Royal Pavilion Gardens Pavilion Buildings Objection
4 December 2023
Dear Steven Dover (Case Officer)
Please acknowledge, register and upload as objection from the Brighton Society.
BH2023/02835 & BH2023/02836 Royal Pavilion Gardens Pavilion Buildings
Although we welcome improvements to the gardens, there are some aspects of the proposals with which we do not agree.
Proposed railings and gates: The RPMT website states that “RPMT is dedicated to preserving its historic buildings and collections, which will be even more accessible in the future”. It is very hard to see how 7’ high railings that limit public access meets their charitable objectives, or the aims to “make the facilities more accessible” in the future. Free and unrestricted access to the gardens for the people of the city is vital as well as a space to stop and relax and enjoy the natural environment.
The Council has been supportive of access concerns. Their Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee discussed the NLHF application on 4 August 2023 and agreed to require RPMT to maintain 24-hour access. The relevant paragraphs state: “Significantly, our Administration has also decided that 24-hour access to the Gardens must be retained. This is a public park and it must remain public. Once a lockable gate is built, whatever the original intention, it would have begun a slide towards the Gardens being closed off to the public for events and fundamentally change the nature of this majestic public realm. We recognise concerns about ASB in the Gardens and surrounding areas which is why we are now pressing ahead with plans to bring partners together to address this issue and its underlying complexities, including identifying greater funding to tackle the challenge. Benches and gardens don’t create ASB and removing them doesn’t end it, it merely displaces it. We need a proper strategy to tackle street homelessness, addiction and mental health.”
This begs the question: if the gates are open at night, what is the point of installing them? Historic England’s Easy Access to Historic Landscapes states that “a balance has to be struck between improving accessing and conserving historic character and fabric. Access can often be significantly enhanced without major interventions.” We believe that installing high railings would be a major intervention, particularly that a large proportion of the funding would be spent on the railings.
Fencing and gating the gardens would send an evocative message to residents and visitors that the gardens are private and not for general public access and enjoyment. We are concerned that the railings would form a visual and psychological barrier between the community and the garden. RMPT’s reference to closing the gardens at night to safeguard against ASB is unconvincing. Railings do not deter people from climbing over them, and ASB occurs across the whole of central Brighton, day and night.
The purpose of RPMT’s funding bid is to remove the gardens from Heritage England’s ‘At Risk Register’ which cites poor management and design since the 1990 restoration, high visitor traffic, disparate and unsympathetic infrastructure/furniture, and later insertions and temporary events’ rather than anti-social activity and open access being the issues which is not mentioned.
There has been ongoing debate and confusion around the crime figures which have heightened disproportional fear and uncertainty amongst locals and the wider public. Littering, often of foul and/or dangerous nature, and destructive behaviour are a real issue, but these issues should not be conflated with violent crime and sexual assault figures as is often being presented.
Recent evidence shows an extremely high crime rate in Central Brighton as a whole, rather than the Gardens in particular.
Earlier this year North Laine Community Association (NLCA) Trustees liaised with Sussex Police who advised that ‘Sussex Police recorded 63 crimes in (the vicinity of) Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, for the year ending June 2022, which included 3 sexual offences and 16 of violence against the person’.
There were two very significant incidents in the Gardens over the last few years: in June 2021 the rape of a 17 year old girl, by two men, one of whom knew her. Passers-by had to intervene to protect her, and August 2018 – the attempted murder of a rough sleeper by another, said by police to be ‘isolated to the street community in Brighton’.
A response to the NLCA 29 November 2022 from Abigail Thomas, Deputy CEO and COO of RMPT to a query about crime levels said that ‘The Pavilion Garden is one of the eight ‘High Harm Spots in Brighton and Hove’ but her accompanying figures were for the whole of North Laine, not just the Gardens. It is clear that this is a city-wide problem, which the closure of the Gardens may well exacerbate in surrounding streets.
We would suggest that the cost of day and night wardens over a 10 year period would be lower than the cost of the railings. People would continue to have access to the gardens at all times and feel safer due to visible presence of wardens.
Views: Most of the drawings are from the interior of the gardens. Views from outside will be compromised by the tall railings and will be seen as a barrier and not ‘welcoming and accessible’ as stated. At night they will be seen as a ‘no go’ area.
Private events: We have concerns regarding proposals to close the gardens for private events as RMPT state and night-time closures will provide opportunities to develop future commercial activity. We would ask:
1) what would these events consist of
2) for how long and how many each year
3) how much would they cost the public
4) how much money would have to be set aside to refurbish the lawns after such events (look at what happened with Valley Gardens)
City Plan Part 2, Policy DM32 para 3 includes: temporary uses or events within the gardens will be assessed against the policy with particular regard to a) the role of the gardens as a setting for the listed buildings, b) the protection of key views. Holding events would compromise this Policy as the harm caused would outweigh any benefit to the Estate. Views would be compromised as they are for two months for the annual ice rink installation.
Proposed improvements: We agree that improved inner protective railings at an appropriate height, improved pathways, lighting levels, improved irrigation and waste disposal and better facilities for the gardening staff are essential as long as these are carried out sensitively and regularly maintained. Alterations to the gardens should not have a negative impact on the setting of the Pavilion.
As there is a conflict of interest between access and conservation this needs to be reconciled through creative and sensitive design.
Assurance needs to be provided that the 19 Grade II Listed lamp posts along with the remainder of lamp posts that are of similar design are restored and protected as well as historic walls, railings and gates that are currently in place.
Trees: We are concerned about the removal of some trees and would question if this is necessary. The Gardens are the ‘green lung’ of this city centre site. Trees are not only vital for our well-being, but are precious. Pruning would be adequate.
Remodelling of existing public WC block :We are pleased that the block will not be demolished. However, we note from the new modelling that there will only be five toilets plus one changing places toilet provided, whereas there are eleven currently. With the high number of visitors in the area we suggest removing the unnecessary kiosk element to provide more toilet facilities.
To reduce incidents of tagging the use of anti-graffiti coatings should be considered. These coatings effectively prevent graffiti from adhering to or damaging the surface and allow swift removal should tagging occur.
The Pavilion Café : It is unclear from the diagrams whether the area in front of the café that is used for tables and chairs is being reduced, or not. We would not wish to see any reduction as this space and thoroughfare is important for the café as well as the local community.
The bin store area should not be located closer to the cafe.
In light of the above we object to this proposal in its current form.
The Brighton Society