OPINION

With concern growing over Valley Gardens, Labour need to think outside the box

Posted On 11 Dec 2018 at 9:53 pm

Labour councillors pushed through the business case for huge changes to the Old Steine area of Brighton at the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, supported by the Greens.

The changes – formally known as Valley Gardens Phase 3 – were passed despite the advice from leading figures in tourism and the wider business community, doctors, bus operators, bus users, the taxi trade and residents.

They have serious concerns that the proposal would economically harm the city and adversely affect how people move around.

The Conservative group, as well as supporting those sectors, highlighted errors, omissions and flaws in the business case.

This was met with confusing responses, supported only by “we used the model” or computer says “no”.

As a city that relies heavily on tourism, it was a surprise to be told that no assessment of the economic impact had been carried out.

However, what binds those speaking out against the proposal is that they all want to see Valley Gardens regenerated – and to secure funding from the government to do so.

But we agree that it should not be at any cost.

The key problem is that projects like this are considered in isolation, without any solution to the knock-on issues that they create.

With Valley Gardens there seems to be a narrow-minded approach to try to squeeze everybody into a tiny space that simply cannot work for all.

The Aquarium roundabout does work. It is free flowing and – given the 18.3 million journeys through it each year – it is a relatively safe stretch of road.

To reduce the risk of serious accidents, the proposal is to remove the roundabout, construct a box-like signal controlled junction and cut off Madeira Drive’s access to the junction. The effects of this act of economic “self-harm” are being ignored.

And with all traffic being planned for the east side of the Old Steine and longer journey times on the A259 seafront road (40 seconds extra at peak periods), air quality is likely to decrease.

A visualisation of phase 3 of the Valley Gardens scheme

Our city has miles of seafront. We are spending millions along the promenade, redeveloping Shelter Hall, making progress with the Gateway Boulevard from the station and getting close to agreeing the massive Waterfront project.

Now is the time to look strategically at how we can best move and connect people around the city.

We don’t need to try to funnel every pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist, car, truck, lorry, bus and any other form of transport through one junction. We need more of a holistic view to see how we can use our space to de-conflict these risks.
Why can’t we design cycle routes further away from the junction or direct pedestrians through our trading and shopping areas to our visitor attractions.

We have an opportunity to help our business and tourist sector. We can make cycling and walking much safer. We can improve bus use for our passengers. And we can continue to allow free-flowing traffic through the Aquarium roundabout.

There is only one reason this isn’t happening. Labour refuses to see outside the boundaries of the Valley Gardens project.

Now is time to think outside the box.

Councillor Lee Wares is the opposition Conservative spokesman on environment, transport and sustainability on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Robin Hillier Reply

    Any urban plan that aims to reduce traffic flows is welcome in an age of environmental destruction. There may be slower traffic and hold ups, but that will ultimately lead to less traffic. If that is supported by better cycling and public transport and walking initiatives then it will be fit for the future. It sounds like the removal of the roundabout is intended to optimise pedestrian use of the city over vehicles passing through. That can only be a good thing.

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    What is it with the sentimental attachment to horrible roundabouts?

    There was uproar – meetings in a church, of all things – about Seven Dials, which has since proved to be far better.

    Doubtless there will be those who claim that Preston Circus is one of Brighton’s joys.

    • Peter Challis Reply

      Because roundabouts, like the one at the Seven Dials are eminently suitable for dealing with variable amounts of traffic and are significantly safer as traffic collisions tend to be glancing side-side rather than head-on or at 90° that you get with T-junctions or cross roads.

      How they deal with cyclists who seem unable to understand traffic laws (traffic signs and signals, signalling to other road users, looking out for other traffic) is, of course, another matter.

      And I thought I saw in another of your posts that you recommended changing Preston Circus back into a roundabout?

      Perhaps have a word with your old traffic expert mate, Ian Davey, to see what he has to say on the matter, or perhaps have a read of some of the fine works on the subject that must exist at Hove Library, before coming up with more of your “cunning plans”?

  3. Billy Reply

    There is no ‘sentimental attachment’ to the roundabout – it’s just that a roundabout leads to the free flowing of traffic. You might note that the pedestrian crossings at the moment are set back from the roundabout and that system allows traffic to cross the junction, keeping it clear, before any pedestrians halt the traffic in one or two lanes.
    Under the new proposals traffic, pedestrians and cyclists are all focussed together at the junction, with traffic lights giving each a turn. The problem with that is that just one pedestrian crossing at the lights triggers a halt to all traffic in every direction. And this will cause hold ups at all times of day and create major tailbacks and log jams across the city at busy times.
    A roundabout also allows people to take a u turn to head back in the opposite direction when a mistake has been made. madeira drive also becomes one way, meaning any car dropping of people at one end will have to travel the whole of Madeira drive and back along the upper seafront road, thus adding to the cars in the area and to pollution.
    Planners seem to have forgotten that the Palace Pier junction is part of a major cross-town route for which there is no alternative for delivery drivers, commuters, buses, and others making essential journeys.
    Public transport is also slowed under these proposals.

  4. Adam Campbell Reply

    An utter nightmare. How can our elected officials be so patently stupid? Business and tourism is the lifeblood of the city. This misbegotten plan will choke the life out of the place.

  5. MD Reply

    Has anybody thought how the National Express Bus from Pool Valley that goes each day to the West Country will be able to turn around to face the right direction, as the only way out of the bus station faces Eastwards towards the Palace Pier. At the moment that coach travels to the roundabout and then does a U turn to face the right direction. Anybody got any good ideas?

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Pool is another problem. It should have been made a part of Brighton’s railway station two decades ago (how time flies – or gets stalled in traffic).

  6. Jean Smith Reply

    The current scheme is so patently not fit for purpose, it’s hard to understand why the council seem so determined to push on with it. As for replacing the Aquarium Roundabout with traffic lights, it’s hard to imagine a quicker way to bring Brighton’s traffic grinding to a halt. It’s as though they’ve let a work experience kid loose on something vital to the local economy. But no one in control has the guts to say it needs sorting out.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      The continuing thing is that Brighton – as a coastal village – was designed for horse-drawn vehicles. There were proposals in the Sixties to demolish the North Laine to make way for truck drivers: mercifully stopped, and the North Laine is now a reason for people to visit Brighton as somewhere different from Chain-Store Hell’s “branding”.

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