“DELIGHT, relief and gratitude” – that’s how the council leader described his feelings following the success of the Save Madeira Terrace crowdfunding campaign.

The £460,000 raised by the project means it is believed to be a record, making it the biggest civic crowdfunding project run by a local authority.

Work to restore the first three arches, giving a glimpse into how the whole of the eastern seafront might look if the full £24 million can be raised, is now scheduled to begin as early as the summer.

Speaking to The Argus after the campaign made its target with a day to spare, Brighton and Hove City Council leader Warren Morgan was reluctant to say the crumbling Victorian structure had been “saved” but was optimistic about the future.

He said: “I would say we have stopped the rot, we’ve turned things around.”

On Thursday, the policy committee approved a plan to use the money raised to renovate three of the arches.

Preparatory work is to begin next month and work on site will get under way in July.

The aim is to have that mini-project complete as early as next December.

But the restoration of all 151 arches will be dependent on winning millions from sources including the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The city’s bid to the HLF will now be submitted, benefiting from evidence that 2,000 city residents have personally donated to the campaign.

Cllr Morgan said no “quid pro quo” deals have been offered to any of the business which made sizeable donations to the campaign.

He said: “Our pitch was simple: if you do business in Brighton and Hove and if you value the environment you do business in, then here’s the opportunity and you can do it.”

He said planning committee decisions would continue to be entirely independent and the final £50,000 donation from Soho House, which has begun work to open a new venue on the seafront, came following pressure from residents but not from the council.

The Grade II listed Madeira Terrace, completed in 1897, is believed to be the longest cast iron structure in the world.

It is badly corroded and fenced off to the public.

Had the campaign failed to hit its goal by midnight, none of the pledges would have been collected.

The city would have risked being hamstrung in future requests for funding had the public not shown their support for the seafront structure.


Congratulations Councillor Morgan. How do you feel?

A mixture of relief and delight and gratitude, really. I think the main thing is being really grateful to everyone who’s backed it in so many different ways, whether that’s pledging, collecting, volunteering, or donating prizes. People like Jax Atkins who ran the raffle and those who did things the council just doesn’t have the manpower to do.

Where did the idea start?

It wasn’t one place, it was organic. I was aware of other projects including Hastings Pier, and the history of Victorian projects being done through public subscription was interesting to me. Spacehive [the crowdfunding platform], who had worked with the Mayor of London, had spoken to us about smaller projects.

Victorian crowdfunding?

During my summer holiday I accessed news archives online and in The Keep’s archive and was able to find articles on the building of the terraces from the 1800s.

There are weird parallels with current debates – over whether the council should pay for the terraces as a tourist attraction for instance.

And there was upset in the press at the time over the delays to the project, that isn’t a modern phenomenon.

How did you come up with your £420,000 target?

That wasn’t a decision I was part of. Part of what Spacehive do is look at what needs to be done and then the decision was taken by the project team here that three would be enough to do proof-of-concept, to show what could be done with the whole run.

How does this it compare with other public sector crowdfunding campaigns?

Well Spacehive is really the biggest player in that sector. This has been the biggest number of donors and the biggest amount raised in a single project.

So is this the biggest thing of its kind in history?

I think in terms of using this means, via a crowdfunding platform, unless someone can show me otherwise I think it’s the biggest of its kind.

So how confident were you?

It was a leap into the dark, we just didn’t know, but it was something we really wanted to try.

How did the large donations from businesses come in?

I didn’t have direct conversations with anyone, I sent a couple of letters.

I didn’t write to Soho House, although I know there was a lot of pressure from residents.

Our pitch was simple: if you do business in Brighton and Hove, and if you value the environment you do business in, then here’s the opportunity and you can do it. Many business have corporate responsibility budgets to spend so we’d have been absolutely wrong if we hadn’t gone for them.

And the next time Brunswick Developments has a planning application to submit or if in six months the Soho House development is still running behind, nobody’s going to remember they put their hand in their pocket?

No. The planning committee is entirely separate. Businesses were free to donate or not donate. And Soho House’s donation was welcome but it wasn’t something they discussed with me in advance.

What do the figures tell us about who supported the campaign?

If we’re talking about who backed it, 97 per cent of the backers were members of the public, who donated smaller amounts and that was what we expected.

And the corporate donors – who were part of the aim of the crowdfunding appeal right from the start – were going to give a lot more.

What will you now say to the Heritage Lottery Fund?

Well, we’ve had 2,000 or more backers.

In fact if you factor in individuals who gave prizes to the raffle, individuals like me who bought a cushion from someone who was donating those profits to the campaign – this has got the backing of thousands of local people who have said this is important.

And there’s evidence the HLF look more kindly on bids which can evidence broad public support.

When will work start on the three arches?

In July or August next year, if everything goes according to plan, which in council terms is a pretty rapid turnaround.

So have we saved Madeira Terrace?

We have taken the first step. I would say we have stopped the rot, we’ve turned things around, and I’m optimistic we’ll see some work start this summer.