By Jenni Davidson
A scheme to make wide-ranging changes to Valley Gardens in the centre of Brighton were approved in principle yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 5 March).
Members of Brighton and Hove City Council approved the plans at a meeting of the council’s Transport Committee at Hove Town Hall.
The plans, which are intended to simplify traffic flow around the area and make the gardens more pleasant to use, were supported by councillors from all three political parties.
Valley Gardens is the stretch of green space running between The Level and Old Steine, which includes St Peter’s Church and Victoria Gardens.
The gardens are split into islands by the network of roads and are used far less by the public than the nearby Pavilion Gardens.
Complicated traffic and pedestrian routes across the gardens have also been blamed for an accident black spot at the bottom of North Road.
Green councillor Amy Kennedy said: “At the moment it is marooned in the middle. It’s not an inviting space at all.”
Under the proposed scheme, the west side of the gardens would be reserved for buses, bikes and local access, while all other traffic would travel in both directions along the east side.
This would cut down the need for cars and buses to cross each other and make it possible to widen the pavement at Marlborough Place.
Bus stops would no longer be on traffic islands, as they are at Old Steine and St Peter’s Church just now. A third bus stop would also be built near the King and Queen pub.
It is estimated that the restructuring could increase space available to pedestrians by about 25 per cent.
There was almost unanimous agreement to the initial proposals, with only Councillor Pete West abstaining from the vote.
Councillor West expressed concern that the scheme did not do enough to reduce traffic through the area.
However, other councillors felt that there was a limit to what could be done along such a busy route.
Conservative Councillor Tony Janio said: “We’re in the centre of the 12th biggest city in England. We’re never going to turn it into the Masai Mara.”
This was echoed by the Labour group transport spokesman, Councillor Alan Robins, who said: “We can’t get away from the fact that it’s in the heart of the city and it’s never going to be a wilderness.”
The proposed plans take account of the important elm trees in the area and no trees would need to be cut down to make the road alterations.
Now that initial plans have been approved, the next steps involve developing more detailed plans and holding a public consultation on the changes.