When Brighton Marina was first planned, the development on land within the harbour walls was often described as a city by the sea.

By the time it was actually built, it was described more modestly as a village. Now it seems there will be a city again.

Just when it seemed to many that all available space had been built on at the Marina, developers Parkridge has announced plans that include tower blocks of flats and High Street names among the shops.

They are bound to cause consternation, not only for the people already living in the harbour but also for those in the homes above.

If the five towers in bright colours are approved by city planners, they will break one of the principles on development at the Marina - which has been obeyed for the past 30 years - which was never to build anything that peeked above the cliffs.

Just as planners broke the rule earlier this year with the West Pier - enabling development against the rule of no building of any height on the beach side of the seafront - I suspect they may allow the Marina development too.

The trouble with the Marina is that for the most part, it just grew in a haphazard and not particularly attractive way. As a result, it has become a jumble, unlike the more modern marina at the Crumbles in Eastbourne, which is all of a piece.

Flats at the eastern end, while not amazingly attractive in design, do have some coherence and there is nothing wrong with the overall concept of the harbour itself.

But the view from the west is horrendous. People arriving by car descend by an ugly concrete ramp while those arriving on foot have to pick their way through the pedestrian-unfriendly car park of the Asda superstore.

The multiplex cinema and car park could never be called objects of beauty while the bowl, casino and sports centre to their south are little more than giant warehouses. The superstore is another large shed.

Dull and sometimes deserted, the so-called village square has never really worked properly and over the years, planners allowed the building of some whimsical but rather unconnected architectural oddities.

The most remarkable point about the whole development is that from the central feature there is no proper views of the sea.

This defect has been partly remedied in the new Waterfront building by Parkridge, which also contains restaurants, designer shops and an innovative boutique hotel with the Walk of Fame on the pavement outside.

The towers, if approved, will give even better views. But if skyscrapers are to be part of the new city by the sea, they must be of elegant and striking design, not the tired towers built in the Sixties.

Any development needs to be carried out with improvements to public transport that could include a monorail and a proper connection between the Marina and the cliffs they adjoin, which could help replace the closed Undercliff Walk.

Millions of visitors go to the Marina every year and many of them may not care a fig about the architecture. But this huge harbour commands a pivotal site where the Downs run headlong into the English Channel.

It deserves buildings of the highest quality as part of a master plan rather than the ramshackle development that is there today.