The Valley Gardens project offers an opportunity to better connect many central green spaces with their surroundings and to create a more pleasant city centre.
At present, many of these areas feel cut off and are little used by residents or visitors unless there is an event on.
The project will vastly improve things for people who want to walk and cycle and for the first time connect Lewes Road with the seafront cycle lane.
This could have a transformational impact on cycling in the city. With the upsurge in cycling over the past couple of decades and the popularity of Brighton Bike Share, there is an urgent need to complete this missing link.
Pedestrians currently suffer narrow pavements, staggered crossings and miles of railings making the area feel unwelcoming.
The new plans sweep away many of these restrictions, with new paths and crossings where people need them.
People will also benefit from new public areas around the Old Steine and in front of the Palace Pier, including a wider promenade which becomes very congested, even in the winter.
Buses will see improvements with new priority areas and there will be a new stop near the King and Queen pub to provide better access into the North Laine for the library and Prince Regent swimming pool.
However, there are concerns that the scheme doesn’t do enough for them. This is a difficult one to resolve.
The current layout may not be perfect but the issue is the amount of available space. With the need to provide two road traffic lanes in each direction, this limits what can be done.
Fundamentally, there are too many cars, and cars are the least efficient way of moving people around a city in terms of the space they require.
As with all change some people are unhappy, claiming phase 3 of the plans will harm tourism, threaten people’s health and increase congestion.
However, many of these concerns are unfounded. Ever since I’ve lived here, tourism bosses have predicted the impending collapse of the city economy every time some minor restriction on cars was made. Nearly 30 years on and the city is in rude health and still functioning.
On air pollution, we’re not convinced the scheme will make things worse overall, especially as buses and cars get cleaner. In any case, enabling more people to walk and cycle will bring many positive health benefits.
While congestion may get marginally worse, those opposed to the current plans haven’t come up with any viable alternatives.
Their suggestion to keep the Aquarium roundabout and route pedestrians and cyclists through Pool Valley to the seafront is fraught with difficulties, even with the buses removed from there.
Any cycle track here would have blind corners, narrow gaps and sharp turns all in areas that pedestrians would be tempted to use, putting them in danger.
The latest plans released by Brighton and Hove City Council show significant changes in response to concerns raised.
While there are still some details to resolve, the plans are 90 per cent there. They will bring significant benefits to the city centre and make it a far more attractive place to be. Now we need to get on and make these improvements.
Chris Todd is a member of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth.
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