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HIstory of the Brighton Society

We have provided an overview of the Brighton Society’s main activities since its launch in 1973 and, to make it easier for the reader to review our work, we have grouped it into decades. Where particular activities stood out as demanding more detail, we have supplied this, in most cases with an accompanying image.

Formation of the Brighton Society

The Brighton Society was founded in April 1973 by John Morley, then Director of the Royal Pavilion, and Selma Montford.

They had also founded the Preston and Old Patcham Society in 1973 but felt that there was a need for a Society to deal with schemes which affect Brighton & Hove as a whole, for issues such as housing, new roads, public transport, traffic, shopping provision, new conservation areas and the character of neighbourhoods.

It was to be an amenity society, not just a conservation society. The aim was to be concerned with both the aesthetic and social issues involved in town planning. The Regency Society, Hove Civic Society and the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Association were already in existence, but they dealt almost exclusively with listed buildings, particularly the Regency seafront terraces, and the then few conservation areas.

The Society was formally launched at a public meeting to oppose British Rail’s plans to demolish Brighton Station and replace it with a 14-storey hotel, moving the station underground. Full support was given to the Save Our Station (SOS) group, who opposed the demolition of Brighton Station and an illegal office development on the adjoining site.

Thankfully the campaign against demolition was a success and Brighton Station was listed Grade II.

It took the Brighton Society two years to gain a seat on the Conservation Areas Advisory Group, which advised the Council on listed buildings and conservation areas. Subsequently the Society provided the Chair of the Group, Selma Montford, for more than two decades.


2010s

With members of the Conservation Area Advisory Group, we achieved an improved frontage to the planned new Royal Sussex County Hospital, having accepted that it was impossible to retain the Barry building.

In 2010 we commented on the draft planning brief for the Preston Road barracks site in the hope of retaining at least one of the buildings known as the Crimea War or Mannock buildings.

The listing of Saltdean Lido was upgraded to Grade ll* in 2011.  We supported the Save Saltdean Lido Campaign, a dynamic residents group, who embarked on a restoration of the Lido and updated the facilities, including heated water for the swimming pool. It reopened in July 2017.

We had been concerned about vandalism on The Level for many years. The Heritage Lottery Fund and Parks for People awarded £2m for its restoration and we were one of the stakeholder groups selected to provide feedback on the plans. The restoration was completed in 2013.

We commented on four areas of the crucial Council planning policy document the Brighton and Hove Plan: housing delivery, student housing, Park & Ride and transport options, and employment. Overall, except for transport, we considered the draft option papers had been well thought through.

In 2011 we commented on plans for the redevelopment of the north end of Queen Square with a hotel which would have seriously overlooked listed Wykeham Terrace. The plan was withdrawn

In 2012 we welcomed the proposals for Hannington Lane, a development of shops that had the potential to transform derelict areas behind North Street and Brighton Place. The use of traditional materials was an excellent decision and it was expected that the scheme would enhance the townscape of the existing buildings in the Lanes.

Not everyone supported our decision not to object to the demolition of the Timpson’s building in North Street to provide a twitten into the proposed new Hannington Lane. The new twitten has, however, allowed the pre-Regency Puget’s Cottage, previously concealed and constructed from an interesting mix of materials, to be retained and exposed.

In 2013 we made extensive criticisms of the application for two tower blocks to replace the long derelict Anston House in Preston Road.  The application was withdrawn at the last minute following a letter from us questioning the accuracy of the developer’s shadow plots for the overshadowing of Preston Park. These had been significantly underestimated and would have left the rose garden in shadow for much of the year.  The design of the vertical block of 15 storeys and the choice of materials were both unacceptable, particularly as they were sited so near the houses in Dyke Road Drive.

We joined other conservation societies in campaigning to retain the interesting frontage of the old Co-op department store on London Road. We were successful.

In 2013 we objected strongly to the plans for the proposed redevelopment of Circus Street on the grounds of gross overdevelopment, with tall black buildings surrounding sunless courtyards. Sadly, permission was granted.

The York Building

In 2013 we objected to proposals by City College to redevelop the east side of Pelham Street as part of their plan to develop and update their Pelham Street Campus.  The application was for “outline permission” which specified the demolition of the Trafalgar and York Buildings. We strongly objected to the proposals as we consider that the buildings contribute greatly to the townscape of this part of North Laine. The York building was the first secondary school built in Brighton and was one of the first secondary schools in the country. We tried to get this building added to the Local List but were not supported by the Conservation Officers.  Disappointingly, the Planning Committee passed the application.

The Trafalgar Building

2013 saw the closure the Brighton History Centre with all archive material transferred to the Keep.  We had campaigned to keep facilities for local history research in the city centre but to no avail.

A development brief was issued in 2014 by the Shoreham Harbour Port Authority, together with Adur and Brighton & Hove Councils, on which we commented extensively. We highlighted many opportunities for major improvements in the harbour area which, in our opinion had been overlooked.

In 2013 we submitted our applications for buildings to add to the Local List of buildings considered of interest and value in the townscape.  Schools and pubs were the main candidates. Many of our recommendations were accepted and joined the List in 2015.

The types of graffiti spreading in the city

We were concerned about the proliferation of ugly graffiti in North Laine and the city centre. Both tagging by vandals and commissioned “art” murals were taking over large areas. Committee members visited Chichester, where a graffiti problem had been successfully tackled, and we hoped to persuade the Council to take similar steps in Brighton and Hove.  Regrettably, our discussions with the Council did not lead to anything approaching Chichester’s proactive response.

In 2015 plans for converting the Hippodrome Theatre into a multi-screen cinema were withdrawn despite having received planning permission.  We had reluctantly supported the scheme, influenced by English Heritage, who considered the building was in serious decline.

In 2016 there were proposals to close Hove Library and move the facilities to Hove Museum.  We joined other campaigners to prevent the closure and were successful, with the Library even increasing its opening hours.

We strongly criticised the plans for the redevelopment of the Sackville Hotel site. These were subsequently much improved.

An extraordinary proposal to build a restaurant at the top of a tower above the Moshi Moshi restaurant in Bartholomew Square was passed by planning officers with no input from the Planning Committee.  Many members of the CAG made strong protests to the planners.

Members of our committee played an active part in preparing a new appraisal of the Old Town Conservation Area and are now members of the steering committee.

In 2016 we supported development of 78-79 West Street, 7-8 Middle Street, and part of Boyces Street for residential, a hostel and a hotel. Sympathetic to existing adjacent buildings, we considered the overall design of the scheme refreshingly high quality.

We objected to an application for a private members’ club on the Aquarium Terraces as it would block views of the seafront from Marine Parade and restrict public access to the Terraces. Unfortunately, the Council granted approval.

In 2016 we tried to open up a dialogue between consultants with extensive experience of repairing historic iron structures and Council representatives in charge of the restoration of Madeira Terrace.  Our efforts came to nothing and the Terraces declined further, now with high security fencing along the whole length of Madeira Drive.

The further application in 2017 for the Anston House site – three tower blocks up to 15 storeys high – was approved. We had submitted a 12-page objection as the proposed development did not comply with numerous planning policies and would dominate Preston Park.  The decision to approve this scheme has driven massive holes through existing planning policies – and all to meet government housing targets come what may.

Anston House – the 3 proposed tower blocks

In 2018 we detailed our concerns with the proliferation of proposed tall buildings across the city. In the following years we submitted detailed objections to the tall buildings up to 18 storeys on the Preston Barracks site, the 18 storey building on an elevated position in New England Street, the 16 storey building in Newtown Road, Hove, and the dense development of tall blocks up to 16 storeys on the Sackville Trading Estate.

The graffiti problems were increasing across the city. We continued to try to open up a constructive dialogue with the Council in an effort to agree a policy to recognise the problem and implement policies to discourage the proliferation of graffiti that was bringing such damage to the appearance of the city. This proved to be a difficult process and we continue with our efforts to get the council to recognise the scale of the problem.

IN 2019 a new scheme was submitted for Brighton Marina, this time for 1000 flats in a development of nine tall and bulky building ranging from eight to 28 storeys. A truly awful ugly scheme that would block views of the sea and would dominate the area.  We submitted detailed objections to the development.


2000s

The future of the Essoldo Cinema building in North Street had been under threat for some time.  It opened as the 2000 seat Imperial Theatre in 1940 and it had the potential to accommodate touring companies as a lyric theatre.  The Council even purchased land behind the theatre to ensure that its facilities could be expanded.  But it was converted to a cinema in the 1950s and a bingo hall in the 1960s, followed by a further decline to a theme bar. Proposals were put forward to demolish the building along with an adjacent bank, replacing them with three warehouse-type retail units.  The Brighton Society – along with many others including the Theatres Trust and even Cameron Mackintosh – tried to save the building. However, the Council could not identify a feasible way to finance the theatre so, in 2000, reluctantly gave permission for the development.

Our major objections to the Local Plan were a supermarket on the Brighton Station site, a Park & Ride site at Waterhall and high-tech offices on the site of Patcham Court Farm.

We welcomed Article 4 Directions in several Conservation Areas, providing new controls over changes to the fronts of houses.

In 2001 we objected to the enabling scheme for huge glass boxes at the root end of the West Pier, intended to fund the repair of the Pier.

A giant Tesco supermarket was proposed on the Hove gas-works site. We tried to save the 19th Century manager’s house and the very impressive flint wall along New Church Road, but permission was given including complete demolition of the site.

One developer proposed four unacceptable schemes: a tower apartment block on the Endeavour Garage site in Preston Road, an eight-storey yellow ‘Banana’ building in North Road, an arrogant high-rise at 1A Connaught Road and the King Alfred scheme. The first two schemes were dropped, 1A Connaught Road was unfortunately built but the King Alfred development thankfully failed to gain planning permission.

The proposed Endeavour Tower

During 2003 several versions of a high-rise development had been put forward for the Endeavour Garage site. They were all for a massive metal clad building 16 storeys high, which would have towered over the railway viaduct next to the site and dominated the whole of the Preston area.  During the year the proposals for the top of the tower changed from a drum to a cube to an octagon and the colours changed from silver to gold.  The Brighton Society arranged meetings and encouraged residents to write letters of objection (no emails in those days). The letters of objection ran into many hundreds, there being substantial opposition to the development.  Meetings were called during the year and the final public meeting took place in the Sallis Benney Theatre where the architect, Piers Gough, tried to defend his design. The meeting was packed with residents and the atmosphere at times became very heated.  A few days later the developer withdrew the scheme before its final consideration by the Planning Committee. It was reported at the time that Piers Gough said that he would never work in Brighton again.

We welcomed the detailed proposals for the restoration of Stanmer House. Over the following years some excellent work took place restoring the whole building.

The grade I listed West Pier was burnt down as a result of two arson attacks. An island skeletal structure remains as its memorial.

In spite of a well-designed tower, we were worried about the density of the scheme put forward by the developer, Brunswick, for the outer harbour of the Marina.

Overall, we were pleased with the design and green credentials of the newly built Jubilee Library.

In 2004 we organised a meeting of amenity societies with the new Head of Planning, Martin Randall.

We are appalled by the scale of the i360 tower at the foot of Regency Square, which we considered would make the Square look like Toytown.

The proposed Beetham Tower

Liverpool based developers, Beetham, put forward plans to build a 42-storey residential tower next to Brighton Station. It would have had a similar appearance to the Beetham Tower in Manchester, designed by the architect Ian Simpson. The tower dominates the city and would have had a similar presence on Brighton. In 2006 the appeal against the Council’s refusal of permission took place in Brighton Town Hall.  The developer spent a great deal of money on their legal team, which included a QC as lead barrister.  We joined the Council and the North Laine Community Association at the inquiry. The Council had a solicitor to give their evidence, we had no such costly assistance.  And there was no help from English Heritage. who withdrew their objections before the Inquiry.  However, sense prevailed and the appeal was dismissed by the Inspector, who quoted the evidence provided by the Brighton Society Chairman in his report. The Council subsequently thanked the Society for the support we had given them.

We also supported SaveHove and the Regency Society in their campaigns against the bizarre Frank Gehry scheme for the King Alfred, a prime example of bad planning.  The Council gave the scheme planning permission in 2007 but fortunately it was killed by the credit crunch.

The proposed design following demolition of the hospital building

When the NHS vacated the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital in Dyke Road in 1986, Taylor Wimpey purchased the site for development.  Their aim was to demolish all the old hospital buildings and construct blocks of flats across the site.  There were long arguments between conservation groups, the Council and Taylor Wimpey over the following years.  Many arguments centred on the viability of converting the main hospital building and the level of social housing. Eventually in 2008 an application to demolish the hospital buildings and build blocks of flats was considered by the Planning Committee.  The Committee refused the application despite the officer’s recommendations for approval.  The developer appealed and a Public Inquiry took place in 2009.  Just before the start of the Inquiry it was discovered that Council officers had agreed at a meeting with the developer that, in principle, the buildings could be demolished.  The Council’s QC realised that he could not then oppose demolition but would still do what he could to help the societies opposing demolition.  The Montpelier and Clifton Hill Association (MCHA) then took on the role of leading the opposition to the appeal.  The developer had appointed a QC with a strong legal team, the Council had appointed a QC, now with a weakened case and, with just a few days to prepare,  the MCHA had to organise and lead the opposition without costly legal backing – an immense task. A few months later, the Inspector gave his decision – rejection of the appeal – a deserved outcome for the opposition.  Of interest to the Brighton Society were the Inspector’s comments on our evidence detailing the history of the hospital in terms of childcare and, in particular, the pioneering care of children with tuberculosis.  He thought that such evidence was entirely relevant – evidence that the developer’s QC had regarded as irrelevant. A few years later, the hospital was expertly converted for housing and the grounds were used for low-rise blocks of flats.  Flats in the converted building were very popular, providing high returns for the developer.

The restored hospital building incorporating the balconies used for the treatment of children with tuberculosis

We welcomed the designation of the Carlton Hill Conservation area.

In 2008, after 30 years of campaigning by the Brighton Society for the restoration of the Birdcage Bandstand, it was expertly restored to a high standard. The Birdcage Bandstand was chosen to be the logo for the Brighton Society from the society’s inception and remains so today. A beautiful building that is so unique to Brighton.

In 2006 substantial government funding suddenly became available for updating sixth form colleges. We objected to the proposal to completely demolish Varndean College and replace it with a new building. We also attempted to get it listed but with no success.  There was a real possibility that this outstanding building could be demolished.  We supported the extension to the Brighton & Hove Sixth Form College (BHASVIC) which was sympathetic to the existing buildings.  In 2009 the funding was suddenly withdrawn so neither scheme went ahead.

We objected to proposals to add glass boxes for residences on top of the roof of the listed Georgian Old Market in Brunswick Town. In this we were supported by the Brunswick and Adelaide Residents’ Group and, at national level, by the Georgian Group. Following refusal by the Planning Committee, an appeal was launched but was turned down.

In 2009 we were successful in getting the Connaught Road Board School listed Grade II. We were supported by the Victorian Society and English Heritage. The process to gain listing had involved a great deal of research which had revealed the huge contribution Thomas Simpson had made to education in Brighton and Hove during the late 19th Century.  A blue plaque detailing Simpson’s work was erected on the building in 2017. The successful listing also led to the building being restored and returned to use as a Primary School.  

The Brighton Society was the winner of the ‘Best Civic Society website’ in 2009.

The Brighton Society supported the Save Saltdean Lido campaign to oppose demolition of the Grade II listed Lido and its upgrade to Grade to II*.

We joined with several other local societies to oppose the closure of the History Centre at Brighton Museum. We were successful but sadly this turned out to be only a temporary reprieve.


1990s

For some time the Council had been involved in encouraging the development of Princes Street for a massive office building which  would have resulted in the demolition of the Parochial Offices (used for many years as a registry office) and many 19th Century houses.  In 1990 a planning application had been submitted for a massive office development – 50% more than the Borough Plan had specified for the site.  The Council owned the building and the land so a substantial financial return was a significant element in the decision making. The Society, in conjunction with English Heritage, wrote to the Secretary of State requesting intervention before the Council gave full planning permission.  With minutes to spare before the meeting of the Planning Committee, the Secretary of State directed that planning permission be withheld pending his further consideration. A Public Inquiry followed with the Department of the Environment inviting The Brighton Society to take part. The Secretary of State refused permission for the demolition of the Parochial Offices.  A great victory! The building was restored and converted to flats.

Parochial offices following restoration

In 1990 the Clarence Hotel in North Street nearly collapsed following contractors removing too many internal walls.  The front wall started to become very unstable and a massive shoring structure had to be erected in North Street, closing the road for months.  When the emergency strengthening works were completed, it was discovered that the contractor, as part of the structural works, had created a shop front sized void at ground level on the front elevation.  The developer had always wanted to create a shop on the front elevation of this historic listed coaching inn and the Planning Committee ended up having to consider a proposed shop that had appeared following the near collapse.  The Brighton Society asked a series of questions querying how this situation had arisen and the extent of internal damage that had occurred.  Replies from the Council were somewhat evasive.

In 1991 developers submitted plans for a large development between West Street, Middle Street and Boyces Street. We objected on the grounds of overdevelopment, in particular the height of the buildings relative to the buildings in the adjacent Lanes. Another Public Inquiry was called at which we gave evidence alongside English Heritage.  The scheme was withdrawn and a more sympathetic development built ten years later.

In 1992 the Council held a public consultation on improvements to the lower promenade between the piers to which we contributed our ideas. The lower promenade had become quite run down, even an area to avoid after dark.   In 1993 a start was made on improving facilities and today the beach level has become a vibrant part of the seafront.

We had been concerned about the length of time that a façade had been propped up with scaffolding at 23 to 25 Gloucester Place.  Permission for a development behind the façade had been given by the Council but the scaffolding had been in place for some years and was beginning to show extensive rusting. We detailed our concerns regarding the stability of the structure but the scaffolding was not strengthened and no development took place.  The Council eventually concluded that the whole structure had become unsafe and the façade was demolished. A new building was erected and the old façade with all its detail was lost.

In 1993 we objected to a County Council proposal for a new building positioned in front of the impressive long façade of Varndean School in Balfour Road.  We even received confirmation from the County Planners confirming that they were very concerned about blocking views of the original façade. However, the development went ahead, sadly followed by other buildings which have now almost completely blocked the view of Varndean School’s impressive façade.

The heavily criticised design for the new library

In 1994 we welcomed new scaled down plans for the Jubilee Street site. Previous plans to include an ice rink and car park had been dropped and replaced by a new public library. Importantly, the small-scale buildings in Church Street were to be retained.  Discussion and proposals for the new library were to follow a contorted process over the following years. East Sussex County Council, who oversaw libraries at this time, had by the end of the year produced plans for six possible alternative schemes and decided on the winning design.  However, this design was not well received, with the County Planning Officer highly critical.  The County Architects were asked to produce a second scheme to be considered by the County Council and Brighton Council in January 1995. This version was criticised even more, with English Heritage describing it as “redolent of a speculative office block rather than a public library”.  The Brighton Society was also highly critical of the poor quality of design.  We attempted to get the application called in to trigger a Public Inquiry.  This was successful but by this time financing the project had been confounded by the transfer of responsibility for libraries from the County Council to Brighton Council.  Brighton Council faced problems financing a new library, hopes for which duly receded, only to be revived in the following decade.

We repeatedly objected to the Council’s scheme to put a supermarket and Park & Ride site on Patcham Court Farm.

The Regency and Brighton Societies were successful in getting Marlborough House upgraded from Grade II to Grade I. A Public Inquiry into its use as a public house was held and the scheme dismissed. Sadly this historic building has stood empty of many years.

In 1998 we gave evidence on the impact of a supermarket and surface car park adjacent to St Bartholomew’s church at the Public Inquiry into proposals for the Brighton Station site. This was subsequently one of the reasons the Inspector gave for dismissing the first scheme. We supported local societies in their opposition to the scheme and their stance at the Public Inquiry.

We welcomed Article 4 Directions in several Conservation Areas, providing new controls over changes to the fronts of houses.

In 1999 we organised a meeting between amenity societies and Alan McCarthy, Director of Environmental Services.


1980s

The first leaflets were published – A Walk around the Best of Brighton and The Craftsmen & Materials for the Care of Old Houses.

In 1980 we gave evidence at the Public Inquiry into the multi-storey car park in King Street at which we were given the opportunity to cross-examine Council Officers and Councillors.  Sadly, the scheme was eventually allowed.  A multi-storey car park was a relic of the Wilson Womersley Scheme which somehow survived.  The few houses remaining in King Street show what was lost through demolition while, when viewed from Church Street, the car park remains an eyesore.

The Manifold Charitable Trust awarded a grant to the Society to publish a paper on Brighton’s derelict sites.

In 1981 we gave evidence at the Public Inquiry into the Brighton By-Pass and were granted the opportunity to cross-examine several witnesses.  There was much support to build a tunnel at Old Boat Corner, which would have preserved much of the landscape on the ridge at the top of Stanmer Park, but this was rejected by the Department of Transport.

The dreary entrance to the hotel. The promise of the view of the sea should never have been believed.

In 1982 we strongly opposed plans for a seafront hotel built across Lower Market Street, radically changing the historic old town road pattern leading to the sea and obliterating views of and reflected light from the sea. Regrettably, the Council continued to support the development, citing the developer’s promise that views of the sea would be seen through the open foyer of the hotel. This never materialised and the front entrance of the hotel facing Bartholomew Square has remained a very sterile and sunless area.

A successful campaign resulted in the preserving of North Place after there had been several attempts to demolish this historic area of the town.

We supported the Council at the Public Inquiry into the pedestrianisation of Duke Street and campaigned to get the Victory Pub listed, putting forward a strong case for the listing to include the impressive display shelving behind the bar. Listing of interiors was quite a rare occurrence. We were successful with the pub listed as Grade ll, including interior listing of the bar – “Good late C19 bar-back of 3 bays and 3 shelves with turned balusters, entablature and scrolled pediment to centre”.

We arranged a meeting of amenity societies and residents’ groups to listen to the ideas for Brighton from Peter Robottom, the new Planning Officer.

In 1986 we were concerned about the Council’s intention to demolish Roedale Farm in Hollingdean and to build 81 flats in a tower on the site. The RIBA Community Architecture grant of £700 was awarded to the Society to commission a feasibility study for a housing scheme which included the retention of the farm. In 1992 Brighton Housing Trust put forward a proposal for 38 low-rise flats based on our feasibility study. The Council gave their approval, including retention of the forge.

At the second attempt, the Society succeeded in getting the Diocesan Training College in Ditchling Road listed. However, our applications for listing the Parochial Offices in Prince’s Street and the Tower House in Preston Road were rejected.

The Society joined with many groups opposing the replacement of paved footpaths with black tarmac which was being carried out by East Sussex County Council – the highways authority at the time.  Even the local paper, The Leader, joined the campaign. The policy was abandoned.

With a grant from the Department of the Environment, we published a leaflet of Environmental Information for Brighton & Hove. A further leaflet, New Windows for Old, was published to show the damage done to old buildings by the insertion of inappropriate modern windows, particularly uPVC double glazing.

In 1986 there were proposals to demolish the south side of Prince Albert Street in the Lanes as part of the redevelopment of the Old Market, opposite the Town Hall, for new Council offices.  Only the façades of the historic old buildings would have remained.  The Society strongly opposed the proposals, predicting that any attempt at façade retention would result in the total collapse of the whole terrace.  The Council eventually revised the development and the buildings remained intact.

In 1987 the Council proposed to demolish 24 to 33 Terminus Road and build new houses and flats.  One of the reasons given for this development was the poor structural condition of the buildings.  We queried the basis of the decision, in particular the report detailing the structural condition of the buildings. Amendments were made to the final scheme that was built a few years later.

The Great Storm of October 1987 uprooted thousands of trees across Brighton and Hove.  The Society was heavily involved over the next year ensuring that the emergency funding was used to plant suitable replacement trees in the parks and that a scheme for planting new street trees was implemented.

In 1988 we campaigned with the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Association to change ‘Breeze into Brighton’ (a scheme to encourage cars into the town centre) into ‘Freeze the Breeze’ (to limit the number of cars in the town centre). The ‘Breeze into Brighton’ scheme was abandoned.

In 1988 we objected to the development of the Walter Gillett site on Nile Street and Market Street.  Walter Gillett were printers and stationers with a large printing works in Nile Street and stationery shop in Market street.  All the buildings were demolished for new shops and residential buildings.  The Society objected to the large drum-like building on the corner of Nile Street and Market Street.  We were unsuccessful.  The building still looks completely out of place.

The Patchings builders yard entrance

In 1989 extensive demolition took place in the Church Road and Portland Street area, destroying many 18th century cottages. The clearance of the site was in preparation for the construction of a large office building in Portland Street. The Society had opposed the proposed development since the demolition would destroy historic cottages and would force the closure of many small businesses. The most significant loss was Blaber’s Iron Foundry, which at the time was a thriving company producing metal castings using traditional sand moulding techniques. The local paper quoted a Council spokesperson who “could not understand what the fuss was all about”. The site is still derelict – the offices were never built. 

Blabers Iron Foundry, Portland Street


1970s

One of the first major schemes that concerned us was the Wilson Womersley Plan which, in the mid-1960s, proposed an elevated motorway from Preston Circus across North Laine to a multi-storey car park in Church Street. This involved the demolition of 700 houses in the Preston Circus and North Laine areas. The RIBA supported the scheme as they considered that only four buildings in North Laine, now a thriving community and a Conservation Area, were worth saving. Fortunately, government policies changed and wholesale demolition of homes was no longer acceptable.

The proposed flyover over North Road and Trafalgar Street

In 1974 we published a leaflet, Brighton Going?, which provided details of the many buildings that were under threat of demolition. A further publication was The Craftsmen & Materials for the Care of Old Houses which provided advice on the restoration of houses.

We opposed the Department of the Environment’s A27 Brighton By-Pass proposals and called for an improvement to public transport and restraint on the use of cars in the town centre.

We were successful in getting the Preston Road and the Lewes Road Viaducts listed.  It was hoped to see the latter as a walkway across the town but it was subsequently demolished to make way for a Sainsbury’s supermarket.

The listed Percy & Wagner Almshouses at the bottom of Islingword Road, were in poor condition – and it was proposed that the whole terrace should be demolished. We were successful in getting the Department of the Environment to refuse listed building consent for demolition that the council had approved. This prevented the imminent demolition of the terrace, which subsequently underwent extensive restoration.

We helped to launch a ‘Save the West Pier Campaign’. The Society was supported by the Victorian Society and the Royal Fine Art Commission.

We worked with the Black Rock Action Group to save Black Rock Swimming Pool and to get it listed. The buildings had become extremely derelict and the Council said that the pool had major leakage problems which would be very costly to repair.  It was strongly contended at the time that the heavy construction work on the adjacent Marina works had caused the leakage in the pool.  Most of the buildings were demolished in 1978.

Jubille Street Scheme from Brighton Council information leaflet 1975

In 1975 the Council was proposing to develop an area north of Church Street to build a new town hall and civic centre with a library, swimming pool, offices and residences. Following the fashion at the time, it was a brutalist design. The buildings opposite the museum in Church Street would have all been demolished.  The Brighton Society opposed the various schemes put forward over the years and the Jubilee Street scheme was eventually dropped by the Council in 1985. By this time the area had become much neglected and consequently was used as temporary car parks for decades.