Brighton Centre

We often hear, perhaps unfairly, that the Brighton Centre is no longer up to the job so why would I be unhappy to hear about the latest redevelopment proposal; this time for a new £250 million conference centre with 300 room hotel and an extension to Churchill Square?

The current Brighton Centre’s ugly façade is straight out of Siberia – acres of concrete, columns between the strip of windows like prison cell bars and a topping of imposing brown bricks. A pretty Brighton Council motif on the wall does little to help. What was the architect, Russell Diplock, thinking? Despite this, many passionate political conferences, sporting events and live shows, including Bing Crosby’s last performance, have taken place there. Funnily enough, I met Latest Homes’ Angi at a Deep Purple concert and made the deal to write this column whilst Smoke on the Water was being thrashed out! But, it needs to be bigger, better equipped and visually spectacular if Brighton & Hove is to compete for conferences at world level.

Between the 1930s and 1960s, fifteen acres of buildings, similar in style to both the Lanes and North Laine, were demolished to make way for a grand project that led to the construction of the Kingswest Building (1965), Churchill Square (1968), Chartwell Court (1971) and the Brighton Centre (1977). In 1966, the Metropole Hotel’s stunning ornamental garden, some decent houses and the beautiful St. Margaret’s Chapel were flattened to make way for Sussex Heights (the tallest building in Sussex) and the Metropole’s conference centre. The near demolition of the Grand Hotel sums up this architecturally disastrous period well.

A hotel is to be included in the new scheme so why not allow the well-run Grand Hotel to extend to the east to restore its symmetry? I am particularly unhappy that the proposal includes an extension to Churchill Square. Adding value to the shopping centre significantly pushes back the time when it can be redeveloped. Although it’s not too bad internally, many of the exterior areas are appalling including anything to do with its car parks, which should be buried underneath, and most external areas; especially to the west along Canon Place and by Russell Square.

Decisions will soon need to be made soon about the Brighton Centre which will be key to the City’s prosperity over the next few decades – the lessons of the past must not be forgotten.