North Laine

Photo:Jubilee Street shops and offices

Jubilee Street shops and offices

Photo by Cora Bailey

Photo:Kensington Street graffiti

Kensington Street graffiti

Photo by Cora Bailey

Photo:Cheapside apartments

Cheapside apartments

Photo by Cora Bailey

A changing cityscape, 2006

By Cora Bailey

In 2004 the Brighton and Hove City Council approved numerous plans for city centre redevelopments, to include the web of streets that spread outwards from the heart of the North Laine. Since then, work has rapidly progressed, with much of it complete already, and 2008 hanging in the air as an expected final finish date.

Jubilee Street at the centre
At the centre of the redevelopment is Jubilee Street, and with its landmark eco-friendly library on one side, a Tesco Express and string of restaurants on the other, it stands as perhaps the most instantly visible changed space so far. The final transformation is expected to materialise sometime in 2007 with the addition of an £8.4m, 80-room boutique hotel, currently being built alongside the Jubilee library, complementing it in terms of style. Inside, the hotel will boast elements of feng shui in its layout and design, a gym, swimming pool, café and private library of its own.

Bordering New Road and Kensington Street
To one side of Jubilee Street is New Road, onto which the Pavilion gardens and Theatre Royal both back. Here, new developments have very recently begun to coincide with changes on the neighbouring street, the main intention being to completely relay the street surface with specially designed bricking, trees and 'urban furniture'.

On the other side of Jubilee Street lies Kensington Street, marked by the relatively new ubiquitous but popular Wagamama's Japanese restaurant on the corner. Brighton Fringe Arts have quietly occupied office and exhibition space in the Argus Lofts building in this street for some time now, but following their recent idea to commission local graffiti artists to cover the walls on the opposite side of the street it now feels much more visually connected and cohesive, somehow, with the vibrant colours of adjoining Sydney Street. And coupled with the creation of additional exhibition space, Kensington Street has opened itself up to yet more general passers-by.

Small businesses, young professionals, and another Sainsbury's
It's not just shops, streets and services that have been getting a makeover: it's houses and offices too, within the laines and beyond, from the back of the train station along Cheapside to the edges of Trafalgar Street. A combination of small business offices, modern town houses and apartments seemingly aimed at young families and young professionals will soon occupy much of this space. There are also plans for car parks, a large Sainsbury's, a community centre, a couple of luxury hotels, a European headquarters for an international teaching organisation and new improved access to the train station.

General gains or local losses
What seems to be emerging from all the change, is first, a whole new series of laines running parallel to long-time connected Bond Street, Gardner Street, Kensington Gardens and Sydney Street, and second, a whole new space in which people can live and work. Whether the businesses in these streets will find themselves in struggling competition or whether pathways will merge between them remains to be seen and will probably only be realised over time as people walk and shop where they really want to. Nevertheless, meetings have taken place among numerous traders from the established streets, all keen to protect their businesses and prevent the potential losses that change can threaten.

With changes to the infrastructure of the area too - easier access to the train station and new living space close by - will Brighton become natural home to more London commuters? And will people welcome this as positive change, in that Brighton will have boosted its independence as a city, yet at the same time improved connections with the capital? Or will they feel unhappy about the changes, seeing them as detrimental to the special feeling and nature of the city as it is - another step towards mediocrity?

This page was added on 22/11/2006.
Comments about this page

I am a little concerned by Cora Bailey's (no relation) use of the word 'laine'. Tenentry laines, of which there were five, were large open fields divided into furlong strips and were cultivated by tenants. The names of these fields were West Laine, North Laine, Hilly Laine, Little Laine and East Laine. I believe it was Ken Fines, once Planning Officer for Brighton Corporation, who was resposible for resurecting the name of North Laine as part of a programme to rejuvenate what had become a run-down area of the town. Although the term is now applied to a wider area, the original field of North Laine was bounded on the south by Church Street and on the north by the old borough boundary with Preston Parish at New England Road and Viaduct Road. To the west, the boundary followed roughly the line of St. Nicholas Road, Buckingham Street and Clifton Street to a point where the railway now crosses New England Road. On the east the boundary was The Steyne (now Old Steine), York Place and Brunswick Place (now the lower part of Ditchling Road).

By Peter Bailey (25/11/2006)

Peter beat me to it! But to come to the defence of Cora, the council has had a sign on the north side of a building on Bond Street west side, that names the 'twitten' as Bond Street Laine. I have many images of official council signs complete with the city logo which use 'Laines' when meaning 'Laine'....and I don't want to start going down the South lanes, South laines, Old lanes, new lanes route....!

By Geoffrey Mead (27/11/2006)

I would question whether some of the developments referred to above are makeovers. I see some of them as threatening the very vitality that has become the North Laine. The North Laine has traditionally been an area of small scale, largely independent businesses mixed in with residential housing that has also been small scale. The council has promoted the area as being quirky, and a word I hate because it is entirely inappropriate - bohemian - but at present it has become a victim of its own success as large chains move in. We now have Tescos, Starbucks, Wagamama, Gourbet Burger Kitchen, Carluiccios. As more and more of these chains move in we lose what has made the North Laine different to any high street. It will not be long before we destroy what should be very precious. Why do people come to the North Laine and enjoy the very special ambience it has and then go to Starbucks rather than local cafes? It is not as if there aren't any other cafes. I will leave that one for another time.

By Peter Crowhurst (28/01/2008)

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