  This site currently has just one dwelling.  The proposal is to demolish it and build seven new homes.  The plans show a pleasingly “casual” layout of the site and the houses themselves have a mix of interesting designs. We welcome this increase in housing density on the site and hope that the application will be approved.

The second site is in Clarendon Place, off North Street, Portslade.  At present it is an unattractive industrial area.  The plan is to build a terrace of four, three-storey houses and a small office building. The floor plans suggest that three of the four new houses will be very pokey.  This application poses two contrasting questions. On the one hand, is this rather run-down industrial area a suitable place to build new houses?  On the other hand, could a development of this kind kick-start the re-generation of the area?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, we hope the planners will reject the scheme because of the very poor standard of housing that it offers.

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.