Businesses slam Valley Gardens consultation

A visualisation of the area in front of the Palace Pier If the Aquarium roundabout is replaced by traffic lights

Residents and business owners say something has gone “seriously wrong” with the third phase of the Valley Gardens project.

The Valley Gardens Forum is expected to criticise the scheme and the way consultation was carried out at a special meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on Thursday (7 February).

The business case for the £8 million scheme to change the road layout at the Aquarium roundabout and Old Steine was approved in November as the third phase of a project to simplify the road layout from St Peter’s Church to the seafront.

On Thursday councillors are being asked to note the results of the consultation that took place at the end of last year and approve the final design.

The Forum, a group formed last month by residents, businesses and other organisations in the city centre, said that the council had “ignored” the community.

It said: “Our diverse and lively group is exactly the kind of sounding board the relevant local councillors should want to encourage and engage with at the earliest stages of re-imagining our critical infrastructure in the city.

“Yet somehow, something has gone seriously wrong with Valley Gardens.

“Everyone I’ve listed around the community feels marginalised and ignored.

“Even if the current plans were outstandingly good, the seismic shift in direction which the project has taken in the last three months, the perceived arrogance displayed by the administration, officer and consultants alike and a feeling we are being ‘steamrollered’ is baffling.”

The group is concerned about air quality on the east side of Old Steine and suggests a park and ride scheme would be a better solution to stopping people driving into the city centre.

It also raises the issue of the impact on events space in the city centre, as does Brighton Fringe chief executive Julian Caddy who is one of nine people submitting questions to the committee.

He said that the business case says the plans improve event space but he believes that large and mid-scale space is compromised.

In his question to the committee he said: “New, often smaller, events sites are created without adequate consultation, while existing ones (Victoria Gardens, St Peter’s Church North and Old Steine) are either left unimproved or rendered unsuitable for future use.

“What assurance can the committee give that fit-for-purpose space will indeed increase within current plans?”

Two questions to the committee ask about replacing the Aquarium roundabout at the Palace Pier with a traffic light-controlled T junction.

David Rochford, from the Palace Pier, is asking why the consultants preferred traffic lights to a roundabout.

He plans to ask: “It is universally accepted that roundabouts are safer than traditional signal-controlled stops.

“Roundabouts reduced injury crashes by 75 per cent at and around intersections where traffic lights were previously used.

“As well as being safer calmer and improving traffic flow, they are also cheaper to install and maintain than T junctions.”

Beatrice Segura Harvey, of Brighton Language College, is also asking for clarity about the junction’s safety record.

She is expected to ask: “Brighton and Hove City Council reports the number of accidents in this area but numbers in relation to volume of traffic are actually low.

“It is widely believed that the only most serious injury encountered by a pedestrian in proximity to the Aquarium roundabout in the last five years was caused by a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian.”

Some 828 people responded to the public consultation from October to the end of November.

The council said that a total of 1,396 postcards were sent out to people living in the area but only 16 people who participated said that they saw one of these.

The Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee is due to meet at Hove Town Hall on Thursday 7 February. The meeting, which starts at 4pm, is open to the public.

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