A KEY figure in battles for conservation has died aged 87.

Selma Montford, co-founder of the Brighton Society, played a vital role in successfully fighting to save Brighton railway station’s roof from demolition in 1973.

She dedicated her life to the upkeep and preservation of Brighton and Hove’s heritage, strongly disagreeing with the building of the Brighton bypass in the 1980’s, while welcoming the North Laine Conservation Area with open arms.

A true lover of her community, Selma had initially created the Preston and Old Patcham Society in 1973, but felt her help was needed not just with preservation in those areas, but with problems across the city – hence, the Brighton Society was founded to tackle societal issues such as housing and public transport.

The campaigner went on to have valued input on many aspects of Brighton and Hove’s future landscape as a member of the council’s Conservation Areas Advisory Group, a position that was hard-fought to achieve.

The Argus: Selma with her MBESelma with her MBE

In 1988, the Brighton Society campaigned against the council’s Freeze the Breeze scheme, an effort to ease struggles surrounding cars travelling to the city, that would have seen the demolition of land surrounding 19 listed properties.

Little would stand in the way of Selma’s determination, who won an MBE in 2006 for her “services to urban conservation in Brighton and Hove”, and was described by The Argus as the “high priestess of the conservation movement”.

Selma, who lived in Clermont Road, Brighton, had four children with Adrian, 99, to whom she was happily married for 59 years.

Speaking on their mother’s impressive legacy, Selma’s children, Sukey and Piran Montfort said her selfless work rippled through many corners of the community.

“She was passionate about the things she believed in, she was prepared to be unpopular at times if she needed to be,” said Sukey.

“She was also very loyal – there are many people that we hear from who talk about decades of knowing my mum and the things that they did together.”

On her conservation work, her son, Piran, said: “Some people thought she was ‘no’ to everything, but she never was that.

“She was all about how to use what you have to make it better. You don’t forget the past, you include it.”

The Argus: Selma reviewing plans for a build site in BrightonSelma reviewing plans for a build site in Brighton

In more recent years, Selma continued her heritage work, arguing on March 25, 2021, that any redevelopment plans of Brighton gasworks, near Brighton Marina, should utilise the gasholder frame.

Her life was a string of fascinating, spell-binding stories, be it during her time at Sidcup Art College where she helped the Rolling Stones print their early concert posters, or when she became so fed up of campaigning to repair the roof of the Birdcage Bandstand, in Brighton, that one night in 2008, she called a roofer herself – and was delighted to find it had been restored thanks to her efforts.

Her proudest work, however, came during her time at the now-closed Lewis Cohen Urban Studies Centre, in Grand Parade. It was here that Selma helped adults from diverse backgrounds to produce a wide range of publications.

“She always said that her happiest time was at the centre,” said Sukey.

“I think she would like to be remembered as somebody that made a difference, who fought for what she believed in.”