Building Green has a simple 3 point plan for the green wall at Madeira Drive Brighton, the focus of major redevelopment and heritage restoration proposals.
Madeira Drive Green Wall is the longest, oldest green wall in the UK and will be the first to be designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The wall is integral to Madeira Terraces, a unique ironwork structure that is under threat from lack of maintenance and investment. Building Green work with the Save Madeira Terraces Campaign, the council and other partners in a collaborative endeavour to shape the best possible future for our seafront.
This plan is supported by extensive surveys by Building Green volunteers, which are free to download at the end of this article.
1. Protect and maintain the best sections of green wall
The priority is to protect the sections of green wall below and above the terraces where there are mature Japanese Spindle plants. There are over 100 of these, and each ‘tree’, approximately 150 years old, has magnificent curving trunks that wind their way up the cliff from ground level. These plants support a wide variety of other flowering plants, as well as home to birds and other wildlife. The repetitive planting scheme mirrors the serried ranks of Victorian arches that are such as special feature of Madeira Terraces. The views under the terraces of these arches and Spindle trunks are key to the impact and beauty of the original Victorian vision, and are irreplaceable.
Building Green would prefer no development under the arches in these sections, particularly between Concorde 2 and Paston Place.
Ongoing maintenance of these sections – and the green wall throughout – is crucial.
Madeira terraces, Kemp town with cyclist. ‘The world famous sheltered walk’
Green wall at Marine Drive, Brighton
Learning about green walls – Madeira Drive’s historic green wall
2. Enhance sections of wall to encourage greater coverage
There are many parts of the wall where the Japanese Spindle was damaged or removed in the past. However Japanese Spindle is not the only plant of value – there are now over 100 species of plants found at Madeira Drive green wall.
Building Green would work with developers to find imaginative solutions to conserving, where possible, other plants of conservation value; removing plants where they can become invasive; and enhancing sections of wall to encourage greater ‘green’ coverage.
In these areas there are likely to be imaginative solutions to incorporating green wall features as well as ‘pods’ or other development under the arches.
Building Green will continue working with volunteers at Duke’s Mound to restore the green wall to its original extent, improve its biodiversity, and make it look fantastic for visitors and local residents.
3. Create new green wall and green the Terrace walkway.
The green wall was originally over a mile long. Building Green wants to see planting restored to the full length, as there are many bare patches and sections.
In these sections, development could take place without harm to existing nature. We suggest these are the first priority for ‘pods’ and other businesses under the arches. However, all development will be expected to make a ‘net gain‘ for biodiversity, and there are many opportunities to enhance development proposals with environmental benefits.
One exciting vision from Building Green is to plant the terrace walkway like the New York ‘high line‘ – creating a new linear seafront park, a major tourist attraction in its own right, and a draw for visitors to the new businesses that will find a home on Madeira Drive. New green wall features should be installed on the upper East cliff (retaining wall).
Surveys and other supporting information
Arch by arch biodiversity survey, indicating areas of value to nature and natural heritage. Madeira Drive Arches Survey 2017
Madeira Drive species list – the flowering plants and other wildlife found along the green wall. Madeira Drive Green Wall Plant Species List 12.09.2017
Plans mapping the extent of green wall coverage along the length of Madeira Drive retaining wall. Surveyed by Building Green c2014.