HOW we pay for large scale restoration and maintenance of our heritage sites and tourist attractions is an ongoing challenge.

Harsh cuts to local authority budgets mean that many councils have to look elsewhere for grants, this in turn places increased demand on organisations like the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for money.

Our community here in Brighton and Hove has been amazing and I want to give special thanks to the Save Madeira Terraces Raffle Group for all their hard work and to everyone who donated to the crowdfunding project.

It was shocking to see the theft and vandalism of Madeira Terrace over Christmas which was a severe blow to everyone working on the plan to restore them.

I know that from the outside it may look like not much has happened on Madeira Terrace this year, which I understand is frustrating when there’s so much community engagement and enthusiasm for restoration. I think the council has maybe been too focused on getting “our ducks in a row” and too slow to get the design work started, so I am pleased that the design team are due to begin in the next few months and hope you will be too.

We tried several times to secure additional funding so that we could restore 30 arches which would have been more cost effective and made better use of the crowdfunded money. That caused another delay and unfortunately our bids were unsuccessful, but it was worth trying. Meanwhile, the idea of selling off other council assets would leave us vulnerable in the future at a time when our financial situation is already threatened by national Government.

The plan now is to get on and restore the three arches paid for by crowdfunding rather than delay further by trying to put in more bids to HLF. We have set up an advisory panel providing community input into the project and we will have a project board to give closer councillor oversight. Together those groups will help maintain the progress of the project.

It is important to recognise the scale of the work to restore the arches. It is a complicated and complex project to restore our grandstand for the city’s largest outdoor event space. Madeira Terraces face a harsh marine environment all year round, so it is important to guarantee that the restoration work will not be undone by the elements any time soon.

Beyond the terraces, we are also making progress on rejuvenating the Black Rock site.

I am really pleased with the community engagement events the council ran late last year which lots of local people attended. We asked you to tell us what you want for the future of the area and lots of ideas and plans were discussed at the events.

These included clearing the site and improving the appearance of the area, creating space for events and recreation, improving cyclist and pedestrian access, renovating the Grade-II listed Old Reading Room for future letting, as well as an extended new sea wall and beach boardwalk.

Getting to work on improving the Black Rock site with your input and breathing new life into its heritage and history clears the way for a brighter future for the area.

Heading along the seafront towards Hove, I am excited about the re-opening of Shelter Hall.

The restoration works on this historic building are well under way, and it will soon be the proud home of our city’s first food hall on Brighton seafront.

This is another great project that will regenerate our seafront area and represents community wealth building in action. This is because the Shelter Hall food court will welcome up to ten independent Brighton and Hove businesses, offering a range of cuisines. The ethically-driven Sessions Market who will run the food hall will be encouraging its tenants to source its ingredients and produce from Sussex, benefitting the local economy and reducing our carbon footprint. The site will also generate over 100 new jobs.

Elsewhere on the seafront, the residents of Hove are asking that we improve the stretch between the King Alfred and Hove Lagoon. For years now, those lawns have been neglected and don’t offer adequate leisure opportunities for people in Hove. The council is looking to work with those residents to develop a seafront improvement plan to breathe new life into that area. We will look at how we can better use those spaces, but without losing the special character that makes Hove unique, and different to Brighton. Again, how we pay for those ideas will be an issue, but once we’ve agreed a plan with the community about what we want we can start to look at how we can pay for it.

From the restoration of the Madeira Terrace arches, to the improvement works at Black Rock, the delicious future of Shelter Hall, and the plans that might develop for Hove, our seafront is changing for the better.