The architects were against it!

Photo:Over Street

Over Street

Photo:Tidy Street

Tidy Street

Photo:Robert Street

Robert Street

They thought North Laine not worth preserving

By Jackie Fuller, North Laine resident

In 1994 a second draft of a North Laine Conservation Area Study was published for public comment as part of a consultation process by the Environmental Services Department of the then Borough Council. That study aimed to analyse the character of the North Laine area, to review the boundaries of the Conservation Area, to identify constraints on and opportunities for development, and to set out a programme for action.

Some streets already damaged

Some North Laine streets had already been seriously damaged and devalued by then and had been devalued by alterations to houses in single occupation which did not previously require planning permission. Education about the characteristics of these houses that made them ‘special’ and for which they needed to be treasured was long overdue!

Each street is distinctive

One of the interesting qualities of North Laine has always been that every street is different and distinctive – see, for example, the bucket bays of Over Street, the pilasters of Tidy Street, the flat fronts of Robert Street, and so on. There is never any confusion about which street is which.

An area worth preserving

However, we are lucky that we still have North Laine at all! We owe much to the foresightedness of Ken Fines, who as Borough Planning Officer in 1976 had recognised that North Laine was an area worth preserving and had it designated as a Conservation Area.

The RIBA advised against it

But Ken Fines did this against the advice of the Sussex branch of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), who at that time expressed their views as follows:

We agree that there are individual buildings within the area which are attractive and should be retained and there are also isolated groups of cottages and one street (Kensington Gardens) which have an attractive character which it would be a pity to lose.

Despite the above comment we feel most strongly that the majority of the area has reached the end of its useful life and is in fact the priority area in the town for renewal. We cannot agree that this is a suitable area for designation as a Conservation Area.

We wish to put forward the case for major renewal of the area .... and redeveloping with the same mix of residential buildings (at a higher density), shops, workshops etc.

Even a cursory glance at the area reveals the extent of decay and dereliction, the many sub-standard houses, narrow roads jammed with parked cars, lack of gardens and privacy, multiple occupation etc. In our opinion the general effect does no credit to the town.”


The RIBA probably think very differently about North Laine today!


(Many thanks to Selma Montford of the Brighton Society for supplying a copy of their Newsletter for November 1994, from which most of the above is taken.)


[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 189, November/December 2007]

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