A preview of possible plans for Regency Square. Click on dots for further images.
Our parents do things for which we have to forgive them and move on. It is the same with local authority planning departments. In both cases, they make decisions which seem to be right at the time but prove to be very wrong in the longer term. One such decision, for which we have to forgive Brighton Council, was to build a car park under Regency Square in 1968.
The entire central garden of this striking example of Regency architecture is now essentially a roof garden to a three-tier car park. The original gentle seaward slope has been terraced into three levels, each of which contains modern car park paraphernalia: the rather brutal 1960s railings; concrete walls; a layer of soil is so thin that the grass dries out every summer.
Nonetheless, the Regency Square garden remains a significant, even vital open space for local city dwellers, workers and visitors. Over the past years, local residents have spent both time and their own money making improvements – new benches and plants, and regular gardening sessions.
All this is, however, a drop in the ocean of what needs to be done. Many of us who live or have businesses in the Square care passionately about the space, despite of the 1960s desecration. We feel strongly that it should be restored to the appearance of a fine period garden, even though essential car park structures must remain.
Period railings and lamp standards surrounding expert landscaping that disguises the 20th century additions would create a complete transformation.
The coming of the i360 has provided the opportunity and a new impetus to achieve all this. The i360 contract specifies that some of the money from ticket sales will be used to improve and maintain the area surrounding the new attraction. That area includes Regency Square.
Discussions with the Council are ongoing. We have embarked on a bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. Moreover, we have a knight in shining armour supporting our cause in the form of Chelsea Flower Show winner and TV garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin, who has provided three brilliant possible designs for Regency Square (see above).
The magnitude of what needs to be done, plus the years of uncertainty about the future of the West Pier site, has meant that Regency Square has not benefited from the sort of makeover that has transformed many of our city’s open spaces in recent years.
The i360 was sold to local people as the key to bringing new life to this part of the city. We want to make sure that one major part of that regeneration is a garden which significantly enhances the lives of local people and visitors – a garden that will form part of our city heritage for generations to come.