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Home » Editor's Pick, Features, Top Story

Developments On The Seafront

Published by on Friday, 18 September 200910 Comments

Valerie PaynterMost residents know that a viewing pod on a pole, cunningly labelled the “i360” to suggest it is cool, is scheduled to be built any time now, on the seafront, up where the West Pier kiosks moulder.  In fact, planning consent for “the i360” expires on October 25th and they have still to cobble together the last £20 million needed to proceed (one has heard). Unsatisfied Conditions of Planning Consent (one of which involves the Brighton Sailing Club) will further block a start any time soon.  And the West Pier cadaver crumbles on.

Replacement vultures are circling, however, directly threatening the future of the last of the organised boating activities still allowed to occupy and use Brighton beach between the piers – sailing.

Over the summer The Argus splashed with news of a 60 metre, spoke-less steel ring with observation capsules which developers propose putting on the seafront, right alongside the Brighton Sailing Club & just below the boarded-up West Pier kiosks (24.7.09). This glorified Ferris wheel would, either on its own, or in tandem with the “i360”, create disturbing and surreal visual noise right in front of our prized Metropole and Grand hotels. Who in their right mind would still book expensive, prestige rooms in either hotel once sea views are blocked by vast airborne gewgaws, supported on the ground by bulky, noisy fairground mechanics?

The Argus also informed us that no further Party Conferences are expected to book the Brighton Centre after this year’s Labour Party Conference (with fringe meetings and lodgings booked into and around the Metropole and Grand hotels). And the Brighton Centre alone is blamed. The identified need is to have it demolished with a mega-treat, connected to Churchill Square at the back, put up in its place.

I don’t buy that the loss of the seafront conference trade is just about The Brighton Centre facilities. Brighton itself is a contributing factor.

Drugs, alcohol, clubs and an over-reliance on transient youth & student culture have all left their indelible mark on Brighton (less so on Hove). Brighton is the destination of choice for the human equivalent of graffiti & there is an obvious gearing of commercial activity and investment that caters to them (and, sadly, I include the annual Pride carnival in this category along with Fat Boy Slim on the beach). Gotta get the kids in, right? Gotta stay on message and keep selling “vibrant” & “diverse”, right? I could write a whole essay on the disvalued diversity now lost to Brighton & Hove forever.

The economy now seems locked into vulgar, chav and “vibrant” mode. How are the “i360” and proposed “Brighton O” better than that? What kind of moneyspinners can they realistically expect to be? Are the views over the city really so special? When the sea air causes it to rust or crust, the “Brighton O” can be moved off (transportable) but the “i360” is to be driven into the fissured chalk to quite a depth to accommodate the 4-metre diameter & extremely tall central pole above ground with its pod going up and down, up and down. Planning consent did not ask for, require, or get any information on how the devil you decommission the “i360” when the time comes …
If Brighton per se and the Brighton Centre can’t deliver class, gravitas, culture, ambience, or whatever political parties need to hold their annual conferences here, why would the kind of person with the kind of money to book a room at the Grand Hotel come here either? What is the city per se, doing to sell itself as a good host to the kind of person these hotels need to bring in if they are to survive?

Brighton & Hove were once the destination of choice for royalty & the wealthy, dignified high rollers? What is offered now for the kind of visitor who reveres and wants to wallow in the grand Regency seafront Brighton & Hove possesses? If I may borrow from The Doors’ Jim Morrison: “what have we done to our fair city”?

And how does it change tack?

Grand Hotel, BrightonDirectly below the Grand and Metropole hotels, based in the seafront arches, are a kayak club and the Brighton Sailing Club. By the club entrances the wall-mounted remains of Royal National Life Boat signs remind us this was once an RNLI station. Not so long ago, fish were sold direct from catches on this section of beach where fishermen also kept their boats. Moved along. Gone to the Shoreham harbour area now. Some are moored at the Marina. Not sophisticated enough, perhaps, for the City-by-the-Sea craving urban bling.

Looking at what Brighton & Hove City Council have done with the seafront over recent years, it is clear that a march of facilities and space-gobbling public art has steadily made its way towards the Brighton Sailing Club from the Brighton Pier (still the Palace Pier to many of us), whilst making no concessions to the long-held boating traditions around this spot whatsover. I’m told the boats keep getting moved further up the beach. Pesky boats. Tsk. And I sense that the Sailing Club is being left behind, that it too is in real danger of being edged out and pushed off the beach altogether.

One can count 35 catamarans and 5 other small sailing craft in a line along the pebbles in front of the arches clubhouse and changing rooms. The passing public sit on the “cats”, use them for photos, vandalise them. Even so, the Brighton Sailing Club has a waiting list of another 20 people looking to be based there.

Sailing is a class act. The healthy world of sailing should be good for Brighton’s tarnished image but there isn’t enough of it to over-ride the bad stuff. It is a discipline that offers physical and mental development, year-round pleasure & activity on the water with enhanced sea views for the rest of us. When sailboats are on the water, crowds form to look at them. Club members don’t even need to own their own boat. It is a sport, with a clean, respectable image, practised by men & women from all walks of life. Brighton Sailing Club members John Davys & James Parrott worry deeply now about what impact the proposed developments (“i360” & “Brighton O”) could have on the future of their sailing club.

Two basketball courts (with smashed night lamps on poles), two different areas of “public art” and two inflatable soccer pitches now encroach from either side of the little patch of beach where boats and sailing are still tolerated. The glorified Ferris wheel proposed for the area where the cheap and nasty inflatable soccer pitches currently rest would overhang the sailing club’s space, squeezing them still further. Walking along this area, one feels hemmed in by a lot of different objects & activities, all there, jumbled up too closely. On a warm summer’s day it is heaving with visitors. But what about when it rains or in winter?

And what’s in it for the Metropole or Grand Hotel visitor just above them? People do not spend hundreds of pounds a night to stay in hotel rooms overlooking a basketball court with broken lighting round it, “Brighton O’s”, a viewing pod going up and down or feral night life. We need to raise our game to attract the serious leisure spenders to these wonderful hotels. Does Brighton & Hove City Council really care – or will we see those hotels fail and attract developers who will convert them into flats? Sailing, directly overlooked by The Grand Hotel and The Metropole, if promoted and expanded into the adjacent areas would surely also promote the long-term survival of our flagship hotels quid pro quo and generally raise the tone of the area.

I somehow don’t believe that Brighton & Hove City Council has a year-round beach strategy that involves the Brighton Sailing Club or that it is valued or particularly welcome to remain on the seafront any more than the fishermen were. Why is this? Eastbourne has an internationally famous tennis tournament. Classy. Cowes has an internationally famous sailing week. Classy. The Henley Regatta. Classy. Brighton has……what? A mania for encouraging developers to erect huge blocks of flats along the seafront “that will put Brighton & Hove on the map” are all I’ve seen so far this century along with a wannabe wish to be labelled a Capital of Culture. Development strategies that are about throwing up huge buildings and “attractions” all over the seafront betray a lack of confidence and a kind of egotistical bluffing about culture.

Brighton Sailing ClubWhere is sailing on Brighton & Hove’s calendar of feted events to put the City on some part of anyone’s map? Why do the surfers at the Marina have to compete with developers to retain their bit of sea activity? Why is the Marina being turned into a housing estate? The city has filled the beach with petanque rinks, basketball, volleyball, etc. – all of which are constrained in their use by the weather, all of which one would like to see inland in parks and open spaces dedicated to play and sport for people of all ages. None of what is on the beach (Sailing and Kayak clubs apart) is in any way connected with the sea itself – our unique selling point!

Why hasn’t the Council enlisted sailing as a way to help counter the drug-death capital of England tag and the view of Brighton & Hove that got us featured in a guidebook called “Crap Cities”?

Development should be about retaining and ‘bigging-up’ worthwhile, permanent community asset organisations like the Brighton Sailing Club. Clear the seafront, I say, and bring on the windsurfing, sail boats and regattas. Quid pro quo, the city, the sailing club membership, the Metropole and Grand Hotels could all be doing each other a few long-term image and economic favours. And it counts as culture, dont’cha know!

Related Articles

  1. Letters: Feedback From Last Month’s Feature On Seafront Developments, Written By
 Valerie Paynter
  2. Letters: Developments On The Marina
  3. Letters: Citizen Power Over Marina Appeal
  4. The Old Market: A Tangle of Conflicting Loyalties and Remits
  5. Brighton & Hove’s
 New Broom?


  • ollie knight says:

    I couldnt agree LESS with this woman. I think brighton DESPERATELY needs developments like the i360 before becoming the new Eastbourne! Eastbourne is a prime example of how a seaside resort can quickly turn from fashionable (1950s) into a giant retirement home (and it is, i have lots of elderly family there). Brighton for its future, needs i360 etc to keep up. How this woman thinks its gonna hurt the two hotels is beyong me….has the london eye has the same impact????

    lets back the i360, i think the design looks nice. I think it is entirely possible to build a new brighton centre, i360 AND have a strong sailing club too!

    pleae dont get caught up with all the conservatives who want to smother this town’s spirit! The opposition to Ghery’s towers was bad enough!!

    lets build and keep brighton interesting!


  • Howard Bayley says:

    Where does this woman live / come from? She is obviously totally biased in favour of sailing. ~ Sailing is minority sport that actually takes place on the sea; and there will realisically be plenty of space left to accomodate boats onshore. She’s a party-pooper!

    The Brighton i360 is the first central-seafront project that Brightonians were truly generally immediately in favour of. Let’s get it built to put us really on the map with a prominent feature that, although modern, will certainly not detract in any way from the facade of the existing buildings facing the sea.

    I think it will be a masterpiece, where the ghastly egocentric-Ghery development will be a total monstrosity.

  • Valerie Paynter, saveHOVE says:

    I feel I have to reply to Ollie. You make an interesting point about the London Eye. In return I would just say that context is all in architecture when it is working well. It was a major problem in the boom years that this principle was replaced by desperation to have a famous name doing whatever. As long as they were famous. As long as the bling was blingier than anyone else. All a bit Victoria Beckham really.

    The London Eye is wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. The London Eye does not, however, sit outside The Dorchester or The Hilton in Park Lane. Whilst the Brighton seafront is not Park Lane, neither is it the Thames where the London Eye sits on the south bank with no grand hotels behind it whatsoever. Indeed, what IS behind it of note? Anything?

    The Grand Hotel and Metropole Hotel are big ticket hotels; and do you really not believe the sea brings people here and could be bringing many more for more than a dip in the sea and a sit in the sun on the beach? Do you REALLY equate quality and wealth only with the elderly? Tell that to the likes of Roman Abramovitch!

    Skank-chic, heroin-chic and chav are fine for the likes of Jordan, head-bangers and Amy Winehouse; but please, can we do other kinds of chic too for the sake of “diversity” (!) ?????

  • Tom says:

    i sincerly agree, the reason the west pier ended in the state it is it was a chavy attraction, no wants music halls anymore. and in a few years nobody will want the O or the i360.
    I’ve seen Brighton from above. Not worth paying for or sussex heights would have a resteraunt. Spinnaker tower is better, wouldn’t go up it again, it was a rip off.

  • Ollie says:

    I really dont understand how you have put the i360 in the box of “chav bling” or something or other so entirely. The fact that Brighton has a reputation as a clubbing centre is, i’m afraid, a fact of life.

    I dont go clubbing and couldnt care less about celebraty culture but i DO have a deep love for my city and would be crestfallen to see it rust up and become a Morcombe, Hastings kind of resort. The Lanes etc are a beutiful part of this city….because we took the risk and gentrified them rather than let them turn into nasty backstreets!

    I dont want some bling bling hell on the seafront, but as most Brightoners agree (well certainly my friends and family anyway), the i360 is not a monstrosity….it’ll work there (of course its all a matter of opinion). The Hotels need to be consulted fully…they’ll know whether it’ll be good for them or not. I dont know…i sometimes feel i’m a lone voice in this city in being in favour of developments. Although the Gehry Towers debate i’m steering clear from as i do not live in Hove (so am less qualified to comment maybe).

    There is no need to associate all new and interesting ideas to “chav culture”. Although i agree, Sailing is a lovely sport/hobby…But basketball and football are very very popular…having facilities for them on our prize attraction (the beach) is logical do you not agree?


  • Jon says:

    After reading this rant three times, each time more exasperated and confused than the previous, I am taking my first ever step at replying to this ill-conceived article. It shocks me to think that there are people who have such narrow minded ideas about the world. Miss Paynter may live in a comfortable cocoon, in a plush middle class area of Hove but has she actually undertaken any market research into the type of person who comes to Brighton. To assume that everyone in the Metropole, Hilton or indeed the Brighton Sailing Club, is comfortably off and bracket the ‘rest’ as ‘chavs’ or ‘the human equivalent of graffiti’ is an insult to our visitors and she is quite close to the mark at being insultingly homophobic too. Moreover, what research has been undertaken to underpin this article or is it all just a baseless opinion? Finally, what about the financial reality of Brighton and why people come to our fantastic city?

    The Brighton 360i is an extraordinary opportunity to improve the area around Regency Square. At the moment the pavements are cracked, the pier area is dishevelled and is right outside the ‘premier Brighton Hotels’. What are Miss Paynter’s solutions to these problems? How is she going to ‘gentrify’ the Regency Area (a designated conservation area)? Additionally, in the thread “The London Eye does not, however, sit outside The Dorchester or The Hilton in Park Lane. Whilst the Brighton seafront is not Park Lane, neither is it the Thames where the London Eye sits on the south bank with no grand hotels behind it whatsoever. Indeed, what IS behind it of note? Anything?” She obviously has never visited the luxury 5* Marriott Hotel, the London Aquarium or the exhibition spaces at County Hall, right next the London Eye and surely placing the Eye opposite the Houses of Parliament in her eyes would be an eyesore too!? The Eye is in a designated area of historical interest and the Brighton 360i will be in a Conservation area.

    As a Brightonian and a resident of Regency Square, I applaud the 360i and we do not need someone who obviously does not live in this area to oppose our 360i. Furthermore as an accomplished sailor, who has to spend a considerable fortune to own and maintain a yacht, I am even more bemused about the comments about the Brighton Sailing Club. Is it really a ’community asset’? True, it needs better premises, and could be stunning if we had a yacht marina. But it is a private club and relies on its own finances. The geography of Brighton does not lend itself to a proper yacht marina either, (unless you construct something like we already have – at vast cost). After all, sailing is an acknowledged minority sport and has such status in the Olympics. It is also a sport, just as constrained by weather, so the premise that sailing will provide the well-heeled inhabitants of hotels an all year round spectacle just does not wash. Coincidentally, how many members of the public would be watching these yachts and surfers, what research has been done?

    So instead of “NIMBYism”, what are Miss Paytners solutions to the ‘problems of the drug-death capital of England’ (where does that come from!?). I have some ideas but surely the first rule of journalism is to take a balanced, fair and well researched view. This article is plainly – not.

  • Anon says:

    Valerie – as horribly classist as I might sound, I agree with every word of your article…

  • Alan says:

    Valerie Paynter makes some interesting points about seafront developments in Brighton and Hove. I think that it is wrong to concentrate on just this area and to use the term “City-by-the-Sea” to define our city. The city boundaries are uniquely defined by two important geographical features – the sea and the Downs – which should play a part in the development of the city.

    I don’t object the design or position of the proposed i360 viewing tower, but it is just pointless, and comparisons with the London Eye are fatuous. London has many important landmarks which make a trip on the Eye an interesting experience. In comparison Brighton and Hove has nothing to offer and half the view from the i360 will just be the sea. But, most importantly, we don’t need the i360 because we have the Downs. Take a ride on the number 2 bus and take in the view of the Downs and the sea from the racecourse. Get off the bus in Woodingdean and walk over the Downs to Ovingdean or take a longer walk on the Downs to Rottingdean. Go up to Devil’s Dyke for far reaching views of the coast to the west and the countryside to the north. Walk and get some fresh air, experience the countryside and watch the light changing on the sea. Don’t take an overpriced ride up and down in a glass doughnut just because it is the latest craze. Howard Bayley is wrong to say that the i360 will “put us on the map”, the city’s geography put us on the map years ago.

    Brighton and Hove City Council are always talking about sustainability and encouraging people to take exercise. Why are they supporting the i360? The natural features of the city provide more than the i360 can ever hope to offer, and all for nothing.
    The reason the council want development is to bring money to the city and this thinking takes over from their other ideas; they are just image and no substance. Business, tourism and development are all they think about. What about the residents of the city? Brighton and Hove only exists through the council. Nobody uses the city name on their postal address. Nobody says that they live in Brighton and Hove. The council only sees the central part of the city, the tourist part, and the city is either neglected or overtaken by tourist development.

    Of course, we need tourists, and the council has done an excellent job in improving the King’s Road Arches area and keeping the beaches and this area in a good condition. However, in winter everywhere is closed. Worst of all, at weekends the city centre becomes a no-go area for anybody over about 25 after about 10pm and this should not be accepted as “a fact of life”. The council boasts about being a “centre of excellence” for the way in which it handles the “night-time economy”. As we have now seen on the TV programme “Brighton Beach Patrol” this means flooding the city centre with police so that the most intoxicated and troublesome can be moved out of the centre to allow the rest to continue getting drunk, until in turn they are also moved on. We have seen people who unable to stand being told that they will not be allowed into bars and clubs but nobody thinks to ask why nothing was done to prevent them getting into this state in the first place. Nobody cares about the long term effect on their health from excessive alcohol consumption. It doesn’t matter to our council when the money is rolling in.

    The further east you go in the city the more neglected it becomes. Finally, reaching Duke’s Mound you arrive at our own Sodom and Gomorrah, where outdoor sex has become an approved 24 hour a day activity. Our excellent litter team don’t reach this far and the area looks as though a bin lorry of sexual detritus has been unloaded at the top. The council and the police encourage this activity because their only concern is the protection the people who go there for sex.

    Valerie Paynter is right to draw attention to the activities and development on the seafront but she has only just scratched the surface of the problems that the city is creating.

  • Ian says:

    Up and down the country, councils and private enterprise provide recreation and sports facilities to improve the lives of local residents. Brighton seems to concentrate all its efforts and resources on cheap (or not so cheap)thrills for day tripers.
    The Brighton O will not significantly increase visitor numbers to the city or increase their spending into the local economy. It will generate profit for the private companies involved in its development whilst contributing nothing for local people. Investment in facilities is badly needed in this part of the country but please direct it to worthwhile projects and not more fairground rides.

  • Kirk says:

    Firstly I am surprised at the concerns in this article and particularly of the worry about the hotels, they will of course benefit massively if and when the i360 gets built.

    Secondly, whilst I am in support of a sailing club and may even consider joining, I am disappointed that whenever I look out of my window or walk by the club, there are indeed ’35 Catamarans and 5 small craft’ on the beach and that it seems is where they stay! I have yet to see any of them sailing, even when we have had such wonderful sailing conditions, namely sunny windy weekends!

    I for one, who will be affected as I live just across the road from the proposed site, am fully in favour, though I guess I will complain about the queues when they run all along the front!

    Brighton needs these things to be a modern vibrant city. Bring it on!

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