Councillors have backed a £4.4 million application for lottery funding to revamp the Royal Pavilion Gardens and public toilets.
Brighton and Hove City Council and the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust expect to submit their joint bid this month.
The project includes refurbishing the public toilets, which are currently closed, and creating a “Changing Places accessible toilet”.
Two new statues are proposed for the grounds where Brighton comedian Max Miller already stands. These would honour the suffragette Mary Clarke and the Indian soldiers nursed at the Pavilion during the First World War.
Labour councillor Tim Rowkins singled out the Mary Clarke statue, saying that it would be only the third statue of a woman in Brighton and Hove. The other two were statues of Queen Victoria.
Mary Clarke was the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) organiser for Brighton from 1909 to 1910.
She was the first suffragette to die for the cause after street violence followed by forced feeding in prison.
Councillors were told that 24-hour public access to the gardens would continue with the proposed fencing changed to railings instead.
At a special meeting of the council’s Strategy, Finance and City Regeneration Committee meeting on Friday (4 August), councillors were told that the Corn Exchange toilets would be open to the public once the Van Gogh Alive exhibition had ended next month.
While the Pavilion Gardens toilets were being rebuilt and refurbished, the Dome toilets would also be open to the public during the day unless the venue was hosting a matinee show.
Currently, the nearest public toilets to the Pavilion Gardens are at the Jubilee Library.
At the council’s budget meeting in February, the council agreed to allocate £250,000 from its capital budget towards the new toilets on the southern edge of the gardens.
Conservative councillor Alistair McNair asked for reassurances that plans were in place should the National Lottery Heritage Fund bid fail.
The council’s executive director for the economy, environment and culture Donna Chisholm said that the lottery fund had previously been very supportive.
It had extended its £6 million funding for the £40 million refurbishment of the Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre after the contractor “went under” after the coronavirus pandemic.
She said that the council had reached an agreement with the fund 10 years ago around the restoration of the Royal Pavilion Estate.
Mrs Chisholm said: “We have very strong partnerships in the city because of the unique heritage and culture we benefit from – and have a duty to protect.
“This funding partner respects our application. They did support the development phase of this with an additional award in excess of £200,000 that was used to take the project forward in terms of detailed planning and preparation.
One of the listed lanterns in Pavilion Gardens – Picture by Cathy Cox from Geograph
“They’ve been very active in working with us to ensure this bid is prepared and submitted by mid-August. All the signals are really very positive.”
She said that the Royal Pavilion was the only royal palace in Britain in the hands of a local authority although Historic England placed the garden in its Heritage at Risk Register in 2017.
If the bid was unsuccessful, the council would look into the detailed reasons why and apply again, she added.
Labour council leader Bella Sankey said: “We hope this bid will be successful. It’s an excellent bid.
“I’ve seen how hard staff at the Royal Pavilion and Museums Trust and officers here have worked to ensure we get this bid over the line if at all possible.”