Victorian Society commissions rival Madeira Terraces survey

Posted On 12 May 2016 at 9:40 am

The Victorian Society has persuaded Brighton and Hove City Council to allow independent consultants to carry out a survey on the Madeira Terraces, which it hopes will show they can be repaired rather than replaced.

Madeira terraces fenced off. Picture by Ken Frost

Madeira Terraces fenced off in June 2015. Picture by Ken Frost

The terraces were named in the society’s top ten most endangered buildings in September, having been closed by the council after a survey it commissioned said they were in danger of collapsing.

But the society disputes the survey, and has now persuaded the council to give it permission to obtain its own analysis of the structure.

Meanwhile, an announcement of the council’s own plans has been delayed again, and is now due to be made in the summer.

Alex Bowring, the society’s conservation advisor, said: “Brighton council stated that the survey that they carried out suggested that none of the terraces were retainable and were all structurally unsound and in danger of collapsing.

“After a Freedom of Information request from ourselves the council did eventually publish this report after having previously refused to allow us to see it.

“After reviewing it various people pointed out that it was carried out by surveyors who are specialists in highways and who probably don’t have the expertise to assess historic structures.

“If you apply the same rules to most historic buildings, most engineers don’t understand why they’re still standing.

“We got accredited conservation surveyors, who should have been used in the first place, and we asked one firm who we know quite well to have a look at the report and he said the same thing.

“We wrote to the council and suggested that a report needed to be done by an accredited engineer and that this person would do it and I think he has been in discussion with the council with a view to carrying it out.

“The report was a bolt out of the blue. It’s obviously in need of some serious repairs but we don’t believe it’s about to collapse.

“There must be serious implications in order to demolish a listed building.”

A council spokesman said: “The council has carried out a full structural investigation and the findings, plus the council’s further monitoring of the structure, have been shared with the Victorian Society.

“Another view would be interesting in helping us work with heritage partners to find a sustainable solution for the Madeira Terraces.

“We are currently exploring how to fund a project that would also need to pay for maintaining the Madeira Terraces in good condition into the next century. As a listed structure any changes would need the consent of English Heritage.

“We are planning to report back in the summer on what funding opportunities may be available for Madeira Terraces and how the council is supporting the wider regeneration of the seafront.”

  1. BrightonBen Reply

    Really pleased that the Society is commissioning a report by an appropriate specialist consultancy as it would be a travesty if these iconic arches were unnecessarily demolished as the correct specialist advice was not sought. Thank you Vic Soc for your work!

  2. Trevor Scoble Reply

    From my personal experience of refurbishing a building in Trafalgar Square 50 years ago, which was constructed with cast iron columns and beams I can confirm that they do not rust, that building is still standing as like the west pier. From my 36 years of walking the Terraces both on top of and below I would confirm that I have not seen any structural signs of any collapse whatsoever and from looking down on to the section that has been open up the concrete structure is not showing any signs that it is pulling away from the cast iron. It should be a simple survey to confirm that the Terraces Structure with some miner works is safe. Lets get it back into public use asp.

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