Black Rock rejuvenation project

Phase one - update

We have developed the Black Rock rejuvenation project to resolve the problems that have led to the Black Rock site remaining vacant for over 40 years. We have also started to improve the local area by making it more accessible and visually appealing as part of these phased improvements.

The project is being led by Brighton & Hove City Council, with funding provided by Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership.

The aspiration to redevelop this important seafront site has not happened because of a range of reasons. We will address these via the proposed new infrastructure works.

They include:

  • a realigned and extended sea wall
  • improved coastal defences
  • a decontaminated and levelled site
  • a new sustainable transport link between the eastern seafront and Brighton Marina

In the short term, the Black Rock site will host outdoor events, and the new infrastructure will improve the experience for all visitors to the area. It will include a new beach boardwalk from the Volk’s Station at Black Rock to the Volk’s Workshops at the junction with Duke’s Mound.

Phase two

In the longer term (approximately 4 years), a permanent redevelopment will begin at Black Rock. The council are due to agree a development brief to guide this process in December 2022.

How we have listened and responded to feedback

The council has worked with residents and other key stakeholders to develop the plans for the rejuvenation of Black Rock.

The council held a full consultation during the planning process, and 86% of respondents said they backed the principles behind the scheme.

The council held discussions with community representatives and they added some new ideas, including the pump track and seafront classroom.

The council is committed to working with residents and stakeholders as the scheme progresses, and will include regular updates on the website.

A view of Brighton seafront from above, spanning from the start of Duke’s Mount at the top of the photo to Brighton Marina at the bottom of the photo, including overhead views of Marine Parade and Madeira Drive. The photo highlights the proposed developments in this area. From top to bottom:
A new junction layout and public open space with a crossing over Volk’s Railway
A beach boardwalk
The retained naturist beach with screening
Signalisation to Duke’s Mount
Selective clearance of invasive vegetation and replacement with native species featuring chalk grassland
New biodiverse vegetated shingle (no public access)
Historic buildings renovated as cafes
A new play area, seafront classroom and toilet
Temporary BMX pump track and sports court
A line of new sea wall and walkaway
A future temporary event space prior to long term redevelopment
Public art on a wall beside the new Brighton Marina link
Vegetated shingle to be relocated
Retained subway link to Brighton Marina
New link into Brighton Marina
Relocated ramps

Access improvements

We will create a new crossing to improve access between Volk’s Railway and the Old Reading Room. There will also be a new decked area and boardwalk extending onto the beach. The new boardwalk will be fully accessible and feature a new pedestrian route leading all the way to Brighton Marina via a walkway inside the new sea wall.

By making it easier to walk and cycle around the city, we will improve accessibility, and also promote green methods of travel.

Madeira Drive and Duke's Mound

One of the aims of phase one of the project is to deliver junction upgrades at Duke’s Mound to improve pedestrian and cycle safety.

There will also be improvements for pedestrians accessing the site and the beach.

We will install upgraded crossing points with new improved lighting columns along Madeira Drive. We will also improve existing crossing points of the Volk’s Railway.

A new 3 metre wide boardwalk will run from the existing Volk’s Workshop in the west to the Volk’s Station at Black Rock. It will then connect to a path along the new sea wall leading to Brighton Marina.

An illustration of the junction of Duke’s Mound and Madeira Drive on the left, along with the new beach boardwalk on the right

Brighton Marina link

It's been an ambition for the city and Brighton Marina to provide a direct public transport link from the eastern seafront into Brighton Marina.

To move one step closer to a seafront hopper service along the coast, funding from Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership has allowed works to take place. This will create a new link beneath the current ramps.

In the future this will create the opportunity for a shuttle link to operate along the eastern seafront. Whilst this remains a future ambition, we will provide the vital infrastructure to allow this to take place.

This will also provide a new direct link for cyclists and pedestrians and improve upon the current steep access to the north of the site or the subway access to the south. This access will be a permanent public route into the Marina from the Black Rock site.

An illustration of the proposed new link between the eastern seafront and Brighton Marina, featuring public art on the retaining wall

Getting smart – Duke’s Mound improvements

We will make significant improvements to the junctions at both ends of Duke’s Mound to address safety concerns.

Phase one of the Black Rock project will aim to improve safety and make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to access the eastern seafront.

While in the longer term, the whole of Madeira Drive will receive improvements.

We have planned the following upgrades for phase one of the Black Rock project:

  • smart traffic signals will adapt to support vehicle movement or prioritise pedestrians as required
  • an ecology trail to showcase the work carried out to protect and improve the vegetated shingle along the seafront
  • improvements to the lower junction to provide a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists whilst accommodating vehicles accessing the Black Rock site
  • a new public realm area in the space currently occupied by the Volk’s Railway storage depot with seating, signage, and planting, with direct access onto the beach

A new chapter for heritage

The eastern seafront is steeped in history, but some of its heritage assets have fallen into decline and need a new lease of life.

Old Reading Room and Temple - places for future rest and recuperation

We will repurpose the Grade-II Listed Old Reading Room. This was originally built to provide shelter for residents of Lewes Crescent seeking a place to read in comfort with a view of the sea.

Floor to ceiling glazing to the southern elevations to retain the sea views along with works to provide flat outdoor spaces for seating will create a new outdoor space. This could be let to a future tenant as early as early 2022.

Several good ideas were put forward for uses for the Old Reading Room during public engagement. The most popular idea was to reopen the building as a café or restaurant.

We are keen to make this happen by bringing in a suitable operator to run this new venue. The project is also due to include improvement works to the nearby Temple.

The front of the Old Reading Room before renovation

An illustration showing the proposed improvements for the public realm, lighting, seating, and use for the Grade II-listed Old Reading Room

An illustration showing the proposed improvements to accommodate a new use at the Temple, close to the
subway and new Marina link

A comprehensive rejuvenation

Linked to upgrades at Black Rock, the whole eastern seafront will start to transform through a future masterplan that will start this year. The masterplan will set out the vision for and help inform future planning of the seafront.

To the west of Black Rock, the council is beginning work to renovate Brighton’s iconic Madeira Terrace arches. The project aims to restore the first 30 to 40 arches adjacent to Concorde 2 (old shelter hall) during 2021/2022.

Over the next few years, this work will lead to the rejuvenation of this valuable and historic part of Brighton’s seafront.

Playing, wellbeing, and learning

The Black Rock rejuvenation will deliver improvements which will help to support health and wellbeing, along with learning and playing.

Because of Covid-19 it is even more important that we all have access to outdoor spaces and are able to enjoy what is on offer. Phase one of the Black Rock project aims to provide an improved experience for those using the seafront and encourage people to return through all the seasons.

We have listened to feedback, and will provide additional seating, lighting, planting, artwork, and shaded areas.

Play area

The rejuvenation will include a new children’s play area on the seafront next to the new classroom and close to the beach. We will retain the existing car park in this area.

Temporary sports court

We will expand the Black Rock site by creating a new sea wall. This is crucial in delivering the rejuvenation. Ahead of making any decision about the long-term use of the land, we will provide a temporary sports court next to the wall.

We expect the temporary facilities to be in place for around three to four years.

Seafront classroom

Following our draft proposals, we have refined our plans to include a Seafront Classroom.

We will design it to encourage learning and to be suitable for school trips and other community uses. We will include four public toilets and a baby change facility.

Pump track

We will also deliver a temporary pump track. Again, this has been added to the scheme based on helpful discussions with residents and stakeholders, especially those in the cycling community.

There is no facility of this kind in the immediate area, and we will base it on a similar venue in Newhaven that has been very successful.

Public realm improvements

The Black Rock rejuvenation will deliver public realm improvements to make Black Rock a more attractive place to visit.

The project will also improve connectivity between the eastern seafront and Brighton Marina.

The project includes a beach boardwalk along the eastern seafront that will be accessible to everyone, including wheelchair users.

Beach boardwalk

The Black Rock rejuvenation aims to make the eastern seafront a more sustainable, accessible, and attractive place to visit. This will include a new beach boardwalk.

It will start near the western end of Duke’s Mound beside the Volk’s Electric Railway Workshop and run along the eastern seafront to the Black Rock site.

Pedestrians will be able to reach Brighton Marina via a walkway running along the line of the new sea wall to the existing subway or by using the new link to the Marina.

Public art

A vital part of revitalising the eastern seafront is making it more attractive for visitors. The council will install artworks across the project area. This includes on the retaining wall beside the proposed new cycle route from Black Rock to Brighton Marina, making this more visually appealing.

Art helps to bring public spaces alive, and fresh designs will be coming to Black Rock. The project team recognises Black Rock is known for its street art, and wants to provide eye-catching public art to capture the unique spirit of Brighton and Black Rock.

Cartoon character Marvin the Martian painted on a wall in Black Rock. Text Reads "Wait till I catch that virus!"

Abstract rust-coloured sculptures like waves

Person painting a Toucan on a wall already decorated with colourful patterns

Pale green humanoid sculpture doing a handstand in a black and white patterned bathing suit

Spherical metal structure made of lily pads on stalks with metal flowers emerging between them

Signage and wayfinding

The project will include improvements to make it easier for people to navigate the eastern seafront.

We will place information boards throughout the area, create new routes, and upgrade existing ones.

How we will improve biodiversity

Bringing back native species

The Black Rock rejuvenation will deliver environmental and ecological improvements. This will make the eastern seafront a greener, more accessible, and attractive place to visit.

We will create an ecology trail, and will remove invasive non-native species from the Kemp Town Slopes. We will also reintroduce native plants, wildflowers, and chalk grassland.

We will create a new ecology trail to encourage people to find out more about the biodiversity of the eastern seafront.

We also seek to increase the amount of vegetated shingle at the eastern seafront. We will have to relocate some of the vegetated shingle to allow us to realign the sea wall.

With the additional area being replanted and seeded there will be a net gain in biodiversity through the provision of 1.5 hectares of vegetative shingle alongside the new beach boardwalk.

Biodiversity improvements at a glance

  1. An allocated area of approximately 1.5 hectares of currently bare shingle beach will be vegetated through replanting and reseeding.
  2. More than half of the non-native Tamarisk and Euonymus on the face of Kemp Town Slopes will be cut and restored to native grassland and wildflowers.
  3. An ecology trail will be provided with information boards for users. This guided walk will improve ecological knowledge, and there will be low protective fencing to discourage veering from the dedicated route, thus avoiding disturbance to this sensitive habitat.

The Living Coast

The Living Coast is Brighton & Lewes Downs UNESCO World Biosphere region. Biospheres are leading areas for sustainable development, containing world class environments for people and nature

Brighton & Hove City Council are the lead partners in The Living Coast. We work hard to make sure council projects are supporting the global Biosphere values and connecting people and nature.

The Living Cost partnership also provides expert input and opportunities to share learning from similar, innovative projects from around the world.

Vegetated shingle planting

Here are some examples of native species that are likely to form part of the reseeding and replanting in phase one of the Black Rock Project.

Crambe maritima, Sea kale

Glaucium flavum, Yellow horned poppy

Helianthemum canum, Hoart rockrose

Hippophae rhamnoides, Sea buck-thorn


Duke’s Mound vegetation works

More than half of the existing non-native, invasive bushes on Duke’s Mound were cut back Winter 2021 as part of wider ecology improvements and a biodiversity strategy for the area.

This will allow re-establishment of the locally distinct native chalk grassland: an open and attractive, colourful landscape fitting with the Sussex setting, which will attract new wildlife into the area.

Planting will feature seeds of Sussex provenance provided by the Millennium Seed Bank.

Because these species are generally slow growing, it is expected that the chalk grassland will take some time to establish fully.  In the meantime, the long-dormant seed bed within the existing ground has taken the opportunity to grow into a prolific coverage of thistles.  This will require some intervention to manage and reduce the thistles to allow the chalk grassland to grow; once established, it will keep the thistle growth in check.

The new habitat will start to emerge over the next few years with local grass species from the Downs.

We will recycle trimmings and cuttings in a sustainable way, as green-waste composting.

Example of native grassland

Tall grass with purple flowers in the foreground

View of Duke’s Mound overgrown with Tamarisk

Madeira Drive viewed from the East. To the right of the road is a large mass of tall, thick bushes

View within Duke’s Mound

View from a sharp bend in the path within Duke's Mound. The edges of the path are overgrown with bushes and branches hang over the width of the path

Non-native Tamarisk

View into the bushes and trees at the edge of the path in Duke's Mound, showing the non-native Tamarisk

Existing vegetation

View from above of Duke's Mound, as it is now, showing in red the areas of vegetation that will be removed

Proposed vegetation

View of Duke's Mound from above, as it will look after the vegetation is removed

The green wall at Black Rock 

We would like to apologise for the way that a section of green wall at the bottom of Dukes Mound was cut back in early March.  

Before cutting back vegetation on the wall, which runs for 1.2 kilometres along Brighton seafront, we would usually gain valuable advice from Brighton & Hove Building Green on the best way of protecting the plants and wildlife as we have done on other sections of the wall.

Building Green is a local voluntary community network who support the management of the Madeira Drive green wall to restore it to its former glory. 

We acknowledge that we should have spoken to Building Green before carrying out this work as we have done with other work on the wall historically.

Why was this done?

As part of the Black Rock regeneration project, a road safety audit was carried out. It found that the greenery at this point at the bottom of Dukes Mound severely limited visibility for road users.  

Unlike the section further on, this stretch has no pavement, which meant that vegetation had grown over part of the road.

In response to the road safety audit, plans were drawn up to cut back the vegetation to improve visibility. The work was then carried out.

The project team has spoken to Building Green to apologise and restate our commitment to working with them. They have identified what we need to do to support regrowth and the wider restoration of the green wall. 

In May we are meeting with officers from CityParks, Building Green and the project’s landscape consultant to put in place actions to support regrowth, and establish the best way to do this so that greenery here can be trained up the wall, and will not project over the road and limit visibility.  Short and longer term management of the planting will be agreed.

The whole length of the seafront green wall is included in the long-term Madeira Terrace project and we’ll be looking to do a separate piece of work to guide ongoing restoration and management of this unique feature going forward, working with landscape consultants and ecologists. 

We are also carrying out a review into our work and decision-making processes.

The review will clarify planning and wildlife constraints and confirm if any were not complied with for this section of the green wall.  

We’ll report the review’s outcomes to councillors through the Black Rock cross-party project board. 

Actions we are taking to promote regrowth

The two main plants in this area are a large fig and spindle (euonymus).  Both species are resilient to hard pruning, and, given the age and likely strong existing root network, will potentially recover as the root network is still in the ground. 

Some signs of regrowth are appearing on both the spindle and fig.

We are working with our landscape consultant on the following measures:

  • Removing loose material and deadwood to the soil surface
  • Retaining existing plants rooted into the soil
  • Installing a series of horizontal wires to the wall at regular intervals to train the fig and provide support for other plants to lead them up the wall
  • A regular watering regime, starting immediately and running through Spring and Summer

Improving the Black Rock area

The Black Rock project is an important part of the wider regeneration of the eastern seafront and will involve environmental, heritage and infrastructure improvements. This includes increased planting based on an independent ecological study to improve biodiversity.

We’ll be planting native species on the shingle to encourage a new area of wildlife from the Volks railway to Black Rock, as well as more than 30 new trees as part of a revitalised public space.

Rejuvenating Black Rock will support the city economy’s recovery from the pandemic.

Our work will help to prepare the area for future leisure and recreation development in line with the council’s City Plan, as well as improving connections  between the eastern seafront, Black Rock and Brighton Marina. 

Public access and key benefits

A major transformation

The improvements stretch from Duke’s Mound along the eastern seafront to Black Rock. Pedestrian and cycle access to Brighton Marina and beyond will be maintained throughout the works.

Where possible, we will keep public spaces open. There will be times when we temporarily close sections to allow us to carry out improvement works.

Key benefits

The Black Rock rejuvenation will deliver improvements at the eastern seafront, including:

  • site preparation, decontamination, infrastructure provision and wider rejuvenation to attract investment
  • improved connectivity for everyone, including cyclists and pedestrians, promoting access and inclusion for everyone
  • new activity hub, which will include a temporary sports court, pump track, seafront classroom and a children’s play area
  • improved coastal protection with new sea defences
  • landscaping improvements, which include more vegetated shingle, reintroducing native species, and restoring chalk grassland
  • a new beach boardwalk, along with an ecology trail and an access link from Brighton Marina to Madeira Drive via Black Rock
  • highways improvements at Duke’s Mound
  • heritage improvements, which include renovating the Grade 2 listed Old Reading Room and Temple, making it available for café/restaurant use

By preparing the Black Rock site for future development, this will also provide the opportunity for temporary ‘meanwhile use’ as an open-air seafront events space.

What happens next

What we're starting with

Works started in February 2021 on the initial highways works. This will involve improvements to the signalling and crossing points.

Beginning at the bottom of Duke's Mound, works are taking place alongside improvements to Madeira Drive, which are also the subject of an emergency Traffic Regulation Order.

You can learn more about transport developments at Black Rock and across the city on our website.

Works also started in February 2021 to remove a large proportion of the overgrown Tamarisk at Duke's Mound. This is in preparation for new hydra-seeding and planting timed to take place in advance of the nesting season.

We'll introduce temporary fencing in the area to protect the hydra-seeding. We will also continue removing waste and litter.

It will be possible to confirm final start dates for the remainder of the work when contractors are appointed in Spring.

We'll provide more updates as they become available. Planning permission for the preparatory works was approved on 10 June 2020 by the Planning Committee.

Full development plans

The works at Black Rock include:

  • preparation of the Black Rock site for redevelopment, while providing a temporary events space in the meantime, likely to be no less than 4 years
  • realignment and rebuilding of the sea wall defenses to the front of the Black Rock site to an enhanced design based on the latest flood risk projections
  • providing a new access route between the Black Rock site and Brighton Marina - this access link will be used in the short term for better cycle, pedestrian and emergency access - in the longer term, it will create a direct green transport link between Black Rock/Marina and city centre
  • a play area adjacent to the beach
  • an outdoor classroom with access to the beach
  • restoration of the Grade 2 Listed Reading Room and Temple for future commercial letting - these will be advertised on the council’s seafront lettings pages in the Autumn/Winter
  • new signalised junctions at both ends of Duke's Mound to improve traffic management and pedestrian access
  • a new boardwalk and ecology trail from Black Rock to the Volks Workshops. The Millennium Seed Bank will supply plants for the new vegetated shingle and plants from the existing Black Rock Local Wildlife Site will also be replanted where possible
  • removal of Duke's Mound non-native Tamarisk bushes to make way for new planting to support biodiversity and improved public realm - this planting forms part of the Ecological Management Plan produced in consultation with the County Ecologist
  • installing new lighting along the eastern section of Madeira Drive from Duke's Mound to Black Rock, the Esplanade, Marina link and main section of the new boardwalk

We’re investing funds from the Local Enterprise Partnership for these works to ensure the future development of the Black Rock site.

Future proposals for Black Rock will be shaped by consultation and through a development brief which will be prepared this year. Councillors will decide on the final brief which will guide any future proposals.

Whilst we are always happy to discuss ideas for the site, we are not encouraging formal proposals in advance as we cannot prejudge what the consultation process will produce. Updates on progress at Black Rock will be posted on our website.

Keep in touch

There are a few ways to keep up to date with the latest progress at Black Rock.

You can:

Black Rock and the eastern seafront will be transformed in the coming months.

"Black Rock development viewed from above from the East."