Terraces: Imagination, innovation, flexibility - and £20m – are needed

Warren Morgan, leader of the city council
Warren Morgan, leader of the city council

A special article by Warren Morgan, written especially for Brighton and Hove Independent.

Walking along Madeira Drive at the weekend, I was again saddened to see the state it is in. I’ve known it all my life and value it as part of our rich heritage.

It has stood since Victorian times, more than 100 years in a hostile seafront environment, with no significant investment. It’s easy with hindsight to say our predecessors should have done more, but its problems are made harder to deal with by a flawed structural design that is, in itself, very hard to maintain. A lack of expansion joints made cracking likely, while its steel beams are hidden from view - encased in concrete and almost impossible to inspect or repair economically.

Costs are estimated to be in the region of £20-£30 million for a like-for-like replacement.

We’ve now established the structure is in such a poor state it will need completely rebuilding - and, in the main, it is unsafe.

Saying what should be done is easy and usually involves stating the obvious. The "how" is much more difficult; otherwise, you’d be reading the answer already.

The problem with The Terraces, as they stand, is that there is no way of generating income from them. That’s not to say it could never be done.

As a listed structure, any changes are problematic and would need the consent of English Heritage. It will need some imagination, innovation, and flexibility to make the kind of investment in The Terraces that might generate sufficient funds for the required work itself and future upkeep.

We’re working on just such a proposal - and I’ll let you know about it as soon as I can.

Our ambitions are that the area east of the Palace Pier is restored to its former glory and is once again an attractive place for residents, visitors, and events to use.

I want to bring the buildings around the Aquarium back into use and looking good again.

I believe there is no seaside town or city in the country where more seafront investment is already underway or planned. Visitor numbers are growing year on year. We’re spending millions rebuilding dozens of arches on the lower prom right now, providing new businesses and new life.

We have £9 million from government to rebuild the Shelter Hall under the vitally-important junction of West Street and Kings Road. There’s the i360 underway. And we’re progressing plans to redevelop the Brighton Centre/Kingswest site, build a new King Alfred leisure centre, a new swimming facility at Peter Pan’s, and a convention centre/arena at Black Rock.

This all takes time, because councils no longer have the money to act alone and must work in complex partnerships with developers.

At a time of unprecedented financial challenges - with huge demands for housing, social care, and more - we have a lot to do. We owe it, however, to those who built our city’s heritage, and future generations, to save what we value in our historic city and add to the story of Brighton and Hove for the future.