Open Market

It is rare in Brighton & Hove for a planning application to really excite.

More often than not, schemes are approved because “they are better than what is there currently” or the powers that be are simply not powerful enough to stop them. In the case of the Open Market, a site which holds the key to transforming a large chunk of central Brighton, it would be hard to dream up a more favourable proposition than that which was approved by the Planning Committee in February.

The Open Market began in 1919 as a collection of barrows owned by ex-servicemen on Oxford Street beside London Road. The traders moved to the Level for a brief period and then, in 1926, settled on the gardens of the cottages of Marshalls Row. The cottages were demolished in 1938 though it was not until 1960 that the enlarged Open Market was opened by the Duke of Norfolk. Even after years of neglect, it still holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Brighton.

The layout of the Open Market is to change and a saw-toothed roof is to be added. Rather than an island of stalls in the middle, a market square is to be created with stalls around the outside. Although the square promises to be a useful public space in its own right, I am particularly keen on the idea that it will now be possible to see right through from one entrance to the other. The market will become an obvious thoroughfare between London Road and Ditchling Road.

This project brings together a number of organisations including the market traders themselves, Hyde Housing Association, Brighton & Hove City Council and LCE Architects. I am already a fan of LCE for that firm’s work on the Jubilee Library. I am now won over even more.

A fair amount of housing is being put on the site to make this development work financially. Francis Street is going to change dramatically as large buildings will be springing up along its length. They are attractive buildings though and very appropriate for the area.

I have not been at all impressed with corporate property companies in recent years but, on this occasion anyway, Hyde Housing deserves major recognition for some excellent work in pushing through a tremendously complicated multi-layered project to a tight deadline. Why can’t all planning applications be this exciting?