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Preparation For Restoration Work Starts At Brighton's Madeira Terrace

With work to restore the first 28 arches of Madeira Terrace beginning on site later this year, some essential preparation work started during the last week of February.

This involved the removal of some vegetation above and below the terrace’s deck, mainly near the Royal Crescent steps.  Much of this area is currently bare concrete, so the impact on the overall appearance of the Green Wall will be relatively small.  

Removing the vegetation will reduce the risk of birds nesting in plants that are in this area prior to the main work starting. The work is intended to be completed before the nesting season has begun. Birds nesting in these areas could result in delays to the planned start of renovation work on site.  

Councillor Julie Cattell, Lead Member for Major Projects, said:

“As part of this landmark restoration project there is a comprehensive regreening strategy that will revitalise the wall so when work is finished it can again be enjoyed by all, including our local birds and wildlife.  

“We have to start with the removal of some vegetation, but we are restricting this to the absolute minimum necessary to be able to start the repairs to the cliff face and Terrace which supports the Green Wall.” 

“We are determined to restore this amazing asset so that it’s healthier, more diverse and more accessible. Madeira Terrace will be a place to enjoy nature in the heart of our city for generations to come.”

Over the last year expert surveys of the plants forming the Green Wall have been undertaken to help the project team understand their health and how best to ensure the restored Terrace has a thriving Green Wall.

Much of the appearance of the wall comes from the evergreen spindle plants that were planted over a 150 years ago and are now showing significant signs of decline. All of the individual plants have been surveyed and individually tagged by plant specialists. Each specimen has been mapped, assessed and given a score of stem health both above and below the elevated walkway.

Through those surveys it has become apparent that all the plants have rooted into the wall at various points, allowing them to grow so tall. These plants now get most of their nutrients and water from the wall through their aerial roots, rather than from the ground through their main stems.  

The East Cliff wall protects the chalk cliff behind it from weathering associated with wind, rain, frost and thaw, and supports the elevated walkway. 

Engineering work on this section of wall goes back as far as the early 19th century when the cliff face was stabilised to protect the new buildings of Kemp Town. Today the cliff wall’s role also includes protecting the A259 highway above it.

The successful restoration of Madeira Terrace requires strengthening and resurfacing the cliff face on which plants are currently growing. A comprehensive plan has been produced to protect as much of the Green Wall as possible during the restoration work, and to regreen the wall after work is completed. 

This plan will see the best of the spindle plants retained. New planting with a variety of wall shrubs and climbing plants at the base of the cliff wall will increase biodiversity. The use of specially designed planters and trellis fixed to the resurfaced wall will enable the plants to cover the repaired surface without damaging the wall behind. 

The technical report on the condition of the spindle plants and the plan for protecting, repopulating and maintaining the Green Wall has been published on the council's Madeira Terrace project web pages.

The survey reports and plans have been presented to the Madeira Terrace Advisory Panel, which brings together a mix of community representatives who work with the council to move the Madeira Terrace restoration forward.

Advisory Panel Member James Farrell, of Brighton & Hove Building Green, said:

“Madeira Terrace is a fantastic piece of Victorian architecture that is sadly in very poor condition. Its renovation will be immensely complex and one of the biggest challenges will be protecting and restoring the Green Wall, which is currently home to over 100 species of plants and is a designated local wildlife site.

“The council has used experts to produce detailed plans for the Green Wall, which have been discussed with the Advisory Panel and they have listened to our advice. 

“It isn’t possible to renovate the Terrace without the removal of some vegetation, which will be restored, and without some disruption to wildlife. But if we get this right, a revitalised Green Wall will be a key part of restoring this special part of our city.” 

More information about the plans to restore the iconic structure and improve the surrounding green spaces can be found on the council's Madeira Terrace project webpages.

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