Boom! Funding secure for Madeira Terraces campaign

So it’s done – thanks to local campaigners, members of the public, local businesses and some particularly big donors, the Save Madeira Drive campaign reached its target today.

Total reached = £466,149

More soon – great news for now.


Last chance to save Madeira Terraces

The crowdfunding campaign closes tomorrow. Pledge now to Save Madeira Terraces.

Help us restore these terraces and the Green Wall to their former glories.

Save Madeira Terraces!

Those wonderful Green Gym volunteers were at it again this week, pruning and improving the famous Green Wall at Madeira Drive. Thank you Green Gym!

The green wall originally extended down to the Palace Pier, and Building Green would love to see it fully restored to its original condition.

That ain’t going to happen unless the Madeira Terrace restoration goes ahead – the green wall and the Victorian terraces are inter-related – so please donate to the ‘Save Madeira Terrace’ campaign.

Currently standing at £381k out of a required £422k…deadline 30 November!

Video here.



Great Green Wall – Madeira Drive

This article appeared in The Living Coast newsletter this month.


Did you know that a particular jewel in our ‘green building’ crown is on Madeira Drive?

A hotbed of Victorian invention, Madeira Drive’s history has seen piers, an aquarium, an electric railway and ‘Daddy Longlegs seagoing car’, the first speedway and the ‘famous sheltered walk’ – Madeira Terrace. Well, in amongst all that, 150 years ago, the Victorians planted a ‘green wall’. The engineers had the foresight to build the Madeira Terrace in a way which enabled the planting to continue growing up the East Cliff – a rare early example in this country of integrating built and natural environments!

The green wall has grown in majesty since its humble beginnings as a backdrop of evergreen Japanese Spindle, which was planted to soften and improve the appearance of the developing seafront.

A recent survey by Building Green found over 100 species of plants growing on the wall, which – although much reduced from its original extent – is almost certainly the oldest, longest, green wall in Europe! The Madeira Drive Green Wall is now a candidate ‘Local Wildlife Site’ – the only one of its kind in the UK!


The Duke’s Mound end is managed by Green Gym volunteers in partnership with Building Green, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Ecology Consultancy.

Madeira Terraces are, of course, in need of restoration as part of a newly regenerated East Brighton seafront. Building Green is working with Brighton & Hove City Council and its “Save the Terraces” Campaign to ensure that this regeneration celebrates and enhances both the built and natural environments along the seafront.

What a great opportunity to connect more people with nature – the mission of The Living Coast – whilst honouring our Victorian legacy and creating a place that people really want to spend time in for the next 150 years!


Nature – the forgotten ingredient

This article by Building Green appeared in The Living Coast newsletter this month, and can be found on their website.

When we talk about creating safe, accessible and attractive towns and cities, we often forget one thing: Nature.

Well, stop and think about this: our species evolved for 2 million years on the African Savannah. That means us humans are hard-wired, physically and mentally, to interact with nature. The Victorians figured out that we feel better when we are amongst it, and build stronger communities when we have access to natural environments around us. We know and love our Victorian parks and the street trees that continue to enhance our city. Even as far back in time as 1750, Lewes’ own Richard Russell (aka ‘Dr Brighton’) published the first book to connect health with sea bathing!

Now, as you may have heard, we are on the cusp of a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity on earth and it’s our fault. We have both rare and everyday plants and animals in our city – and our gardens, parks, allotments, nature reserves, coast and farmland all have a role to play in protecting this biodiversity. But does it really matter? Isn’t biodiversity just for the ‘bird nerds’ and ‘flower fanciers’? Aren’t we apart from nature, not a part of it? What does nature in cities do for us? Well the evidence of how we depend on nature is now quite overwhelming.

Take health, for example. Being active in the natural environment is good for us. The annual cost of inactivity to the NHS in England is £8.2bn. For England as a whole, people living closer to green space have lower death rates and less heart disease. The importance of local green space for kids and poorer communities is especially important for health. Accordingly, doctors are beginning to prescribe a dose of nature in some parts of the country such as Cornwall for example.

There are also functional benefits of course. Greener cities are cooler (our current heatwave temperatures are predicted to be the average by 2050), with better air quality (Brighton & Hove has twice the national limit of harmful nitrous oxides), and better storm water management (we are one of the most at risk locations in the country for surface water flooding).

And what about community? Recent work has estimated that ‘neighbourliness’ delivers a £28bn saving to the UK from increased social connections and demand on policing, social care, welfare and environment. Creating and managing green features is an opportunity for community activity and cohesion, and the greener our places, the less crime we are likely to suffer. For example, one major study in the US recorded 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes in green Chicago estates.

Green roofs at the University of Brighton’s Checkland building, Falmer campus (James Farrell)

But what about the places in between the green spaces – the buildings themselves that define ‘city’ in the first place? Long gone is the traditional mindset of preserving nature behind fenced off reserves. Nature is out and proud – on green roofs, green walls, balconies and terraces. The local voluntary initiative of ‘Brighton & Hove Building Green’ believes that we can do better with these often under-utilised and ‘wasted’ spaces, and bring about many more of these benefits.

Thanks to imaginative planning policies in places like London, the UK ‘green roof’ movement is growing at 17% annually – the fastest growth in Europe! Here in Brighton & Hove, a recent study identified 87 football pitches-worth of roofs in a 9km2 area of the city centre that were suitable for greening – providing benefits for urban drainage, avoided air conditioning and urban cooling. And hey, they look great – certainly better than boring felt or shingle ballasted roofs, or much of our blank city wall space. Brighton & Hove City Council does have supportive planning policies and it’s not difficult to find great examples of green roofs and walls in Brighton without too much standing on tip-toes: The Level cafe for example, the Crew Club in Whitehawk, the garden in Regency Square that covers the underground car park, the green walls in the New England streets behind Brighton Station, and the wonderful wildflower roofs on the Phoenix ‘container housing’ at the old Cobbler’s Thumb site near Preston Circus.

Green roof on the Velo Café, Brighton, created by ‘Organic Roofs’ (James Farrell)

At Building Green, we believe that creating a better Brighton & Hove is not just worthwhile, but achievable. We also know that evidence is not enough – people change when they feel as well as think, and we need green spaces for people to experience and interact with personally, as often as possible.

So here’s an idea. Take a walk down Duke’s Mound from Marine Parade to see the green wall – our long, leafy wonder. You may notice how it cools the air, and how the greens perfectly offset the sea and the buildings of Regency Kemptown. You may see butterflies, bees and birds and maybe catch the scent of wallflower or Spanish gorse. You may notice figs, gladioli and ferns, and how much slower and calmer people seem as they walk along. Why not try it at the weekend – I’ll bet you will feel a difference!

Green wall on Madeira Drive, Brighton (James Farrell)

So let’s remember that key ingredient and cherish our most important landscapes, sites and wild places, both in the city and without. But let’s also take down those metaphorical fences and bring nature into the very fabric of the city and into our everyday lives. After all, we may very well depend on it.

The Brighton High Line?

So why not a Brighton High Line at Madeira Drive?

Flying high above New York City’s Meatpacking district is the High Line. You’ll have heard of it – it’s in the top 5 most Instagrammed sites in the world, receives over 7 million visitors a year. The cost was $273m. The additional tax revenues alone are estimated at $900m, with some $2bn additional local economic activity.

According to GreenPlay LLC, “The High Line district (including the Chelsea neighborhood), long back-on-its-heels, is now one of the hottest markets for upscale residential, retail, and office-center development.


A recent visit by Building Green left us even more impressed than we expected to be. Run entirely by a Trust and a volunteer workforce, the place was packed with happy, strolling visitors. Gardeners moved through the planting, leaving wafts of mint and other fragrances in the wake of their secateurs. There were shops and stalls – all profits back to the Trust – as well as public art, recliners and all around the activity of cranes and new development in progress. As the sign on a new apartment block put it “Think the High Line is Cool? Check out our Roof Deck and no fee rentals“.


Now to Brighton. We already have a high line – it’s Madeira Terraces, created by the Victorians for similar motives to the modern New Yorkers. Work is underway to source funding for their repair and restoration, and we have the marvellous backdrop of the Madeira Drive Green Wall for visitors to enjoy again in future as they walk the regenerated seafront.


But what if the terrace deck itself was greened? Planted with attractive, fragrant and salt tolerant plants that were a reason for walking the terrace itself? The terrace as a destination, not just a roof for new businesses or a viewing platform for occasional events? It can be done technically. It has access including a mid-level lift at the Concorde. It may well provide an additional avenue for funding, and add value to the offer the restored terraces provide through increased footfall, marketability and environmental quality.

What do you think? Here at Building Green, we will be promoting this vision and encouraging the Council to adopt it. Can you help? Here’s a collage that provides some food for thought.

Building Green web