Tue 07 Oct 2014
Building Opinions: Tall buildings in Brighton and Hove
When the Grand Hotel opened on the seafront in Brighton in 1964, it was the town’s tallest building. St John the Baptist’s Church beside Palmeira Square became the tallest in Hove when it opened in 1870. Tall buildings were off to a good start.
It is hard to identify exactly when feelings hardened, but there is certainly a mood against tall buildings presently.
We saw opposition to a building of just 13 storeys throughout the Circus Street planning process. Planning applications for tall buildings are fought tooth and nail, and usually fail at some point in the process. The long list of unrealised dreams includes proposals for towers at the King Alfred, Brighton Station, Medina House and Brighton Marina.
The tallest building in Brighton and Hove today is Sussex Heights, at 102m. It was completed in 1968 and consists of 24 occupied floors and 116 flats. Next is Chartwell Court, and then Theobald House. To put this into perspective, the tallest building in Sussex is Shoreham Power Station at 106m (and the tallest in the world is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 828m).
Brighton and Hove City Council defines new tall buildings as those which are 18m or over, which is approximately six storeys. With that in mind, the tall buildings of the 1930s were a success. Embassy Court, Furze Croft, 4 Grand Avenue and the others are each both architecturally-acclaimed and, just as importantly, popular.
Opposition to tall buildings – towers in particular – is hard to explain. First and foremost, it boils down to the quality of those which we have already. Sussex Heights, which I once very much enjoyed as my home, has no decorum at ground level. Like Chartwell Court and Theobald House, it was built on top of something else. The blocks on Grand Avenue are most unimaginative, but at least they are managed well. Those near Hove Station or beside Edward Street are both ugly and badly-run. The council proposed a collection of ‘nodes’ and ‘corridors’ in 2003, which made sense. Little has flowed from this though. I would particularly like to see groups of tall buildings opposite Preston Park and others surrounding the new Circus Street development.
The proposed i360, at 172m, has a chance to change local public opinion about tall buildings. Having lived in a tall building, I know how incredible the views can be, even from just above normal roof level.