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.
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.