Plans for West Street to become like La Rambla in Barcelona

From The Argus

imgID43725289 One of the most run-down parts of the city could be transformed into Brighton’s answer to La Rambla as part of a regeneration masterplan.

The newly unveiled plan would transform “tacky” West Street – currently a magnet for antisocial behaviour and blighted by “awful buildings” – into a Barcelona-style walkway including hotels, a restaurant, trees and street furniture.

Developers hope the development could act as a catalyst for further regeneration of the area, and coincide with the much-mooted Standard Life redevelopment of Churchill Square, as well as the £9 million rebuilding of Shelter Hall on the seafront.

Under the proposals, 78 West Street, formerly Hedkandi and Tru nightclub, and 79 West Street, currently Walkabout, Smart Brighton Beach and Backpackers Hostels, will be replaced with new hotels and a ground floor area spanning between 78 West Street and 7-8 Middle Street, including a hotel reception and high quality restaurant.

The eyesore former nightclub will be replaced by a modern building “reminiscent of the original Victorian dancehall”.

Another building will replace a former hotel on Middle Street, which currently towers over the synagogue and other neighbouring listed buildings and its graffitied front will be rebuilt and opened up.

Meanwhile “unattractive, unlit” South Street will be made into a safe secondary thoroughfare, with entrances and windows to the new hotel and a small block of four apartments.

Architect Morgan Carn Partnership is also behind the recently approved Hanningtons Lane, Puget’s Lane and Brighton Square plan to regenerate The Lanes and North Street.

John McLean, director at Morgan Carn, said: “This is tremendously exciting for our city, West Street is a huge disappointment and lost opportunity.

“Thousands of visitors and local residents flock to the seafront from the station and their first impression is an inhospitable, car dominated street spoilt by some awful buildings.

“West Street suffers from a tacky image and many of the current uses are a magnet for antisocial behaviour, with the dead frontages created by the nightclubs and amusement arcades contributing nothing to the quality of the public realm.

“This is the primary route between the station, seafront and the eagerly awaited i360 and should be Brighton’s equivalent of the Rambla in Barcelona, a wonderful, vibrant, tree lined avenue with street performers and alfresco dining, an attraction in itself.

“We are hoping to upgrade the pavements and introduce trees and street furniture as part of the proposals and encourage neighbouring landowners to do the same.”

Geoffrey Springer, director at developer London & Regional, said: “The proposed development will bring a disused and semi-derelict site back into occupational use, generating jobs, enhancing the appeal of the Old Town to tourists and creating economic and physical regeneration in the heart of Brighton. We want to ensure that we deliver the very best development, as Brighton deserves.”

Afshin Foulad, director at Smart Space, said: “This is a burning aspiration that we have been working towards since our acquisition of the site and we hope will provide a catalyst for the future enhancement of West Street and the Old Town. We look forward to discussing our ideas with local stakeholders and the general public in due course.”

STREET PERFORMERS AND AL FRESCO CAFÉS

The Argus: La Rambla. PA Photo/© Turisme de Barcelona

The long tree-lined pedestrianised area of La Rambla in central Barcelona, pictured, is popular with tourists for its shops, street performers and al fresco cafes.

Like West Street, La Rambla is next to the city’s historic quarter.

The Barri Gòtic – or Gothic Quarter – is the centre of the old city of Barcelona.

The Barri Gòtic is a labyrinth of lanes with small squares and streets, many of which connect onto the Rambla.

The West Street comparison with La Rambla was made by Morgan Carn architects as a possible blueprint for how Brighton’s rundown party street could be moulded.

But while the vibrant Spanish stretch, with its gradual descent towards the seaside, might sound like a good model, not everything is rosy on La Rambla and current comparisons with West Street could also be made.

The Catalan city is expecting nine million visitors this year, a similar number to Brighton’s own 8.5 million visitors a year – but with most concentrated into small areas of Barcelona. With cheap flights, a weak Euro and the rise of Airbnb, Barcelona is one of the number one party weekend city destinations in Europe.

But locals are increasingly fed up with the influx of party goers, and coupled with rising costs, the issue is forcing people from their homes.

Protesters have demanded an end to “drunken tourism” and the city’s newly leftwing elected mayor has suggested a possible cap on the number of visitors.

As well as being the scene of the drunken antics of hen and stag parties – not unlike West Street – La Rambla is also known for rampant pickpocketing, sex workers and football brawls.

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