Queen Square Hotel Proposal

I wonder if anybody thought of Orwell’s predictions when philistines mercilessly destroyed the Union Congregational Church on Brighton’s Queen Square in 1984.

The church was replaced with an octagon-themed dystopian office block, Queen Square House. Rows of trees have been swapped for rows of scruffy workers on smoking breaks. An open road has been replaced with a taxi rank. The time has now come to replace Queen Square’s derelict ice rink.

I recently wrote about the objections of the residents of nearby Wykeham Terrace to plans by Conran & Partners for a six-storey hotel on the ice rink site. The proposals have since been revised but Wykeham residents along with various amenity societies, including the Montpelier & Clifton Hill Association and the St Nicholas Green Spaces Association, are still in opposition on the grounds of height and impact on historic surroundings.

My own view is that five principal storeys are entirely appropriate as this matches the neighbouring buildings on Queen Square. The inclusion of an extra roof storey, as proposed, does not particularly worry me either. I was initially concerned by the planned destruction of a neighbouring building, 11 Queen Square, so that it can be rebuilt in a not too dissimilar style but taller. This is a wise move as No. 11 currently looks too low. It is sensible too that the west side of the proposed hotel at roof level follows the building line of the adjoining structures.

As plans progressed, there was talk of access from Queen Square to St Nicholas’ Churchyard behind being included. This idea proved unpopular though and may well have meant the excavation of several graves. There were also concerns raised about the general impact of the hotel on the churchyard. I am inclined to support the applicants here as such historic environments should be shared as much as possible – even if this only means views from the hotel towards the church in this instance.

My own objections relate principally to the treatment of Queen Square itself. To squeeze in five principal storeys at the height of the neighbouring houses, a large chunk of sloping land at the top of the hill would have to be flattened. The excavation work would be so extensive that several buildings on the west side of Queen Square would be left floating higher than road level.

It is no dystopia but it could still be much improved.