Growing up in London I used to love visiting Brighton and would often stay with friends in the St James’s Street area, accessing the seafront via Madeira Terrace and using the space under the arches for playing games, scootering and cycling.
When I moved to Brighton as an adult I was drawn to the same area I had enjoyed so much as a child and frequently took my own children to the eastern seafront.
I was dismayed in 2012 when parts of Madeira Terrace began to be fenced off, access restricted and the structure that I had always taken for granted and considered permanent showed the signs of years of disrepair.
Now, as a councillor, I have repeatedly heard the same disappointment from residents living in the area behind the eastern seafront.
The lack of access to the beach, unattractive and unwelcoming temporary fencing, frustration at the apparent lack of action and the missed opportunities for a unique and iconic structure and its surrounding area – these are all major issues for residents, many of whom, like me, remember Madeira Terrace as a fully functioning and usable attraction.
So in the past few months it has been great to meet with the council’s project team, stakeholders, traders and community groups to progress desperately needed regeneration work.
Restoration of a unique historical structure such as Madeira Terrace is challenging and complex but thanks to the hard work of the council’s project team, and extensive input from stakeholders such as traders and community groups in the area, the project is now progressing well.
Funding for restoring the first 30 arches has been secured and initial consultation and strategic work taken place, with architects on board.
This is a particularly important moment for Madeira Terrace. Due to the gradual decline of the structure over many years, and due to the major works needed to restore it effectively not being prioritised by a series of council administrations, the grade II* listed Madeira Terrace, Madeira Walk, lift tower and related buildings have been added to Historic England’s register of Heritage at Risk for 2020.
Although this may seem like a negative judgment, I welcome this as recognition of the area’s unique status – and critical importance.
The “at risk” status is applied by Historic England with the intention of prioritising action to conserve and sustain a building or structure with unique historical significance.
In addition, considerable progress has been made in the restoration of Madeira Terrace in recent years in terms of funding and initial design work – and the “at risk” status will be beneficial when making bids for further funding.
The new status also emphasises the now widely recognised need for urgent restoration of the Terrace.
So many across the city are invested in the future of Madeira Terrace – and the regeneration of this neglected part of our city is a priority.
The restoration project has cross-party support and the potential to provide improved access, including disabled access, to the eastern seafront, as well as an outdoor events and leisure space, rejuvenating the eastern seafront area and attracting residents and tourists alike.
I look forward to the next stage of this project which will breathe new life into a declining and neglected area of Brighton and help it to regain its unique and special character for all to enjoy.
With restoration of the first 30 arches under way, there is still much more to do but we must keep focused on creating the change that the Terraces – and residents – deserve.
Councillor Clare Rainey is the Green deputy chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee on Brighton and Hove City Council.