Jim Gowans’ West Hill Watch, June 1

Digital Screens at Brighton Station

The proposal to install 11 digital advertising screens at Brighton Station has given BHCC conservation officers cause for concern. The station which dates from 1841 is a landmark building within the West Hill conservation area.

The officers’ report points out that the  proposed digital screens would be substantial structures and the majority would be visually intrusive; those either side of the front entrances to the main building would detract from the simple classical proportions of the grade II* listed Italianate building. These eight screens would be wider than the classically derived columns and pilasters against which they would sit and would harm the proportions of the entrance area and obscure the edge detailing of the columns, pilasters and arches. They would compete with and visually dominate these important architectural features, which are prominent on arrival and departure and which set the character of the external and internal concourse areas.

The application proposes a substantial overall reduction in the number of advertisements within the Station as compensatory benefit and an overall rationalisation of signage. However, most of these existing signs are in much less prominent and sensitive locations, mostly lining the platforms where they have much less impact on the architectural interest of the Station. The signs to be removed also include non-fixed signs which do not require Listed Building Consent and these may potentially reappear without such control.

Some Silver Lining to the Covid Cloud

Whilst your correspondent has not ventured far during the current Covid emergency he has been aware of an increase in neighbourliness as one pleasing consequence of the “lockdown”. There have been offers from younger, fitter residents to help the more vulnerable with shopping and errands and the Thursday evening applause for key workers has encouraged neighbours to acknowledge each other’s presence (at a safe distance) in an unprecedented way. In West Hill Road, for example, colourful bunting and children’s artwork at the windows has added interest to the street scene and raised the sprits of those taking their daily permitted exercise. Many residents have taken this opportunity of confinement combined with fine weather to maintain the outside of their homes by re-painting doors, polishing brass door furniture and sprucing up the front garden, all of which has improved the environment for all to enjoy especially as restrictions on movement are gradually lifted.

Flint Fall Out

Maintaining the outside of many homes in West Hill during the Covid emergency has sadly not extended to saving one attractive feature of the conservation area which is being steadily lost as the years pass. This is the flint panel which originally added interest to front boundary walls of most of the properties. After a century and a half the mortar holding the flints in place is in many cases beginning to fail, allowing weeds to penetrate which then force the flints to fall out. Regrettably, front boundary walls have often been repaired by merely rendering over the flint panel and painting the entire elevation including the brickwork with white masonry paint. If these “snapped” flints having fallen out, are not lost, it is a relatively straightforward job to reposition them. Ideally a lime-based mortar should be used as this will allow the wall to “breath”. Modern cement-based mortars may shrink on drying and fine capillary cracks can develop that admit water and cause damp internally. This can consequentially shorten the life of the repair.

Jim Gowans

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