The decision on our bid for funding to kick-start the restoration of the Madeira Terraces this week was a bitter disappointment.
Almost two years of trying to find a solution to the problem of a huge and decaying ironwork structure that for over a century has been a landmark on the Brighton seafront has been blocked without explanation by the Government.
Our plan was to restore the Arches to their original glory, as created by surveyor Phillip Cawston Lockwood to attract tourists from London using the then newly-built London to Brighton rail line. A report by some of the world’s top civil engineers and surveyors estimated a cost of around £24 million.
We put a financial package together that included public donation, private investment and council borrowing. The loan would be paid back through rents and business rates from small shops housed in units under the Arches, similar to ones elsewhere along the seafront. To get the first phase of the project underway, we bid for £4m from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund, just a sixth of the money needed. The Government said no.
For me this is a blow to our civic effort to regenerate the eastern half of our seafront, part of the billion pound plan to restore and improve our biggest asset. It’s also a personal blow as I’ve made this my project; it’s part of my ward and a place I care about. Our local Conservative MP has quite rightly called on me several times to act to save the Madeira Terraces, so it is all the more infuriating that the Government now seems to have moved the goalposts after the final whistle.
Now that the Government has cut funding to councils by around 40 per cent, we are forced to compete with each other for ring-fenced money for projects like this. Ministers in Whitehall decide how it is spent, and who gets it. No longer are spending decisions made by locally elected councillors based on what residents want. This is wrong. We’ve many challenges here in the city including housing, rough sleeping, social care and poverty. Tackling them should not mean our heritage and tourism are neglected. I won’t give up on the Terraces, not while I lead the council.
Warren Morgan is the Labour leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.