By Jenni Davidson
Plans have been announced for a £35 million makeover of Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate.
The Brighton and Hove Independent will report tomorrow that the project is to include both vital repairs and restoration work and improvements to the buildings and gardens.
The intention is to conserve the Grade I and II listed buildings and the historic gardens around them while reconnecting all the whole area back into one single estate.
This will make it easier for people to understand the history of the Pavilion Estate and encourage more tourists to visit.
The plans are being put together jointly by Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival and Brighton and Hove City Council’s Royal Pavilion, Museums and Libraries team.
Janita Bagshaw, Head of Royal Pavilion, Arts and Museums, said: “What we do now is good. Our ambition is to make it world class. We really need to pull up the game.”
Andrew Comben, Director of Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, underlined the essential nature of this project.
“Although this is an ambitious and aspirational plan, it’s a really necessary one,” he said.
One of the most pressing problems is repair work that needs to be done to the roofs of the buildings – some of which date back to the 19th century.
If the work is not carried out, parts of the site will have to close in ten years, he said.
There has been concern about the future of the family-owned Pavilion Gardens Café if changes are made to the Pavilion Gardens.
Mr Comben confirmed that the café would continue to be in gardens, but not necessarily at its current location.
Consultation has already been carried out with users through thousands of face-to-face interviews and surveys with visitors to the gardens and the Pavilion.
These have identified a number of problems with the current layout and facilities.
One key issue that was raised was the lack of security and anti-social behaviour in the gardens, which makes people afraid to go there at night.
Related to that are problems with litter and broken glass on the ground.
The lack of modern visitor facilities at the Royal Pavilion was mentioned as a serious concern too.
The small ticketing area forces visitors to queue outside during busy periods.
There is also too little space to park buggies, poor educational facilities for schools and staff are working in cramped and poorly heated conditions.
The feedback also suggested that visitors to the gardens are often unclear about where they are or what they are looking at and that even locals often don’t know how the different buildings relate to each other.
This is exacerbated by the confusing variety of different entrances to the estate and shrubbery obscuring the view of the buildings.
Architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios have already worked on a feasibility studios and come up with some ideas for improvements.
The most significant suggestion is to build a new gateway into the Pavilion Gardens on New Road based on the architect John Nash’s design for a conservatory on the site.
A new boundary wall might be put up around the estate so that it could be shut at night to prevent anti-social behaviour.
Proposals for the Royal Pavilion include opening George IV’s tunnel between the Pavilion and the Dome to the public and if possible installing a disabled lift.
The Grade I-listed Corn Exchange – once George IV’s riding school – would also be restored and updated to better reflect the historic inside of the building and enable people to see in from outside.
However, these are all just initial ideas and this is the very earliest stage in a long project.
The Arts Council has already committed £5.8 million to the work but a great deal more money will need to be raised.
A bid will go in to the Heritage Lottery Fund by 29 November for development money and the result of that application should be known by May 2014
If successful, the lottery money will provide the funds to draw up full plans for the redevelopment, which will be shown to the public for consultation.
It is hoped to that work will start in 2016 and the redevelopment will be complete by 2019.
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