Two years ago, a proposal was made to replace the old Meeting House at Park Close, Coldean – a ‘garden suburb’ of Brighton – with a new development of 12 flats. The Meeting House was built in the 1950s and used by the Mormon community (i.e. the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but since 1993 it has served a residential function.
This is what the Meeting House looks like (or at least looked like in September 2012, but it hasn’t changed much since then):
And this is an artist’s impression of the proposed development:
Sadly, the artist’s impression does not show well what the flats would actually look like once they’re built. It seems to still be more of a conceptual image than a realistic rendering. Even the immediate surroundings of the redevelopment aren’t shown – grey blocks is as far as it gets, and we can’t see the neighbouring houses or the texture of the road. The artist also committed what happens nearly all the time – the image is set in summer/late spring, thus taking advantage of the luscious vegetation. Any building, especially classic English red brick, just pops when you put it against vivid greenery.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any more realistic renderings of the proposed development. Therefore, the only thing I can say for sure now is to comment on the Meeting House. It’s an interesting building, and a building of interest – speaking to local history in terms of who lived there, and in terms of architectural styles that were preferred at the time of construction. Mormon churches do not have a uniform look. However, I would dare say that Mormon churches in Britain may not follow the same logic as that when a Mormon church is built in North America. Not only the British Mormon temple is bound to be smaller, but also there tends to be less space available for the construction, as a rule of thumb when comparing the UK with anywhere in North America outside of metropoleis (NYC doesn’t overflow with space).
A lot of other Christian churches built after World War Two in Britain followed the Modernist style, since Modernism was the style of postwar Britain – even though the Festival of Britain, which was patently Modernist, didn’t pay much (if any) attention specifically to religious architecture (Grieco 2021, 236).
From Brighton and Hove News, we find out that the former owner had previously made three attempts to knock down the building and replace it with houses – in 2014 and 2017. However, both times he was refused planning permission. It’s not entirely clear why permissions were refused, but at least once it was potentially because the proposed new buildings were “out of keeping with the hip-roofed bungalows surrounding it”.
In the planning statement, consultants Lewis & Co Planning said: “The proposed frontage would replicate the semi-detached chalet bungalow appearance of many of the surrounding properties on Park Close.”Jo Wadsworth, Brighton & Hove News, 5 August 2020
Personally, with the information I have at this moment, I wouldn’t support the development. None of the proposed flats are planned to be affordable, and it’s a fact that Brighton has an issue with housing, especially not enough affordable housing. So, the only case in which I would welcome the redevelopment of the old Mormon church site is if the flats were affordable housing, like the development currently under construction next to Varley Park. Bear in mind the current building in Park Close is from the 1950s, and so I’d say it is a place of local historical interest.
However, we now know that the redevelopment was approved in early October 2021. The main debate among councillors voting on the permission was with regards to the accessibility of these buildings, and how they were not particularly accessible – more of a tokenic presence of wheelchair ramps than a truly accessible proposal. Despite that, the majority of councillors voted in favour of it, so permission was granted.
http://www.theargus.co.uk/homes/property/news/19618062.wheelchair-ramp-concerns-meeting-house-flats-coldean/ Sarah Booker Lewis, 11 January 2021. The Argus. [Accessed 12/2/2022]
http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/19635742.planning-condition-approved-meeting-house-coldean/ Sarah Booker Lewis, 1 October 2021. Planning condition approved for Meeting House in Coldean. The Argus. [Accessed 13/2/2022]
http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/2020/08/05/flats-planned-on-former-church-site/ Jo Wadsworth, 5 August 2020. Flats planned on former church site. Brighton and Hove News. [Accessed 9/3/2022]
Regency Society, Brighton. Joinable at £20 fee per year (or less if subscribing for longer amount of time).
Book: Post-war Architecture between Italy and the UK: Exchanges and transcultural influences. Lorenzo Ciccarelli, Clare Melhuish. Copyright: 2021 Publisher: UCL Press Lorenzo Grieco, Chapter Post-war British church architecture and the Italian model, pages 236-254.