Regency Society calls for demolition of Hove Museum

Posted On 07 Apr 2016 at 3:31 pm

Brighton’s Regency Society has taken the unusual step of advocating the demolition of a civic building, saying the Hove Museum site should instead be used to build a state of the art library, museum and housing.

Hove Museum from Wikimedia Commons

Councillors are expected to approve hugely controversial plans to move Hove Library from its current home in the Carnegie building in Church Road a few hundred metres west to the museum site in New Church Road.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it needs to do this because the cost of making repairs to the existing building would lead to the closure of branch libraries in the city’s suburbs.

It is currently proposing to build an extension to the Edwardian museum to house the library across the ground floor, with the museum moved to the first floor.

But the Regency Society, which usually fights for the preservation of historical buildings, has called for the council to go one step further and give the site to a developer in return for building much-needed homes, as well as a new library and museum.

Chair of the society Roger Hinton said: “It may seem strange to hear the Regency Society say it want to demolish a building, but it’s not listed by Historic England and although it’s a nice enough building, it’s been messed about quite a bit. It was divided into two separate houses, it’s been chopped about.

“If it’s possible to get 100 homes on the site a developer would snap it up and part of the deal could be that they would finance the building of a library and a museum. It would cost the council nothing.

“They would be left with the Carnegie building and that would be a capital receipt for them, and the city gets extra housing which it desperately needs.”

The society has written to the council’s policy and resources committee, which is due to make the final decision later this month.

The letter in full:

The Regency Society of Brighton and Hove is disappointed at the lack of vision shown by Brighton and Hove Council in its plans for Hove Library and Museum.

In this time of budget cuts and housing shortage, we believe that consideration should be given to a more ambitious re-development of the Hove museum site. The existing building is not considered worthy of listing by Historic England.

If it were to be demolished there is the chance of a far greater prize for the city: a new, state of the art library & museum, plus much needed new homes, at no cost to the City Council.

The benefits of this scheme could far outweigh the loss of the existing museum building. The society’s feasibility study suggests that a new building on the site could contain library and museum spaces of 540 sqm each, plus offices, a cafeteria and a function room. A basement car park would accommodate about 50 cars.

The upper floors could provide 100 homes of one to three-bedrooms. This would involve the loss of some, but by no means all of the public open space on the site. The council could then benefit from the sale proceeds or rental income from the existing Carnegie library building.

Given the extent of its listing, including internal features, our preference would be for the Council to retain the freehold and lease the building for an educational type use.

Roger Hinton, Chair of the society said: “We feel the Library Plan has not considered the wider strategic opportunities offered by changes to Hove Library and Museum. These should be investigated before a final decision is made” The Council has already approved the library plan, but without having seen the business case, which is to be reviewed by the Policy & Resources Committee before the decision is finalised. We hope that the option described here can be consideredwhen that happens.The society has written to the Council Chief Executive setting out our views. A copy of the letter is attached.

  1. Valerie Paynter Reply

    I agree with the Regency Society’s idea with one proviso. Keep the Carnegie Library building. The Carnegie has been asked to perform a multitude of tasks which has been problematical in practice and put a lot of people off using it. Its local history room is a foreign student hangout when presumably their host families don’t want them in their homes in the daytime. And it is the only room with proper tables to do research at.

    Either sell Brooker Hall as a very expensive and exclusive residence (work needed to return it to that) or do as the Regency Society suggests and put a new building on that large footprint to provide a mixed use on two floors with flats above (say).

    Speaking personally, I think demolition of Hove Town Hall would be wise. It provides too little for the footprint it occupies and it is a cold, hard, lumpen blot on the landscape. Its original interior with the plantings in the atrium was beautiful, but the plants were stripped out under the last Labour Administration and nasty shading film stretched over its windows to block sun glare (costing £3,000. And the interplay between spaces and light was destroyed. Now it is broken up entirely inside with offices replacing the great hall. Just be done with it.

    Politicians over 3 Administrations and the officers who order them around should have thought of doing something with the Hove Museum site. The Regency Society is more or less right on this occasion.

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I sat through many, indeed interesting meetings with Council officers, and at one point it was mooted to demolish Hove Town Hall and start over. The economics of the situation, however, meant that it would be far too expensive to knock it down and rebuild. Meanwhile, a great deal is being done to make it ecological (so that in winter there is no need to keep the windows open to cool it down…).

    A building I think problematical is Brighton Town Hall, which is built around an operatic staircase. Could this become an Art Gallery? During discussions Preston Manor was also mooted but deemed too far out (so to speak). So much more could be done with Hove Museum.

    All of which is to say that there is no need to rush to get shot of the Carnegie Library when the continuing subject of the “Workstyles” (awful word, to which I objected) has some way to go.

    I should say: let us see how the sale of the seafront King’s House (the acquisition of which was a New Labour vanity project) goes, and take the next steps from that.

    It is an interesting fact that the Administration gets the corridor with the sea view. Perhaps cllr Morgan is as inspired by the waves breaking on the shore as Mrs Woolf was?

  3. L King Reply

    How dare a heritage society propose demolishing a historic building! I was at the AGM last night and this wasn’t even mentioned. We have few enough public buildings and spaces and, as a letter in today’s Argus pointed out, Hove has been left particularly impoverished in this way compared to Brighton, despite contributing to the same Council Tax pot. Brighton and Hove has never contained more taxpayers than it does now. Or extorted more parking revenue. Yet we are being offered one Hobson’s choice after another regarding unacceptable compromises to our services, facilities and architecture. Who is making money out of trying to bulldoze us (literally) into accepting all this nonsense? We are human beings for goodness sake and we need our facilities and our architecture. Andrew Carnegie did not donate that library to the people of Hove for the council to rob it from us, just because they are in a mess with Jubilee Library PFI (which should have been anticipated as it was already a national scandal when they bought into it).

  4. L King Reply

    Hove should keep both its library AND its museum. As I said above, Hove is impoverished enough when it comes to its public buildings. And let’s not forget Hove is also set to lose its one and only public leisure centre (until a poor and pricey compromise might come along several years later). If they want to demolish something, let them replace Hove Town Hall with a regency style Civic Centre in keeping with the area and to boost the few public amenities in Hove.

  5. Mike Reply

    So has anyone seen the new plans and what the new buildings are going to look like because so many councils agree plans to buildings that are not in keeping with the surroundings and cost a lot of money don’t what is originally stated And can we afford as taxpayers this expense because I’m sure the council are not going to pay for it out of their own budget I don’t think putting this lovely building down is going to solve anything And what’s going to happen to the things in the grounds where are they going to get rehomed

  6. Tom Dussek Reply

    What Hove desperately needs is space for a new school, especially if there are proposals for more houses. The Tescos site would be perfect.

  7. Howard Spencer Reply

    It seems that the Regency Society, notionally a conservation and amenity group, is straying far into the territory of town planning (or, at least, their executive is – as stated in comments above, there doesn’t seem to be much active consultation of its wider membership about this and similar pronouncements).

    I agree with them that the council’s current plans re Hove Library and Museum lack vision (to put it mildly). But what the Society exec are proposing begs a lot of questions – not least would 100 new homes *really* finance the building of a ‘state-of-the-art’ library?

    And what do they by ‘state of the art’ anyway? If they mean something like the Jubilee, then no thanks. Apart from the issue of its ongoing PFI cost, that building is a classic case of fur coat and no knickers – looks fine and dandy on the outside, but is hopeless on the inside – poor use of space, terrible access between floors and – as has often been remarked – not enough shelves for books. Which even in our exciting digitised age, is a bit of a drawback.

    Far better, surely – if the central government cuts really have brought us to this pass, as it seems they have – to just sell of Hove Museum and its site for development (the museum has been being run down for a decade or more anyway). Then use the money raised to keep the Hove Library at its existing site – in a building that was purpose-built and is well used, in spite of what certain ignorant-sounding councillors have said recently. This would at least have a positive conservation outcome – keeping the Carnegie building doing what is does (and will always do) best – being a library.

    On Hove Town Hall – whatever you think of it, and I will admit to being a fan, a lot of money has been spent on the present refurbishment (defurbishment might be a better word…), so it ain’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future.

    And when it comes to renewing my Regency Society membership, I’ll be keeping my hand in my pocket. Not because of this scheme, though – the plans for ‘Puget’s Lane’ were the breaking point for me. You can’t call yourself a conservation body and support the destruction of the only original building on North Street (Timpson’s) – simply in order to create better access for shoppers (who don’t appear to have been significantly deterred from buying overpriced trinkets and gewgaws in the Lanes by the present arrangements). The Brighton Society were the only group to oppose this piece of vandalism, so it’s they who will get my subs in future.

  8. Tony Reply

    There has been absolutely no consultation at all with the local community regarding any plans for Hove Museum.
    The gardens were bequeathed to the locals to be used as a quiet green area.
    The area to the rear of the building provides a unique environment for residents of all ages.
    You will find people reading, meditating,picnicking,exercising,doing martial arts, practising music, and a host of other activities.
    Parents take their toddlers and kids there to play. The residents of the local care homes and their families visit the gardens.
    Its a lovely tree lined quiet green area away from the traffic on new Church road and the bustle of the seafront.
    The nearest parks are at least a mile away.
    The gardens are an irreplaceable part of the local community and the council seem quite happy to obliterate them without even consulting the locals.
    I’ve spoken to people using the gardens and they are lost for words when I tell them that the council think the gardens aren’t used and what they have planned for them.
    Well, now we know whats being pushed through behind our backs by these devious incompetent idiots expect a fight!

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