As if the disastrous Moshimo restaurant approval in Bartholomew Square was not enough, an application has now been lodged to construct a freestanding restaurant in Brighton Square. There are only three significant open spaces in the Old Town Conservation Area – Bartholomew Square, Brighton Square and the square on the west side of East Street. The former will be ruined by the overhead Moshimo Skylight restaurant, and Brighton Square will be lost completely as an open space if a building is constructed within it.
It is time to say No. Use of public spaces for private, commercial purposes on a permanent basis should not be permitted within the city as a matter of principle.
We are not against the provision of loose external seating and tables associated with adjacent café/restaurants. This has proved to be popular. We agree that Brighton Square is in need of improved facilities and appearance to make it more attractive to local residents, workers and visitors and we would welcome that.
But this is not the way to do it. A permanent building is not a suitable solution for this restricted site. There are many café/restaurants in the city and in the Old Town CA which have external seating but do not permanently take over, enclose and dominate the public domain.
This proposal will be detrimental to a development which received a Civic Trust Award in 1967 – exactly 50 years ago. The Heritage Statement which accompanies the planning application states: “As a major public open space in the Lanes, Brighton Square is a unique urban space in the Old Town Conservation Area. The buildings are part of a grouping that all share a common architectural language and pallet (sic) of materials which read as a cohesive redevelopment wrapped around the square.”
That says it all. An enclosed structure, mainly composed of curved translucent polycarbonate panels, will not contribute at all to the cohesive character of the Square, and would virtually conceal the fountain from public view and enjoyment.
We have objected strongly to the proposal. Whether the Council will listen shouldn’t really be a concern – a Council committed to ensuring that a Conservation Area on Historic England’s “at risk” register should be protected would throw out a proposal such as this. But after Moshimo, we aren’t holding our breath.