A recent public consultation about Brighton’s historic Royal Pavilion Garden has revealed that the garden is loved and valued by both residents and visitors.
A survey was launched this summer by Brighton & Hove City Council after the Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Garden was listed on the Heritage at Risk register last year.
According to Historic England, the garden’s character is being blighted by fencing, litter bins, signage and lighting, and its regency serpentine walks, drives, open lawns, shrubs and trees have fallen victim to the garden’s popularity with visitors.
As a result of this listing, the council applied for Heritage Lottery Funding to carry out improvements to the garden, as part of the Royal Pavilion Estate programme. If the bid is successful, a draft restoration plan will be drawn up which will incorporate the survey results.
The Brighton & Hove City Council survey asked residents and visitors to comment on all aspects of the garden from planting, lighting, seating and walkways to busking, attractions, events and security.
With the chance to have their say on how the area could be improved and enhanced for future generations, more than 1,350 people took part in this recent survey.
Residents and visitors have been expressing their affection for the Royal Pavilion Garden, describing it as ‘a beautiful open space’, ‘a unique haven in the city centre‘ and ‘a place for sitting, relaxing and watching the world go by.’
The survey showed that the top three priorities for improving the garden were, improving infrastructure for rubbish collection and recycling, improving lighting throughout the garden, and improving the presentation of the Prince’s Place entrance to the garden (adjacent to the public toilets).
Respondents were keen to see incidents of anti-social behaviour in the gardens addressed, but there were mixed feelings about the possible introduction of a boundary fence to close the garden overnight – 609 people agreed with the idea, 613 disagreed, while 82 people said they neither agreed or disagreed.
The vast majority of respondents, 92 per cent, said they felt either very or fairly safe in the garden during the day. However this figure dropped significantly at night time, with only 43 per cent feeling safe.
There was a strong call for more security within the garden, with many people calling for the introduction of park wardens or attendants and an increased police presence.
Along with theses results concerning safety, 79 per cent of respondents didn’t think anti-social behaviour was a problem during the day, but 41 per cent said it was a problem at night.
Many respondents supported the idea of more events in the garden including night time illumination, garden shows and music events, and most people, 654 respondents, felt busking should continue as it is.
Popular suggestions of how to enhance the lighting in the garden, included the restoration of the historic light columns and introducing up lighting to highlight key trees and features.
Residents were also keen to find out more about wildlife in the garden with strong support for activities such as bat talks and dawn chorus walks, and the suggestion of introducing information boards to tell the story of the garden along with monthly highlights and wildlife information.
Other popular suggestions included:
The restoration of planting beds to reflect the original Nash design/planting style, enhanced drainage and replacement of the existing irrigation system to support intensive use of the lawn area, simplifying internal fencing and removal of unnecessary fencing within the garden, the removal of inappropriate and visually intrusive planting, upgrading the paths, and the overhaul of garden furniture such as benches, bins and signage.
The public are eager to get involved and see this precious public space in the heart of the city enhanced and preserved, and over 100 respondents have expressed an interested in volunteering.
Reflecting on the survey results, councillor Alan Robins, chair of the tourism, development and culture committee, said: “The Royal Pavilion Garden is one of the city’s most well-loved open spaces so it’s no surprise that so many people took the opportunity to complete the survey and have their say.
“Their views, and the results of the consultation, are extremely important as we await the result of our funding bid and plan for the future of the garden.
“In the meantime, I’d like to thank all those who completed the survey and, in particular, those who have expressed an interest in volunteering in the gardens. Their support will be invaluable in the future upkeep of this precious public space.”
A decision on the council’s Heritage Lottery Funding bid is expected to be made at the end of September 2018.
Featured Image via Sarah Agnew Twitter account: @IrishAggers