9 June 2016

Brighton's Terraces vision becomes clearer

A multi-million pound bid will be made to central government aimed at kick-starting the regeneration of Brighton’s Madeira Terraces.

The city council is this week confirming it intends to bid to the Department for Communities and Local Government for between £3m and £4m to pump-prime a regeneration programme.  A bid will be submitted by June 30.

Already council officials have been in talks with civil servants who confirmed the DCLG would accept a bid.  Positive discussions have also been held with Historic England – successor agency to English Heritage – whose support would be crucial.

The council believes the most likely solution would be sympathetically to integrate small business units into the structure’s arches.  These could suit a variety of uses ranging from cafes to offices or hotel apartment-type accommodation.  Revenue from businesses, in the form of rents and business rates, would help fund the structure’s long-term maintenance.

The upper terraces could be retained as public promenades.

No firm decisions have been made and any changes of use would require planning permission.

Exact details of the plan are still being worked on.  These are expected to be more fully-formed in time for a second-stage bid in November.

The council has previously estimated a like-for-like rebuilding of the structure would cost up to £30m.  So it is likely additional funding would be needed from other sources, depending on the project’s nature and scope.

The city is hosting a national Coastal Communities Conference on June 30 at the Metropole Hotel. at which council leader Warren Morgan is expected to outline the approach and detail £1 billion of seafront investment underway or in the pipeline.

Last December the DCLG awarded the city £50,000 from its Coastal Revival Fund.

The money is currently being used to devise a masterplan for the seafront east of the Palace Pier.

Cllr Morgan said:  “In principle the plan involves transforming the strip into a lively area full of activity and businesses which generates income to sustain the structure into the future.  This will not be a fast process and, in any case, it’s not practical to start any major works along there when we have so many regeneration projects underway on the seafront.  But we will stick diligently with this so that the Terraces get the most comprehensive conservation programme they’ve undergone and are put on a sustainable footing for the first time in history.”

Built in 1897 and around half a mile long, the Grade 2 listed Madeira Terraces is thought to be the longest cast iron structure in the world.

Council leader Warren Morgan writes in an article today...

"The Lockwood Project"

Our iconic Madeira Terraces have lasted over 130 years, a remarkable testimony to the quality of Victorian craftsmanship. Sadly the seaside environment has taken its toll on the ironwork and major restoration is needed.

I'm committing the council today to a project that will fully restore or replace that ironwork and return the Madeira Terraces to their original condition. Named for the Brighton Borough Surveyor who created the Terraces and our famous Birdcage Bandstand, Phillip Cawston Lockwood, we are calling it the Lockwood Project.

We have been working over recent months with civil engineers Mott Macdonald on what needs to be done and we’re now near to a plan to fully restore the Madeira Terraces.   Crucially we are liaising closely with Historic England to ensure that our plan for the future respects the heritage of the past.  Where possible we will restore the ironwork, but where modern engineering methods, materials and treatments allow and can be justified we will also use these to replace iron work on a like-for-like replica basis, to ensure that the structure can last longer. 

The Terraces were created as a covered promenade to attract tourists from London on the new railway of the 1800s. In the 21st Century we need something more, and something that will help fund the restoration and upkeep of the Terraces.

We are exploring ways of achieving this with colleagues at Historic England that protects the integrity of the Terraces, but also provides new ways of generating income to pay for their restoration and to provide new activity along this important stretch of our city’s coastline.  The option we’re proposing is self-contained but serviced glass-fronted units within the terrace arches, structures that preserve the integrity of the Terraces but allow new space to be leased or rented for use as cafes, shops, businesses or even "overnight beach huts", but not permanent accommodation. 

We’re working to ensure that we find an engineering solution that is both feasible but also gains the support of the heritage groups.  Importantly, we are looking for ways to preserve the unique and historic Green Wall which predates the Terraces themselves, building around it just as the Terraces were.

None of this can be achieved without some public funding and we are placing a bid at the end of this month for £4 million of Coastal Communities funding to get the Lockwood Project underway.  Further funding will be sought from grants, lottery funding and private investment, and we’ll look at using the same Public Works Loan Board borrowing as the i360 for some of the estimated £20 to £30 million costs. There may also be a potential for a financial relationship with some of the other projects in the pipeline for Madeira Drive, such as the Sea Lanes swimming pool, or Section 106 planning gain money.

A report will come to the Councils Policy, Resources and Growth Committee in July to begin what is likely to be at least a year-long process of consultation with residents, planning and legal agreements, and the procurement of a specialist contractor expert in this type of restoration. Ideally work will be underway by the end of next year if we are able to secure the required funding. It could be that the work will be phased, with restoration done in sections so that we can open some of the units as soon as possible.

The restoration of the Madeira Terraces will be an integral part of the multi-million pound regeneration of Madeira Drive, with the new swimming pool, new zip wire attraction, Aquarium Terraces replacement, children's play area and our new ten thousand seat arena and conference centre at Black Rock. From the pier to the marina, the whole area will be improved and enhanced, whilst restoring the wonderful Madeira Arches for future generations.

It is my hope that the Lockwood Project will preserve a much-valued part of our local heritage, whilst adding to our tourist offer in the same way the Terraces did in Victorian times. I'd like to think that Phillip Cawston Lockwood would approve, and I hope you will too.