The Black Rock Development – Urban Regeneration or Just Another Carbuncle?

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It was announced this week that the regeneration of Brighton seafront will be led by a world-renowned team of architects who designed the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and Olympic Basketball Arena. WilkinsonEyre will develop the city’s Waterfront scheme of Black Rock and how it relates to the surrounding seafront sites. According to the Waterfront project “will deliver a new world class conference and events venue to replace the Brighton Centre, and an extension to Churchill Square that will transform its relationship with the surrounding area and extend the city centre to the seafront…the masterplan will make sure the sites are developed to a high standard that enhances the city’s heritage. Conservation groups will be involved to ensure consideration of the seafront’s historic landscape is included in the plan”. The Black Rock site is on Madeira Drive and occupies a prominent location on Brighton & Hove’s seafront. According to the plan, the project is worth around £540 million and will generate ‘approximately 2,000 net new jobs and approximately £150 million per annum of net additional expenditure in the city’. Council leader Warren Morgan said “This is arguably the most important project for the city’s future prosperity and one we are committed to delivering on time and in budget. It is key to the wider regeneration of the seafront and to delivering economic growth, jobs, homes and income for the city from new business rates and council tax. We now have an impressive professional team to take this forward and produce a quality development that respects the city’s heritage whilst building a city fit for the future. The project team will be consulting with stakeholders in the New Year and the council will continue to work productively with Standard Life Investments on getting the agreement ready to be approved in Spring”

So what do we think? It certainly is a large development, and it will be brilliant if it created as many jobs as it expects to create, and we can agree that the Brighton Centre may need refurbishing. However, do we need to bring Churchill Square to the seafront? Extending Churchill Square could pave the way for more chain high street stores moving their way down towards the seafront and our beloved independent shops in the Laines. This could, at the worst, push the independent shops out of the Laines as has often happened in the high streets of smaller towns in the surrounding area. People are also worried that although the plan says that they will respect the heritage of our city, that may not be the case. Reading the comments in The Argus, many are worried that this development will turn our city, known for its originality, into just another characterless urban sprawl. Brighton is wonderful in that we have Churchill Square and its surrounding area, which is full of as many high street stores as we could possibly want, and we have the charm and adventure of discovering the independent and luxury shops in the Laines, as well as the quirks of a traditional seaside town such as the pier. Some are also worried that these developments will lead to increases in property prices which are skyrocketing already. Currently, to own your own home in Brighton will take around 100 years. That’s more than London! Could this new development to turn Brighton into a more cosmopolitan city lead to pricing out its loyal residents?

image credit: Stephen Jones

However, the responses haven’t been all bad. There are some who are looking forward to the prospect of the refurbishment of the Brighton Centre, and revamping of Black Rock. Some are also commenting that the developments show how modern and fast moving our wonderful city is. No doubt the debate will rage on as we find out more about the development of our city centre. What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts on this, comment below!


Holly Martin

feature image: Berit Watkin

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