Concerns raised over Shelter Hall restoration project

From The Argus

The Shelter Hall plans for Brighton seafront

The Shelter Hall plans for Brighton seafront

The £11 million restoration of a crucial Victorian seafront site is set to be given the green light despite reservations from leading conservation experts, the police and the council’s own officers.

The project to revive Shelter Hall at the foot of West Street, Brighton, is set to be granted consent on Wednesday when the city council’s planning committee meets.

But Historic England, the city’s Conservation Advisory Group and Council heritage officers have all expressed concerns over the design while Sussex Police has warned it could add to late-night anti-social behaviour in the area.

The project is part of the city council’s plans for a new £1 billion seafront and would redevelop the former Rip Tide gym site which was closed over structural problems in 2013.

The council successfully bid last year for £9 million of government funding to meet the majority of the costs to create a new restaurant and café.

Historic England (HE) said while the demolition of the current shelter hall, which dates back to the 1880s, and its replacement with a new larger structure was “largely justified”, some details of the scheme would cause harm to the conservation area. HE experts called for alternatives to be explored for the creation of a mezzanine level in the new building.

The mezzanine level is an important design feature for council officials, created to allow the tenant greater flexibility to host private functions and events to maintain footfall in the off-season and attract a well-known anchor tenant.

The council’s heritage officers have also criticised elements of the scheme, describing the dominant size of the rotunda on the top promenade level as “regrettable”. They also called for a rethink with the mezzanine level which breaks up the single height arches which characterised the original Shelter Hall and the rest of the western seafront.

CAG welcomed the proposal in principle but recommend refusal because information provided on the building materials for the upper café, paving layouts and lighting was either “inadequate or inconsistent”.

Sussex Police also expressed their “disappointment” that no timings were given within the application for the opening hours of the new venues. Officers warned the site could add to existing problems of late-night noise, litter and anti-social behaviour along the seafront.

In a recently released promotional video by the council, environment, transport and sustainability committee chairwoman, councillor Gill Mitchell said: “In the long run, we will be attracting businesses down to the area.

“The Shelter Hall will be able to accommodate cafes and restaurants which it is not doing at the moment and so income to the council will be increased, it will provide more jobs and will further boost the city’s tourism economy.”