People living around The Level have called on the council to rethink its plans to convert one of the 1920s pavilions into a cafe and toilet block.
Before the Brighton park’s 2012 revamp, the building now called the MacLaren Pavilion, on the west side of the park by the new fountains, was a cafe kiosk, while the one opposite, now called the Elm Room, was children’s toilets.
Both were converted into community spaces when a new £1 million cafe was built – but this has now been empty for almost two years because of flooding and persistent vandalism of the toilets.
Brighton and Hove City Council now wants to convert the MacLaren Pavilion into a cafe with space for one table, plus four toilets, and a baby change.
It says it intends to offer the lease at a reduced rent with a condition the tenant manages the toilets.
But members of the Level Communities Forum say it would make more sense to turn all of the MacLaren Pavilion into a cafe and put toilets in the Elm Room, which has existing sewage connections from when it was a children’s toilet.
One forum member, Sandy Moon, commented on the application saying when the forum met at the end of last month, all members agreed putting toilets in the Elm Room made more sense.
She said: “Our proposal and the most logical one was to not divide the proposed building into a cafe and toilets as there is no existing sewage outlet in that spot only water access.
“Our idea is to make the entire building a cafe so it can be utilised in the winter months too with more indoor seating and disable access.
“The opposite pavilion building is just used for storage and occasional police presence, so the idea is to use this building or half of it for the toilets, closer to the police presence and will open up foot fall round the cafe without impeding the pleasure of the cafe users.
“The opposite building also has a sewage connection in place so the expense and impact would be minimised.
“This proposal was agreed by everyone sitting on the committee and others present as a logical way to utilise the space more effectively and reduce costs.
“Local resident feedback at this point is that the demolition of the existing cafe and creating a hard standing for events or an out door fitness gym would be better than leaving it to deteriorate further.”
Another member of the public, whose details were redacted on the council’s planning portal, said: “I am not totally against the proposal as the area clearly needs to be cleaned up and made useful again.
“But I think that the alternative suggestion made by Sandy Moon in the comments re turning the whole of the building into a cafe and converting (part of) the existing cafe into toilets is more logical.
“I also particularly welcome the idea of installing an outdoor gym in this space, which is something I, and I think a lot of other local residents, would use.
“It would also help to make the area more appealing to a wider range of people.”
The application, submitted by the council’s environment team to its planning team, says: “Agreeing a change of use will enable this area of The Level to once again be served by a café and public toilets.
“As noted above, the existing café/toilet facility is extensively damaged and no longer provides a safe or usable environment for either a café tenant or public use as a toilet.
“Enclosed with this application is a log of public complaints received by the Council about the current public toilet provision, along with maintenance/repair call outs over the past 4 years.
“Each list is extensive and demonstrates the social challenges and safety problems involved with the current building.
“One of the primary issues which has led to the exceptional levels of vandalism at The Velo Care and existing public toilets is a lack of natural surveillance of the site.
“It is felt that the current design, which allows pockets of unsupervised areas, encourages anti-social behaviour and, therefore, vandalism.
“Natural surveillance is a design concept promoted by the Secured by Design initiative. The design of the split café/toilet use of the MacLaren Pavilion is to ensure all areas of the proposed refurbished building remain more publicly visible than is currently the case at the existing building.
“All doors/access routes to the toilets will open to the front of the building at a main point, which, along with the new café location, is aimed to concentrate footfall into a single area thus encouraging natural surveillance and therefore, it is hoped, reduce vandalism and anti-social behaviour.”