The Battle for Madeira Drive

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During lockdown, Brighton and Hove City Council decided to close Brighton’s historic Madeira Drive ‘temporarily’ in order to provide ‘more space to exercise.’ Two months later movement restrictions lifted and the traders were told by a visiting council officer that there was a plan to close the Drive permanently. No public notice. No public consultation.

115 years of celebrating motoring and motorcycling history gone. Just like that. 37 traders, some of whom had been trading for decades, facing the end.

Local Mod, Ollie Wilson, and his partner, who just happens to be our Hon Secretary Laura King, decided to start a council petition to re-open Madeira Drive to all users. They also began holding regular protests by Brighton Palace Pier, assembling mods and bikers and founded a facebook group Reopen Madeira Drive To All. They appeared on local radio and television and even made the national press.

Of particular concern to Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission is the risk that the closure of Madeira Drive puts to the restoration of Grade II listed Madeira Terrace, and just when enough money had finally been raised to commence work via a Crowdfunding campaign on the first thirty arches (out of 151). In fact the Commission itself made a donation and was anxious to hear of a start date for the works.

Behind the Terrace is the longest and oldest ‘Green Wall‘ in the country and one of the earliest known attempts to intentionally create the equivalent of a ‘hothouse’ in the open air to complement the sheltered walkway of Madeira Terrace, an eco innovation which has survived to this day and is an integral part of the Terrace.

The heritage of Madeira Drive has proved the ideal backdrop to heritage vehicle events such as The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and other events celebrating bikes, scooters and vehicles which have long outlived their carbon construction footprint, and may indeed have something to teach the modern vehicles of today with their efficient and more repairable mechanisms. Madeira Drive has also been home to the speed trials since 1905. It is seldom used as a through road, but as a destination and a spiritual home where mods and bikers hang out together at weekends, patronising the local cafes as they keep an eye on their pride and joy bikes.

On a daily basis 393 parking spaces are now out of commission through the closure of Madeira Drive, and just after the council had agreed that all parking revenue from Madeira Drive could be ploughed into the restoration of Madeira Terrace (not just an integral part of the Drive but part of the structural support for Marine Parade above). Moreover the coach parking is currently suspended which affects the local hotel trade and the disabled and those with electric cars who cannot get to the Madeira Drive charging station are being discrimated against.

An opposing petition was started to try and keep Madeira Drive closed, but has so far reached less than a third of the more than 10,500 signatures collected so far on the Reopen Madeira Drive to All petition.

So what can YOU do to help?

  1. Please sign and share the petition here to reopen Madeira Drive if you have not already).
  2. Please take a few minutes to fill in the belated council consultation on Madeira Drive here.
  3. You are also welcome to join Reopen Madeira Drive To All  Facebook group here, now 1300 members strong.
  4. Come to next protest on Sunday 9th August – from 10am – Madeira Drive – photo shoot at 1pm. All welcome!

The petition was supposed to go before full council on 26th July, but regrettably owing to sudden change of leadership to the Greens, it will now be discussed on 13th August. Brighton and Hove City Council have however conceded that offical events can resume, though this decision comes too late for 2020 and does not take account of the smaller or unofficial events. Nor that the traders need trade year round and not just for offical events.

Now after two worrying fires in a week (one at Black Rock toilets and one actually under the Terrace in the old Reading Room) as inevitable dereliction of Madeira Drive takes hold, we hear worrying murmerings about the future of Madeira Drive having to be ‘re-thought’.

We would disagree. Madeira Drive has always had a clearly defined role and purposes in this city, which remain popular and money-spinning to this day, if allowed to continue. Madeira Drive doesn’t need ‘rethinking’. It just needs reopening. Before any more risk or damage to its heritage can occur.

Cyclists and walkers already have a wide expanse of dedicated space opposite and once Madeira Terrace is restored that will re-open a lot of additional pedestrian (and commercial) space currently locked within for safety reasons including a mid terrace walkway above the sheltered walkway. Interestingly daily photographs taken by members of Reopen Madeira Drive Facebook group are showing that Madeira Drive itself is scarcely being used by the cyclists and walkers it has been given over to, who tend to stick to their designated cycle path and wide pavement area.

All Saints Hospital, Eastbourne – a heritage conversion success

Visiting Eastbourne with a heritage colleague recently we were struck by the stunning conversion of All Saints Convalescent Hospital in the Meads area just below the cliffs.

Erected in 1869 by architect Henry Woodyer in high gothic style, All Saints Hospital was the vision of Harriet Brownlow Byron, Mother Foundress of the Community of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, to provide the first purpose-built seaside convalescent hospital in Great Britain. The All Saints Sisters tended their patients and establised a philosophy of care which continued for over a century.

This former Grade II listed hospital is contained in around 10 acres of grounds, not unlike the Brighton General Hospital in size and scale, and was cleverly converted after its closure as a hospital in 2004 by Berkeley Homes.

Without obvious compromise to the historical integrity of the exterior, Berkeley managed to fit in additional floors and still ensure that all residents had their share of large windows and high ceilings. Sensitive additional units were discreetly and almost seamlessly inserted in the gaps with a range of handsome garages by the gate house, which may or may not have originally comprised a stable block, as far as the untrained eye is concerned.

We spoke to a couple of residents there, one of whom had lived there for around ten years and they couldn’t have been happier. They said there was a real community feel to the place.

There are 105 housing units in all with the chapel separately owned and maintained as a special event venue and community space for hire.

What a wonderful example of what can be done with a former hospital!

Let Brighton & Hove City Council take note when Brighton General Hospital site becomes available.

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Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission to apply for Conservation Area status for Brighton General Hospital

Brighton General Hospital

Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission has been in high level discussions with Brighton & Hove City Council concerning its proposal for the historic Brighton General Hospital site to be designated as the city’s 35th Conservation Area. The reasons are many. It is the last almost complete “workhouse complex” left in the country, the Kitchener Indian Hospital from 1916-20 where hundreds of wounded sepoys were nursed and then the Brighton Municipal Hospital, and has been a landmark across the city for 154 years.

Backing for the idea has proved unanimous from the many local amenity groups that have so far replied to the presentation. They include the Regency Society, Hove Civic Society, Brunswick Town Association, North Laine Community Association, Ovingdean Residents Presevation Soc, and Rottingdean Preservation Soc.  This enables the proposal to be put forward for public consultation. Save Brighton General Action Group has also been positive.
Details of that presentation are below;
The site is the last virtually intact Workhouse complex left in the country, occupying a large acreage at the top of Elm Grove. The first buildings were opened in 1867 (area 1 on the attached plan) finishing before 1900 (area 2 on the attached plan). Although the Arundel Building was listed Grade II in 1999 the rest of the buildings were not. However they do have a very important “group value” for the site. See attached annotation plan. The proposed CA would be Area 1 (amber) and Area 2 (pea green) on the attached BHCC Listed Building Curtilage Map dated 10/01/2007. Area 3 (blue) would be excluded as SCFT plans indicate the northern part of this area will be the site of the new Health Hub.
Not only is there architectural value to these buildings where local vernacular materials were used, but the not listed buildings’ past uses were very specific, such as the Lunatic block, and Asylum Wings, and the Bread Token house. Moreover, the site has an unequalled social history. A workhouse, then in 1916 the Kitchener Indian Hospital for hundreds of wounded Sepoys, Subedars were placed at the Pavilion and Dome. Then in 1920 it reverted back to the workhouse, in 1934 the Brighton Municipal Hospital (run by Brighton Corporation) and finally it became the NHS hospital in about 1950.
The palatial listed Arundel Building does not give the true picture of what life was really like in the workhouse, other buildings do that.
At present technically all could be demolished without needing permission other than the listed building. I have met with Lucie Carayon the director of Ancient Monuments Society. I have also had discussions with Historic England while on their recent visit to Brighton, who share our concerns that more of the site is not protected.
Discussions have also taken place about the consideration of more buildings being listed, particularly for five others not including the historic flint walls and the Lodge. However my view is that this action would impinge on any proposals for the site’s ideal conversion into low cost housing, thus the formation of a Conservation Area will allow for much greater flexibility for plans for conversion but also protect the site in the meanwhile. A CA would allow for greater examination about what could be retained for conversion and what could be demolished, with a view to allowing sympathetic new build on areas such as on part of the present large car parks.But still maintaining some open spaces. The mathematics of major demolition and rebuild will not result in low cost affordable housing
The site’s designation as a Conservation Area does not mean the buildings are preserved but are protected, subject to demolition consent being granted. This procedure forms the legal part of the planning process for development in a conservation area.
The key is, that once designated as a CA, demolition consent is necessary for any structure within that area, whereas at present no permission is needed for demolition. Even the historic flint walls are technically not protected though some believe they are deemed to be in the curtilage of the listed building.
A similar situation occurred with the Royal Alex in 2005 when I started that campaign .The 1881 Lainson building was not listed but in a CA thus demolition consent was needed. The developer wished to remove all buildings on the site.The outcome was that demolition consent was refused for the main building but the group of buildings at its rear, after in-depth discussions with the community, were given permission to be demolished.
I would cite another example with which I was involved being a member of  CAG. The Carlton Hill Conservation Area. This was the last designated CA in the city in 2008. With the threat of the new Amex development subsuming the Mighell Street farmhouse and even seeing its demolition, together with the Thwaites Garage site adjacent ear marked for offices, there was a need to create a CA to give a greater control over what could be done in the 1 1/2 acre area which included Tilbury Place. The result was that the farmhouse was secured and on the garage site next door there has recently been completed a very sensible housing development, The application came to CAG in many forms but the result, which is now satisfactory, respects the setting of the listed farmhouse’s position within the CA and adheres to CAG’s request to reinstate the historic flint wall on Carlton Hill. The result would have been much more difficult to achieve if this area had not been designated as a Conservation Area.
On Tuesday 5th May I presented the proposal to CAG at its monthly meeting. The result, I am pleased to say, was a unanimous support for the initiative. The city’s amenity groups have been written to, and amongst those the Regency Society, Rottingdean, Ovingdean, Kemp Town Society North Laine, Brunswick Town, Montpelier and Clifton Hill and Hove Civic have already given their agreement to the idea, with others yet to reply. Membership structures are different in each group but of the mentioned collection of societies we calculate they represent some nine to ten thousand people.
Thus,we have an excellent opportunity of satisfying the needs of the community as well as securing the city’s built and social heritage for future generations.
Roger V. Amerena
Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission
Joint Chairman
Brighton & Hove City Council Conservation Advisory Group

Risk to Conservation Areas of LED lighting

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Around the country heritage lamps (above) are being replaced by modern LED lamps (below), even in some Conservation Areas.

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This may save councils money (some decades after paying for the enormous initial outlay of replacing so many lamps at several thousand pounds each in some cases) as LED lights are said to last longer (not yet proven) and use less power, but it is disastrous for heritage as they are wholly unsympathetic in light and style (though occasionally LED bulbs are inserted into heritage lamp fittings with less than acceptable results).

Aside from the sheer ugliness of modern LED lamp posts, LED bulbs emit a harsh and dazzling blue-tinted light which has been associated with health issues including migraines and blamed for interrupting sleep patterns in various areas where they have been installed. There have even been protests against them in many European cities including Glasgow and Rome.

Certainly you wouldn’t want to find LED lights on any postcards, advertising or tourist brochures as they are deeply unflattering to the streetscapes around them, possessing all the ‘charm of a shower unit.’  They could never replace architectural lighting either to showcase our greatest architectural gems.

Ultimately these lights need to go back to the drawing board until they can replicate the flattery of incandescent, halogen or soft sodium fittings which sit easily in heritage lamp standards, as LED are not fit for heritage or conservation area use. Nor can they be dimmed. Montpelier Road is a good example of how LED lights can destroy the look and special ambiance of a Conservation Area. A range of LED bulbs are said to be available but they are certainly not being procured for street lights if so. In fact we have only found examples intended for indoor domestic use.

Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission is against the use of LED street lights in Brighton and Hove and were pleased to see the recent letter from Graham Chainey in the Brighton Argus (reproduced below).

We hope this ridiculous EU directive will be abandoned post-Brexit.

It also turns out that long life bulbs have been possible, almost from the start of bulb manufacture. There has been a deliberate world cartel since 1924 to ensure built in obsolescence, a practice which continues today, irrespective of environmental concerns.

Petition against LED streetlights in Brighton and Hove here. Please sign.

LED lights letter

Making Sure There’s No Need to Pine for Elms

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In a gale force south westerly on the 1st March at 2.00pm, Hon. Ald. Francis Tonks, past Mayor of Brighton and present President of the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission, (also resident of  the Kemp Town Estate) carried out the ceremonial planting of a 10 year old pine tree in the Kemp Town Enclosure. He commented  “Despite the weather, it’s a pleasure to be here today, meeting the excellent gardeners who have made this possible, and planting this beautiful fir tree. I trust it will grow strong and provide a haven for wildlife for many years to come. The city needs its green lungs.”
Also present  from the official party were his wife, Mrs Jean Tonks, Jeremy Moulsdale, Head Gardener of the Enclosure and Roger Amerena, Heritage Commissioner of the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission.
The tree, a sea and wind resistant “Pinus Thunbergii”, was grown from seed by Heritage Commission member Nigel Furness on the flat roof of his kitchen extension until too large when Nigel was happy to donate it the Kemp Town Enclosure, Lewes Crescent Garden. BHHC member, Graham Bedford, kindly assisted with transport from Hove to Kemp Town.
This event marks another step in the BHHC’s policy of promoting civic tree planting. For the Queen’s Jubilee £250 was given to the Rottingdean Preservation Society for a tree at the Grange, a further £250 was given to Hove Civic Society, Heritage Commission affiliates for street tree planting in York Avenue area.
Brighton and Hove is also one of the last refuges of the Dutch Elm tree in Britain, partly thanks to the Downs at the rear and the English channel to the south acting as barriers to the national blight of Dutch Elm disease. The Commission has therefore also been working closely with Neil Brothers and his arboriculture team at BHCC  to further the scheme of planting new disease resistant elms in Montpelier. Elms were planted last autumn in Montpelier Road, Windlesham Avenue, Windlesham Road and Montpelier Villas. In 2014 a “Sorbus” was placed  in Russell Square, thus completing the symmetrical planting pattern in that enclosure. Following planting during the hot summers Commission members water the young trees to make sure they survive, as can be seen from the eighteen planted in Montpelier Road. 

Latest in Battle to Save 15 North Street


23/07/15 Update. Sadly this is a battle BHHC has lost. Apparently the developer organised a PR exercise which entailed the Secretary of State being bombarded with letters calling for the demolition of 15 North Street which has unfortunately succeeded. RIP Timpsons, oldest commercial premises in Brighton.

We have been receiving some good publicity in our campaign to save 15 North Street including this article in the current edition of Private Eye and articles in The Georgian Society magazine, The Brighton Argus, The Brighton and Hove Independent and the Archaeology UK newsletter, among others. 15 North Street itself is currently enjoying a ‘stay of execution’ as the Secretary of State (to whom Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission have appealed) takes time to consider additional information.

Battle to Save 15 North Street makes Private Eye

Saving 15 North Street (Brighton’s Oldest Commercial Building)

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LINKThe battle to Save Puget’s Cottage

15 North Street, Brighton (Timpson) might seem a fairly unremarkable 18th century commercial premises on the face of it, but it is still a fine example of the vernacular and one of the few remaining in the city centre. Behind it, hidden in an internal courtyard, nestles an even older commercial premises, Puget’s Cottage, formerly an annex of the late Hannington’s department store.

The developer’s idea is to bulldoze both to create a ‘Hannington Lane’ additional access into the world famous Brighton Lanes and to convince everyone that that is the only option to create an additional thoroughfare.

BHHC’s idea is that an alternative passage could be created just a few feet to the east through the ground floor of 16 North Street (preserving the upper floors of 16). This would achieve the same aim of an additional lane, but would be a more sensitive and far less costly solution.

In addition two historic buildings would be preserved to enhance the attractions of the Lanes if a rear access was opened up to Puget’s cottage and it was brought back into commercial use or even used as a tourist attraction.

An unsympathetic modern square (Brighton Square) has already been incoporated into the historic Lanes (or Laines as they were formerly known) and with disastrous consequences. It is virtually deserted and with most of its premises closed. It is simply not what people come to Brighton to enjoy and it has done nothing to enhance the Lanes. You will find it on no Brighton postcard.