In 1967, the Regency Square garden was dug up to create the underground car park. A new lawn was laid out, in three sections, on the car park roof. It could have been worse. The original proposal had been to replace the garden with a surface level car park!
The Parks and Gardens department initially planted trees in the new garden, but the trees all died.
Regency Square September 1971, the new roof garden with trees mid-left and top right. From Brighton Borough Surveyor’s Dept records BH/H/20/38 held at The Keep.
Regency Square June 1975. In spite of it being mid-summer, the young tree is leafless and lifeless. From Brighton Borough Surveyor’s Dept records BH/H/20/38 held at The Keep.
Regency Square 1990 (author's own collection)
All three gardens were re-landscaped in 2001. The work was carried out after four rounds of public consultation, with plans revised in line with feedback from residents.
An initial consultation, in the summer of 1996, revealed that residents liked the informal style of the gardens in Russell Square, but wanted the Clarence and Regency gardens to have formal layouts. Designs drawn up to reflect this went out to public consultation in March 1997. The designs included reinstating the traditional cast iron railings in all three gardens, laying paths and evergreen hedges around the borders in Clarence and Regency squares, and planting more trees at the eastern end of the garden in Russell Square.
The designs were widely supported, with residents mainly asking only for more trees and seating in Clarence Square, less seating in Russell Square.
Funding for the work was to come from several sources including the Regency Square Area Society. But the bulk of the cost relied on a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Sadly, the grant was not forthcoming.
Over the next three years, two further sets of designs were drawn up and put out to public consultation. In July 1998, the revised plan for Clarence Square included trees in each corner of the garden, gates on each of the north, east and west sides, and a centre shrubbery as well as a border hedge. In Russell Square, the plan included a gate for the north side of the garden and a gradual re-planting that would take 10 years to reach maturity. In Regency Square, the three lawns would be linked by ramps, and bordered by two metre wide evergreen shrubberies, brick edged gravel paths and grass verges with seating. The plans were again widely supported but rejected for lottery funding.
In summer 2000, designs based on a much reduced budget were prepared. The Clarence Square gardens were, by this time, in a very poor state of repair. Coincidentally, it was discovered that urgent repairs were needed to the roof of the Regency Square car park. This limited the amount of improvement work that could be carried out in Regency Square in the short term. But it meant the bulk of the available funds could be focused on improving the smaller gardens.
Work on the Clarence and Russell gardens, including reinstating traditional railings, was carried out during spring and summer 2001. The landscaping closely reflects the designs previously approved by residents.
Re-landscaping in Regency Square was limited to the top garden, where paths were laid and borders of drought-tolerant plants created. Further funds for regenerating the Regency Square garden have since been promised through a deal between the council and the i360. Local consultation carried out in 2016 by the Regency Square Area Society asked how local residents wanted the money to be spent. The consultation revealed that the gardens in our squares continue to be regarded, first and foremost, as spaces for residents to enjoy.
Clarence Square September 2020 (author's own)
Russell Square through the railings September 2020 (author's own)