AN urban design expert has come up with a proposal to save the crumbling seafront arches.

Michael Doyle, who runs Doyle Town Planning and Urban Design in Brighton, has released his plans for the Madeira Drive arches exclusively to The Argus as the debate about how to save the much loved landmark rumbles on.

Mr Doyle's plans involve creating a glass house that shields the original iron structure from the weather.

Modern beach huts are also proposed along a reinforced upper section with cafes and craft shops in the arches.

Mr Doyle, who has worked in planning and urban design for more than 25 years, said: "We need some pragmatic responses rather than high-principled conversation about heritage where buildings can be left to rot in the meantime."

The 51-year-old added: "I live in Marine Parade in Brighton so I have a personal interest.

"I thought it was useful to come up with some practical improvements."

Mr Doyle could not put a cost on his vision but feels a recent estimate of £40 million is closer to a correct figure rather than the £90 million reported earlier this year.

He added: "We need things which will help to bring in money to help repair it in future.

"Even when the upper promenade was open, there were very few people using it along its whole length. Its original use is really historic now. Is it really used in the way it was designed for? And, if not, should we change it?"

He admitted his ideas are in their infancy in terms of how they would be realised, but said: "We have only just begun to think it through but the structure is unsafe as it is.

"A lot of visitors where I am just think the seafront's closed.

"At the moment I'm just contributing my thinking but I would love to help."

Last week we revealed that Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission is drawing up a UNESCO World Heritage status bid for the promenade, stretching from Arundel Terrace to Hove Lawns.

Politicians and businesses have urged Brighton and Hove City Council to support the bid with officials in Blaenavon, Wales, and the Derwent Valley in Derbyshire both telling the newspaper how the status has put them on the map.

But the local authority has ruled itself out, arguing it could cost too much and hamper its own plans for the seafront.

Last week the Victorian Society also listed the Madeira Drive arches as one of the most at risk building in the country.


DESIGNER Michael Doyle, who has drawn up his own plans illustrated here, is not convinced the arches should be restored on a like-for-like basis.

His vision for turning part of the arcade into a glasshouse – "perhaps the longest glasshouse in the world” – would have the benefit of weather-proofing the iron structure underneath it.

“This could be used for corporate events and weddings to generate income. A glass roof will help protect the structure from future decay,” he said.

He also thinks beach huts on the upper level could help fund the restoration and “bring the upper level to life while keeping the terrace open to the public”.

He believes moveable “pods”, housing cafés and craft shops could be installed on the ground level under the arcade and moved and removed as the restoration work progresses, generating rental income.

In addition, his plan incorporates solar panels on the upper level to generate electricity and potentially make the area, and the neighbouring Volks railway, carbon neutral.

Mr Doyle said the funding should be three-pronged: an element of council funding, an element of match funding through the National Lottery or similar and a third level of income generated through the arches themselves.

He said: “It’s not clear if these approaches would be cheaper but we would be able to keep more of the structure.

“I don’t think it’s about a cheaper solution but a variety of solutions.”

His design practice has previously worked on major projects including a new technology city in Kenya and the £800 million redevelopment of Reading Station.