Work to start the restoration and refurbishment of the Madeira Terraces has been unanimously approved by the members of a Brighton and Hove City Council committee.
The Terraces scheme was described as one of the most challenging heritage issues facing the council.
The council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee approved £550,000 for design and engineering work for 30 arches in a meeting at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Thursday 20 June).
There are 151 arches in total, the committee was told, with the first phase also acting as a showcase for what might be possible.
A total of £2 million has been allocated from council funds towards the project.
If the first phase ends up being more expensive than expected, fewer arches would be restored initially to cap spending.
The council’s development and regeneration director Max Woodford said that the design work would be relevant for all 151 arches, as it would be economical.
Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth asked Mr Woodford for his vision of how the arches would look.
Mr Woodford said that this would be part of the design and engineering stage but he envisioned some form of insert which would allow for some form of commercial enterprise to take over the arches.
He said that the council was looking to get the best value for money for the project.
Conservative councillor Mary Mears said that the Victorians had shown that they had a vision and a strategy when they created the Terraces.
She urged the Labour administration to show some vision too.
Councillor Mears was concerned about which council committee would take ownership of the project and the scale of the refurbishment.
She said: “I am concerned about the small scale of the development, which is piecemeal and playing around with it.
“This has been going on since 2017 and it has not got us anywhere.
“We need to look at other places for funding. The arches need TLC sooner rather than later.”
Labour councillor Alan Robins said that as the chair of the committee he was committed to making Tourism, Development and Culture the go-to group of councillors when it came to managing the process.
He said: “If I was a funder I would ask us to show a vision and then provide the funding.
“If we can move forward we can pick up more funding streams.”
A third attempt to bid for Heritage Lottery Funding is being considered after two failed bids but Mr Woodford said that this was time-consuming for officials.
Green councillor Clare Rainey asked for the design stage to include the use of renewable technology such as solar panels and rainwater harvesting to help the city towards carbon neutral status by 2030.
She asked for a report outlining future crowdfunding plans to showcase what was possible.
Her fellow Green councillor Tom Druitt said: “It is a much-loved part of the seafront which everyone in the city is sad to see fall into disrepair.
“It feels a bit like a neglected part of the seafront. It is really important to keep up the momentum of the campaign going.
“At the moment we do not know where the money is going to come from for the 30 arches and we will do what we can to bring that funding in.”
The Save Madeira Terraces campaign presented a petition with 3,118 signatures to the committee, asking for the three arches closest to the Concorde 2 to be the first to be restored.