Business leaders have hit out at proposed changes to the road layout in the Old Steine area in the heart of Brighton.
In a letter to councillors, they said: “The scheme will create chaos at a bottleneck by the war memorial.
“It will create excessive pollution and noise, fails to provide adequate stops for buses and passengers (and) ignores the need for Old Steine businesses (large and small) to have adequate space for loading and unloading of goods (and) supplies and setting down (and) picking up of passengers visiting such businesses.
“(The scheme) creates less free-flowing traffic generally in contradiction of the core objective set out in the (Coast to Capital) Local Enterprise Partnership independent report which recommends encouraging bus travel by separating public transport from private vehicles.
“(It) has been ‘favoured’ without adequate consultation and modelling.”
They called for “a full review of the scheme … to include genuine stakeholder consultation and full environmental and economic impact assessments”.
The scheme – known as Valley Gardens Phase 3 – is due to be discussed by members of Brighton and Hove City Council at Hove Town Hall this afternoon (Tuesday 27 November).
The council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee is being asked to choose an option which has united some of Brighton’s main tourist attractions, language schools and transport firms.
The boss of the Palace Pier, Royal Albion Hotel and two doctors surgeries are among the signatories to the letter to councillors. The chair of the Tourism Alliance has separately raised concerns.
In setting out their main objections, the business leaders said: “The plan funnels both public transport and private vehicles into a bottleneck as it heads, in both directions, past the Pavilion on to the same (reduced width) carriageway on the east side of the Old Steine.
“In this scenario, the majority of the city’s buses, and taxis which leave the largest rank in Brighton, converge at the end of North Street before queuing up to pass along a narrow corridor by the war memorial and a sharp left turn into outbound general traffic.
“The reverse sees the same buses and taxis cross traffic in the other direction.
“The other objection we have to the current plan is the proposed T junction at the seafront.
“While the current roundabout may be unattractive, there is little doubt that traffic moves more freely and is demonstrably safer, in terms of serious injury or measured fatalities over the last five years, than at other nearby junctions.
“There has only been a single recorded serious injury to a pedestrian at this point, although in addition 11 further serious non-pedestrian injuries, on or near the roundabout over the same period in contrast with multiple fatalities in the lower portion of North Street, the St James’s Street junction and the west side of St Peter’s Church.”
The letter was sent by directly affected Old Steine and seafront organisations which generate £40 million for the Brighton and Hove economy every year and employ about 1,200 staff.
They receive about five million visitors and shoppers and 3,000 students as well as caring for 15,000 registered NHS patients.
Their letter said: “Another unintended consequence of the creation of the proposed dual carriageway – despite the inclusion of crossing points – will be the clear separation of St James’s Street businesses from the rest of the city centre.
“This is … likely to reverse or even kill off the regeneration of lower St James’s Street daytime trade.
“We urge the committee to commission weekend peak-time traffic modelling … and also to carry out ‘real world’ testing in collaboration with bus and taxi companies without further delay as part of a full environmental impact assessment – to be made publicly available.”
The letter also said: “With the sensitivity of direct council subsidy to consider, the bus companies have been understandably mild in their public criticism so far.
“However, Brighton and Hove Buses urge passengers to respond to the consultation, pointing out a ‘major reduction in bus stop capacity, making stops less accessible for older passengers and disabled people, with congestion aggravated for all traffic as buses queue to access stops’ and, perhaps even more disturbing, that the ill thought-out layout will likely cause ‘passengers dashing across the road between bus stops’.
“None of us are against overdue improvement to the area, but there is a pressing concern that the way we live and work in the city centre has not been fully considered – or on the face of it, considered at all up till now.
“It is staggering that nobody thought of consulting the Pavilion or Regency surgeries until we raised the issue with the senior planner.
“These are vital city institutions with 15,000 registered patients requiring disabled parking, GP parking bays and space for loading and unloading, couriers collecting blood samples, medical supplies and ambulances 8am to 8pm seven days a week.
“When asked about this, the senior planner assured us that of course they had been consulted throughout. After a very strong complaint and repudiation, he had a first meeting with them last week.
“This appears to be a pattern. The CEO of one of the city’s leading tourist attractions recently attended the current Jubilee Library exhibition and, before any introduction, asked the specific question “what does the Management of the Pier, Sea Life and the Royal Albion think about this proposal?”
“The senior planning officer boldly stated that “all had been involved in the development of the preferred option and none had objected”.
“This is manifestly untrue. Eighteen out of the 20 businesses and organisations – signatories to this letter were unaware of the detailed implications of the favoured option … until just two weeks ago.”
The signatories were
Daniel Nathan, CEO, totallyradio, 170 North Street
Dave Rochford, finance director, Brighton Palace Pier, Madeira Drive
Angi Mariani, managing director, Latest Group and Latest TV, 14-17 Manchester Street
Emma Clarke, general manager, the Marlborough Pub and Theatre, 4 Prince’s Street
Diana Palmer, proprietor, Red Roaster and Pike & Pine, 1D St James’s Street
Nick Wright, general manager, Royal Albion Hotel
Simon Thetford, Partner, Graves Son and Pilcher 51 Old Steine
Nats Spada, project director, Platform B, 170 North Street
Michelle Spicer, practice manager, Pavilion Surgery 2&3 Old Steine
Jeff Wood, practice manager, Regency Surgery 4 Old Steine
Gary Farmer, managing director, Brighton Language College 5, 6, 7 and 12 Old Steine
Anna Moulson, managing director, Melting Vinyl 11 Old Steine
James Hawker, marketing manager, Believe Digital 11 Old Steine
Tim Coates, managing director, Bliiink.TV 11 Old Steine
Lisa Bamford, director, Stoats and Weasels, 11 Old Steine
John Healy, chairman, Healys Solicitors, 8-9 Old Steine
Simon Botting, area manager, Sainsbury’s 13-15 Old Steine