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Buying property in Brighton

11th January 2011

If you take films literally, you might be disappointed in the remake of Brighton Rock. Not only is Graham Greene’s 1938 classic updated to the Sixties, with Mods and Rockers replacing the racetrack gangs of the interwar years, but most of the movie was filmed in Eastbourne, 25 miles to the east.

Brighton proved impractical for various reasons, not least its modernised pier. Eastbourne, which has an air of fading grandeur, ticked more of the boxes for the director, Rowan Joffe.

And who is to say he is wrong? Only very naive cinemagoers expect adaptations of classic novels to be 100 per cent faithful to the original. And Eastbourne, which still has its Victorian pier and pre-war bandstand, corresponds well to Greene’s vision of Brighton: “The new silver paint sparkled on the piers; the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian watercolour… there was a band playing, and flower gardens in bloom below the front…” Greene’s Brighton is too good to be true, which is the whole point. It is crying out for a nice juicy murder.

For the production designer, James Merifield, filming on the south coast was like coming home. One of his previous films, Circus, was shot in Brighton; he spent many childhood holidays in seaside towns and was keen to recapture the desaturated look of old family photographs.

“Those Georgian terraces are very evocative, compared with the cheap-and-cheerful pier. It is almost as if they have been given a brown wash,” says Merifield.

 “The challenge in film design is always the same. How to blend the authentic and the artificial. Brighton Rock was shot all over the place. The café where Rose works is actually near Pinewood Studios. And most of the footage of the Cosmopolitan Hotel was shot in a studio. But there is plenty of the real thing as well. Some of the houses in Brighton still have a slightly seedy quality, with peeling wallpaper, that Greene describes.”

While the most visually striking scene – a mass drive-past of Mods and Rockers on motorbikes – was filmed on the seafront at Eastbourne, Merifield made sure that Brighton was not neglected.

“There are shots of the Brighton Pavilion, of course. It is an iconic building. There is also a chase scene in the Lanes, with its famous antique shops,” he adds. There are enough echoes of Brighton past and present to give an authentic feel, and to remind cinemagoers what a fascinating town it is: part elegant, part bohemian, with a vague hint of mystery.

The small-time gangsters such as Pinkie Brown may have gone, but Brighton is still some way from Middle England. Simply the fact that, at the last election, the city returned Britain’s first Green MP points at its willingness to challenge prevailing orthodoxies. Wacky shops and cafés give the place an attractively arty edge not found in many British seaside towns.

If you want to live in one of the more sought-after areas – a Georgian terrace along the sea front or trendy Preston Park – you will have to pay a premium. But you will get good value for money. You should expect to pay £500,000 for a family home in a prime location, or as little as £100,000 for a one-bedroom flat in Hove, which is only a mile from the city centre.

It is just such a fun place to live. As the new Brighton Rock thrillingly reminds us, there is far more to the place than deck chairs.

Buying in Brighton

Brighton is very much a city of villages, from Kemp Town to Clifton Hill to Preston Park, each with a distinctive character. Decide which village best suits your lifestyle before house-hunting in earnest.

For the best sea views, it is often better to buy a little way up the hill from the front. You will also be protected from those howling sea winds in winter.

Don’t forget that if you are aiming to buy property close to a good state school, Brighton does not operate a pure catchment area system, but a more controversial lottery-based system.

Remember that, as in all fashionable cities, desirable properties tend to be snapped up quickly. It can be a frustrating place to house-hunt if you set about it in a lackadaisical way.

Budget for painting the outside of your house at least twice as frequently as you would have to with an inland property. That sea air is corrosive as well as bracing.

If you don’t need to live centrally for commuting reasons, extend your search well to the west of the city centre. Some of the best‑value properties are in Hove.


Source:  Telegraph 11/01/11