Brighton seafront needs to change

pierLike many people in our city, I found the comments by Julian Caddy in Tuesdays Argus newspaper very provocative. Julian focused on the pivotal role played by the Brighton Pier or Palace Pier for those who prefer that name along with its influence on the other facilities and venues the seafront has to offer. Writing as a resident of London Mr Caddy claimed that he hates the Pier in its current format and the accompanying kiss me quick type culture, statements which seem to have offended many local people. However we need to be willing to accept that like any regular visitor to our city, Julian is in a good place to offer a critique on our offer to other people, and as Managing Director of the Brighton Festival Fringe he is an influential leader and we need leaders who will tell us how us how they see things, not simply tell us what we want to hear. I happen to disagree with Julian’s hatred of the Pier and criticism of many of the nightclubs that populate the ‘Lower’ as well as other parts of the area nearby. In the last five years I have visited many of these businesses in my capacity as a Street Pastor. This has enabled me to observe the strengths and weaknesses of these organisations and also to meet many 100’s of the 8 Million people who travel to our city to enjoy these facilities each year. It is testimony to the professionalism of some of these businesses that Brighton continues to attract significant numbers of visitors from all over the UK, not just from the part of London where Julian lives. As he points out, we receive visitors in numbers that are out of step with most seaside destinations in the UK. The wealth that these visitors bring into the city and spend on many things apart from the copious quantities of alcohol is of course only one side of the balance sheet, the other side represents the costs to the emergency services and clean-up activities which means we do need to consider these aspects in a sober way (excuse the pun). Where Julian and I share common ground is in recognising that the city needs a better mix of activities down on the seafront and along West Street than it currently provides. I have previously written in my blog that a more diverse range of visitors to the area would help change the culture in West Street and on the Lower, reducing the demand on the emergency services and potentially improving the way in which we look after one of our assets. I have met people who wanted to enjoy a walk along the front and enjoy the sight and sounds of the sea without tripping over party goers who tend to impose their parties on other people who are passing. In the past the failings of the planning system led to a saturation of nightclubs and alcohol based businesses in these areas. In 2008 the city adopted a Cumulative Impact Zone which provides a basis for the Council to resist requests for further alcohol licenses and in time, as businesses close and surrender their licences or lose their licence as part of a disqualification process, new business models will need to be found for the premises concerned. Inevitably the use of planning restrictions can be a rather blunt instrument, but imagine the outcry if the Council had the power to close down businesses at will just to satisfy its own idea of what would make for a cultural offer more like Barcelona than Benidorm. This means that until venues like the Pier come on the market, the chance to introduce change is quite limited. What is clear however is that without a strong vision and sense of focus for our seafront, the aspirations that Julian has set out or some meaningful alternative will never be realised. In any event there is nothing to stop nightclubs being used for all sorts of artistic purposes, apart from the cost of hiring the venues on the nights concerned. If Julian believes that we need a different sort of seafront offer, he is very well placed to identify some of the ways to achieve this change. I for one would welcome the chance to discuss this with him, along with the managers of some of our better run nightclubs, the people who organise tourist provision and residents of this city who currently stay away from West Street and the Lower on Friday nights because of its reputation. The Chamber of Commerce organised a debate of this nature a few years ago. Perhaps it is time to do so again and see if we can find a solution we are all happy with?


About ianchisnall

I have a passion to see public policy made accessible everyone who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as in policies on health services and strategic planning.
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