A broad alliance of politicians and traders have written to urge Brighton and Hove City Council to take a bit more time over an £8 million project to change a key road layout.
Members of all three political parties, including the ruling Labour group, as well as several trade associations and a number of key employers, have signed a letter to Councillor Gill Mitchell, the deputy leader of the council.
Councillor Mitchell chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee which will next discuss the project – known as the Valley Gardens scheme – at a special meeting on Thursday 7 February.
The proposals include a new road layout in the Old Steine area and the replacement of the Aquarium roundabout with a T junction and traffic lights.
Tomorrow (Tuesday 22 January) the council’s business case goes before the board of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership which is expected to provide most of the funding for the project.
The letter to Councillor Mitchell said: “We are writing to you ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Local Enterprise Partnership where the Valley Gardens Stage 3 business case will be discussed to seek an urgent pause in the process.
“It has come to light that the current designs on which the business case rests still contain aspects that large parts of the community find problematic.
“The key aims of the scheme – to enhance the public realm and improve air quality, pedestrian safety, cycling and walking infrastructure, access to public transport and access to the seafront – are ones which we all support.
“However, a number of key stakeholders continue to have concerns around the current designs which remain unresolved, and it is not clear that the current designs properly fulfil the aims of the scheme.
“We also have significant concerns over the way in which the consultation was done.
“Public consultation was carried out between 15 October and 25 November 2018, but the big decision on which of the four shortlisted designs to adopt had already been taken by the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on the 9 October.
“Moreover, a number of local residents have reported not receiving notification of the consultation, and there was no engagement with the tourism trade (on which a large part of the city’s economy is reliant) prior to the decision being taken.
“The importance of getting this right cannot be underestimated. Brighton and Hove continues to suffer from poor choices made three decades ago when the current road layout was created.
“The scale of this project requires that we get it right, and while no one wants to delay vital improvements to the city, we are deeply concerned that if we set the current design proposals in motion now we will end up with a flawed system that we have to live with for the next 25 to 30 years.
“We also understand that although the Local Enterprise Partnership is understandably keen to progress projects in a timely manner, there is no immediate deadline and if there were a pause to allow more time to get this right, there would be no penalty for that.
“In light of the points above we are asking that the city council withdraws the business case submitted to the Local Enterprise Partnership with the current design and enters into meaningful engagement with residents and traders through the Valley Gardens Forum and with other stakeholders such that the concerns over the current design proposals are properly addressed with amended designs and business case being subsequently prepared for further consultation.”
The letter was signed by councillors from each of the three political parties represented on the council and by a number of trade associations and employers affected by the proposals.
The signatories were
Councillor Tom Druitt, Green, Regency Ward, Green Party spokesperson, Tourism, Development and Culture Committee
Councillor Adrian Morris, Labour and Co-operative, Queen’s Park Ward, Deputy Chair, Licensing Committee
Councillor Lee Wares, Conservative, Patcham and Hollingbury Ward, Opposition Spokesperson, Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee
Daniel Nathan, Valley Gardens Forum
Anne Ackord, Tourism Alliance
David Sewell, North Laine Traders
Denise Taylor, Brighton Lanes Traders
Neil Sykes, Seafront Traders Association
Diana Palmer, Kemptown Traders Group
Julian Caddy, Brighton Fringe
Adrian Bristow, Brighton City Events Group
Andy Peters, Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum
Michelle Spicer, Pavilion Surgery
Gary Farmer, Brighton Language College
Paul Seivewright, Brighton Grassroots Music Venues
Simon Botting, Sainsbury’s Local
Emma Clarke, Marlborough Pub and Theatre
Debbie Gibson-Leigh, Brighton Old Town LAT