Madeira Terrace – the case for conservation expertise
A call for refinement of approach to restoration
In response to publicity campaigns and media reports promoting or featuring the People’s Boxpark idea, the current leader of the city council has publicly, and in print, indicated that no developers’ proposals for the Madeira Terrace are at present being invited or encouraged by the council while the engineering situation is under examination.
This has been confirmed explicitly by the council’s chief officer responsible for overseeing major development and infrastructure projects. At a forum event in November, arranged and hosted by the Regency Society, and open to the public as well as their membership, Nick Hibberd made this plain and reaffirmed the policy to continue to seek funding for a renewal of the Madeira Walk arches and the Terrace overhead.
At the forum, staged specifically to address the topic of the Terrace’s future, Malcolm Dawes, structural engineer and committee member of the Brighton Society, showed and explained illustrations of the technical issues in the Terrace, and traced the exact history of engineering reports on it through recent decades – a history researched by Malcolm based on documentation obtained from the council by Nick Tyson. This enabled him to explain why the consultants made decisions on gradually closing access to the decking and the final closure of the whole terrace following the erection of the fence.
Ed Morton, cast iron heritage and restoration specialist, presented an illustrated account of the methods involved in the analysis and treatment of historic structures of this nature. Mr Morton is no ordinary expert in this field. His company is the appointed consultancy responsible for major repairs to roofs of the Palace of Westminster, and has experience of works on numerous significant structures elsewhere.
On the question of the Madeira Terrace, Ed Morton was clear and firm not only in his high regard for the unique and impressive character of the structure – whose listed status of grade 2 he believed ought to be grade 2* – but also in his advice about the management of its requirements. His definite recommendation was that a full conservation investigation and assessment should be undertaken in preparation for decisions on the approach and priorities to be applied to the method, materials and funding of a restoration. In other words, the council should think again, before pursuing a costly and risky course of works set in train by recent deficient engineering reports.