Brighton & Hove City Council is currently considering a planning application submitted by the University of Sussex to create a state-of-the-art engineering and robotics centre on its campus. A decision on this application is anticipated by next month.
A complete refurbishment of Chichester l is included within the proposed development, which will also include a brand new student-focused hub and a suite of high-specification computers. As well as this, the refurbishment will feature new teaching and project workspaces to enhance learning.
The ground-floor layout and facilities of Chichester l will be transformed, as the refurbishment will introduce improved access to the main entrance and throughout the building.
If planning approval were granted, then the alterations to the building would feature the inner Chichester courtyard under a new glazed roof, encouraging use and also creating a flexible space in which students would be able to carry out project work in groups or as individuals.
However, the proposed changes have proved controversial, with a petition on the website iPetitions attracting almost 250 signatures.
The petition states that: “The inner courtyard provides a valuable green space to the University and is enjoyed daily by student and staff alike.”
“Removing the garden would not only reduce Chichester I’s architectural significance, but it would also significantly diminish the quality of student and staff experience”.
In response, a University spokesperson said: “The greenery in the courtyard is currently blocking out light and covers the windows of many of the rooms that face on to it.”
“The treatment of the space will be in line with all the requirements of Historic England and the local Council’s planning officers.”
The spokesperson also added that memorial trees in the courtyard will be “relocated in consultation with the families or originators of the original memorial idea to another agreed location on campus.”
Professor Diane Mynors, Head of the School of Engineering and Informatics defended the development, saying in a statement: “The overarching approach to this project has been to try and return Chichester l as much as possible to its original state and to respect the material and fabric of the building.”
Chichester l was designed by architect Sir Basil Spence and was constructed in the early 1960s. As a Grade ll* listed building, the design team have been working closely with Historic England regarding the refurbishment plans.
Lauren Wade and Jessica Scholfield