City Centre Road Plans Need a Proper Consultation!

City centre road plans need a proper consultation

by Daniel Nathan - coordinator.

The Valley Gardens Forum 01 Feb 2019

The Valley Gardens Forum is a group of central Brighton residents, public sector organisations and businesses, small & large, sharing concerns about the Council’s plan to remodel the centre of the city.

Supporters include: local residents, North Laine Traders, Brighton Lanes Traders, Seafront Traders Association, Kemptown Traders Group, Brighton Fringe, Brighton Events Group, Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum, Tourism Alliance, Pavilion Surgery, Brighton Language College, Brighton & Hove Restaurant Association, Brighton Grassroots Music Venues, Sainsbury's Local, Marlborough Pub & Theatre, Palace Pier, Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton Old Town Local Action Team, The Kingscliffe Society and other residents' groups, 'KIBS' sector employers including solicitors, surveyors, digital start-ups and more..

Our diverse and lively group is exactly the kind of sounding board the relevant local councillors should want to encourage and engage with at the earliest stages of reimagining our critical infrastructure in the city. There is no hidden agenda - or singular viewpoint. An accessible conglomerate of people who live, work and love in Brighton.

Yet somehow, something has gone seriously wrong with Valley Gardens 3. Everyone I’ve listed around the community feels marginalised and ignored. Even if the current plans were outstandingly good, the seismic shift in direction which the project has taken in the last 3 months, the perceived arrogance displayed by the administration, officers and consultants alike and a feeling we are being ‘steamrollered’ is baffling.  Having 36 hours to prepare formal questions to the latest plan with new and significant changes does not feel like appropriate process. We received the updated plans on Wednesday late afternoon and have had to read a report that goes beyond the officially sanctioned consultation, and makes no reference to numerous community representations and submissions since the last ETS committee meeting.

We’re desperately worried about the implications for air quality on the East side of Old Steine. Kemptown residents and businesses feel marginalised in this current scheme by the physical roadway barrier from Edward Street to Madeira Place, and there are wide concerns for our much-loved city events landscape.  And at a time when local services are starved of resources, too many people are sleeping on the city’s streets and Brighton’s existing public infrastructure is not being adequately maintained, Brighton & Hove City Council are not winning the argument that an additional £8m of public money should be devoted to this.

We’d all agree there should be fewer cars in the overcrowded centre. But the way to achieve this is by a holistic solution that leads from the outside in, with an attractive Park and Ride scheme supported with affordable, modern and reliable public transport, to ensure that old and young, able-bodied or not, remain welcome in our wonderful city. It feels like Valley Gardens is trying to solve this huge and complex issue by working in reverse from the very centre. Opinions of lobbyists who talk of winners and losers, omelettes and broken eggs in relation to their own narrow agendas should not be the only voice in the room.

Valley Gardens will have an impact that lasts a generation. The Valley Gardens Forum is an opportunity to help rather than obstruct your mission. The open discussion initiated within the Forum so far strongly suggests that a consensus is perfectly achievable - with diverse, highly-engaged and non-partisan stakeholders who hope to engage with councillors and all specialist Council officers. Prominent councillors from all three political groups have engaged with our views to jointly urge a constructive short pause - without preconditions -  in order to reset, rebuild trust and develop a scheme that we can all be proud of. We urge the administration and the ETS Committee to accept this collegiate way forward.

This Week's Update - The Headlines

The revised council plan landed yesterday , Wednesday 30th January ,and I wish I could tell you that the issues we had raised individually or collectively had made a difference to the 'direction of travel'  Alas, it's not happening yet.  Here are the headlines:

  • If you were sceptical about the merit of four lanes squeezed on the east side off the Old Steine, there are now five!  More stop start traffic, buses in conflict with private vehicles, out of control weekend peak congestion - with noise levels doubled and lethal levels of air pollution guaranteed.

  • Princes Street reopened to Edward Street for no good reason 

  • All of our suggestions about mitigating the worst effects of separating Kemptown and the east side of the of the city from the rest - ignored.

  • No east / west pedestrian access across the Old Steine Steine between Edward Street and St James's Street.

  • The exit from one way Madeira Drive onto Duke's Mound - still a disaster foretold.

  • The proposed T junction in front of the pier remaining the sole point of seafront access for vehicles - cyclists and pedestrians in conflict - when better safer options have been suggested. 

The full report underpinning it can be found here.

With the Council Committee advancing this to the next stage taking place tomorrow week, it is important to make your ward councillors of whatever tribe know how you feel about this - come and join us in the cheap seats at Hove Town Hall - 4pm on February 7th.