Circus Street Update

A planning application from developers Cathedral Group for the redevelopment of Brighton’s old municipal market on Circus Street will shortly be put to Brighton & Hove City Council’s Planning Committee.

The mixed-use scheme consists of standard, social and student housing, dance studios, a library, a public square, underground parking and 78 new trees. Everything that’s on the site currently would go. Despite the obvious benefits, both the Regency Society and Brighton Society – two of the city’s most respected amenity groups – have firmly objected on the grounds of density, noise and overlooking.

Cathedral Group were first picked nine years ago as developer to work alongside the council and the University of Brighton to deliver the scheme. What is now the huge practice of John McAslan & Partners were picked as architects initially (not long after I met McAlsan himself at a Regency Society lecture funnily enough). The fast-expanding (and bizarrely-named) practice of “shedkm” took over two years ago following a reselection process. I met up with the project’s Lead Architect, Lee Halligan, for a tour of the derelict market and an update on the project generally.

To really understand this project, one has to look back to the days when the streets of Carlton Hill (at the foot of which the municipal market is located) resembled those of the North Laine. The area was actually called Hilly Laine. There is no way through the site currently but the proposed development offers several routes that are based on the original Hilly Laine layout. Similarly, Circus Street, which is incredibly wide currently to allow for truck movements no doubt, is to be narrowed to close to its original width.

The site itself is a real challenge. The rear is 7.2m higher than the front and it is surrounded by a menagerie of different building types including Georgian houses, 1930s social housing, ‘1960s tower blocks, the reclad police station, the old Amex building and a variety of old factories. A range of heights and styles, including black gabled house-like structures, has been employed in response.

It is no doubt the case that mistakes were made when removing the slums of old. The demolished buildings would have made great homes today. I see the fairly tall – yet accessible and exciting – style of the proposed new development as correcting these mistakes and setting the benchmark for what a Carlton Hill of the future will look like.