When will work actually start on the restoration of Madeira Terrace?
The railings are now severely corroded as no maintenance has been carried out for at least 20 years – there was a time when the Terrace ironwork was regularly painted to prevent rusting of the joints.
We last wrote about the proposed restoration 18 months ago when we concluded that the proposed timetable was in doubt. Sadly, our concerns were correct and the latest statement from the council estimates that the restoration will not start until 2023 at the earliest.
We have seen the following statements from Phelim Mac Cafferty, leader of the council, as reported in the local press.
He described the project as “complex” with a “wide range of issues and challenges” which needed to be resolved. He said, “It is essential that the correct contractors and professionals are engaged to progress the project and to ensure the project progresses effectively”. Owing to the structure’s Grade II* listing, the development requires contractors with “specialist skills” to carry out the work. The current timeframe for the first 41 arches will see the planning application submitted in spring this year.
Failure of one of the posts due to corrosion forcing apart the joints. This section is now close to complete failure. And it seems that no urgent work is planned. What state will the Terrace be in after more winters of heavy corrosion?
A fully detailed planning application to be submitted in a few weeks’ time seems unrealistic considering that the “expert professionals” have not even been appointed. And of course, if this does not occur then restoration starting in 2023 must be in doubt.
So, what on earth has been going on for the last few years with the Terraces locked away behind security fencing? In view of Councillor Mac Cafferty’s statement, it seems unbelievable that four years ago the Brighton Society was involved with organising meetings to offer expert advice on the restoration. In 2018 we joined with Nick Tyson, an architectural expert and owner of the Regency Town House, and the Regency Society, to hold discussions with a structural engineering consultant and contractor who had worked on the restoration of many historic iron structures in the UK, including the Albert Memorial.
We arranged meetings attended by the expert consultant and contractor with the council, including Nick Hibberd, the officer responsible for the proposed work on Madeira Terrace. The one critical recommendation from the experts was that any successful restoration of an historic iron structure had to start with the early appointment of supervising engineer, specialist contractor and a foundry so that the condition of the structure could be assessed, methodology agreed, and detailed costs finalised.
Starting early and having an agreed relationship between the companies involved would mean that the quality of the restoration would be assured. The overall cost for the contract would be much less than appointing expensive consultants who would delegate the work, resulting in greater costs as such delegation to sub-contractors would result in a poor control over quality.
It is therefore utterly frustrating and disappointing to realise that all the work and advice that was provided 4 years ago has been ignored. The critical recommendation that a specialist consultant and contractor should be appointed at the beginning of the process and to be wary of appointing large non specialist consultants was ignored as at the last count 8 expensive consultants have been appointed. Their fees must be a significant drain on the finance of the project.
Four years after we arranged the meetings with restoration experts, to find out that the work on the Terrace was being delayed because “It is essential that the correct contractors and professionals are engaged” – the advice we provided 4 years ago – just leaves you with a feeling of total despair at this failure of the Council to listen to the advice of knowledgeable members of amenity societies and the experts on the restoration of historical iron structures.