THE Clock Tower in Brighton used to be the building people loved to hate.

Any councillor in need of some cheap publicity would call for it to be demolished.

But it never was and somehow it survived to be much more fondly regarded today. It was something of an engineering marvel when built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in the 1880s.

It was linked to the Observatory at Greenwich so that the golden ball on its roof would rise to the top of its mast exactly on the hour. But unfortunately, wind whistling through a slot in the mast made an irritating noise. A lot of people lived nearby in those days and successfully pleaded with councillors to have the golden ball mechanism switched off.

Towards the end of the last century, the tower became part of the pedestrianised area and the unsightly loos below it were removed.

To commemorate the present Queen’s diamond jubilee, the golden ball was put back into use without any whistling. But the tower looks rather sad to me now and in need of a good wash and brush up if not a complete overhaul. The ball seems to be out of order much of the time and the time on the clock face is often wrong. It is by no means the only building in Brighton to have suffered from what looks to lay observers to be lack of maintenance.

The delightful seafront bandstand was in a sorry state for many years before finally being restored at a cost of a million pounds and I wondered at the time if better maintenance might have reduced that sum considerably.

Much more serious is the condition of the Madeira Terrace Arches in Kemptown. They were allowed to deteriorate so badly that they had to be closed and look forlorn. It will cost more than £40 million to put them right and no one is sure if Brighton and Hove can raise that sort of money.

Some privately owned buildings are also in need of tender loving care. I recently mentioned the Hippodrome which ideally would be restored as a live theatre.

Only a few yards away, is the synagogue in Middle Street, surely one of the most magnificent in Britain.

Thee have been great buildings in the past that were nearly demolished. They included Brunswick Terrace West and Victoria Terrace in Hove.

These handsome terraces were often built rather shoddily and crumble quickly if neglected. Luckily Hove Council cobbled together a rescue package and the buildings survive today.

Brighton and Hove City Council owns more properties than most authorities and some of them are extremely valuable. Many years ago, the council used to be presented with a list prepared by officers of buildings in danger and those which could be repaired.

A couple of councillors knowledgeable about property also identified sites which could be sold.

But the council also made some errors. It agreed to the demolition of the handsome Attree Villa by Queens’s Park and let the spa be pulled down, all except the frontage.

The Central School in Church Street was a fine and rare example of Regency Gothic architecture left to decline and fall.

A number of Brighton’s celebrated Victorian churches have been demolished because of falling attendances and a lack of imagination in finding alternative uses for them.

The construction of Churchill Square led to the destruction of attractive old homes and the Grand Hotel only narrowly escaped demolition.

Old buildings in a city famous for salt laden storms often deteriorate quickly when not maintained or repaired properly. Unscrupulous owners may sometimes give them a hidden hand towards being uneconomic to repair and there have been suspicious fires.

Brighton has more listed buildings than almost any other seaside resorts in Britain.

It also has some curiosities such as the Chattri Memorial on the Downs near Patcham and the two piers.

There are still several clock towers such as those in Preston Park, Blaker’s Park and by the Ladies Mile pub in Patcham. They are worth saving but none has half the fame or grandeur of the tower in the city centre.

It was late in construction but when it was completed most people felt it had been worth the trouble.

The tower’s dismal appearance should be a constant reminder to the council of the need to keep up appearances.

And it begs the question of how many more buildings in Brighton need maintenance now to stave off costly renovations or even destruction in the future.