Palmeira House

The peeling paint on Palmeira House had been a depressing sight for many years so I was pleasantly surprised when work began on the building that had once been home to the emporium known as the Harrods of Hove.

The scaffolding came down to reveal the beautifully painted upper parts that had been turned into fourteen luxury flats, but, I wondered, who would be moving into the ground floor retail unit? I, like many others, had hoped for an appropriate tenant for such a fine building. Another business like Michael Norman Antiques who had just left the building to relocate to Brighton, would certainly have been suitable.

Unbeknown to me, there were problems on the way for this Grade II Listed Building, originally owned by the Brighton and Hove Co-operative Supply Association, where it was once said that almost anything could be bought. Built in 1873, the building is situated on the Holland Road – Western Road junction, overlooking Palmeira Square and the floral clock. Tesco, or Attila the Hun as we call them in Hove, moved in and quickly got to work on “renovating” the premises. The very same firm that mistakenly destroyed some important flint walls on their new Church Road spaceship superstore soon managed to ‘lose’ some beautiful brass window frames that had been installed in the 1920s. They were replaced with the dull blue frames that can be found in every other Tesco in the country.

Local councillors asked Tesco to replace the windows, raise the artificial ceiling, ban advertising posters from the windows and reintroduce the grooves back in to the front of the building, now known as “Palmeira Grande”. Tesco, the richest supermarket in the country, were hoping to ride roughshod over the city’s planning laws and have so far managed to avoid carrying out the remedial work. The latest news is that Tesco wouldn’t agree to replace the lines but have finally agreed to replace the frames with a coated aluminium alternative, giving a similar bronze sheen to the originals. To me, this is still totally unacceptable. They should have been forced to fix the damage that they caused, whatever the cost, by commissioning some new brass frames. They can afford it after all.

Local conservationist Christopher Hawtree recently said, “They thought they could get away with Tesco value instead of Tesco finest”, which I think sums it up better than I could!