Petition urges council to pause work on Old Steine revamp

More people signed a petition asking the council to pause work on a revamp of the Old Steine area of Brighton than took part in the consultation process.

The petition objecting to the proposed road layout favoured by the council – known as Valley Gardens phase three – was signed by more than 1,400 people.

The number of people taking part in the consultation carried out by Brighton and Hove City Council was 828.

James Noble, who lives in Queen’s Park, addressed councillors at Brighton Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 28 March) on behalf of the Valley Gardens Forum, which represents businesses and residents who have concerns about the scheme.

Mr Noble told councillors that while people want to see improvements to the area, the current plan was not the way forward.

Work is already under way on the first and second stages of the Valley Gardens project – changing the layout of the roads and green spaces between St Peter’s Church and the Old Steine.

The third stage involves replacing the Palace Pier roundabout with a t-junction, closing the exit from Madeira Drive by the pier and bunching all five lanes of traffic on to the east side of Old Steine.

Mr Noble criticised the council’s consultation process, saying that 1,396 postcards were sent out but no one he knew had received one.

He said: “My local takeaway sends out more leaflets than that.

“Then there’s the name – Valley Gardens. I don’t know anyone else who has heard of that.”

He called for more open consultation, with residents and business owners able to contribute to the design which will “change the city forever”.

But he doubted whether this was possible because watching the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meetings – where the decisions about the Valley Gardens project have been made – was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer, the American talk show.

Councillor Gill Mitchell

Labour deputy laeder Gill Mitchell said that public engagement would continue on the preferred design as the details were still being finalised.

She accused the Tories of small-town politics and playing to the gallery.

In her final council speech before she retires at the local elections in May, Councillor Mitchell said: “This scheme is firmly rooted in what people have told us is important to them – safer junctions, ease of movement, better bus access, more open space.

“And where there are downsides, we are working to improve them.

“We are engaging with groups and individuals as the scheme continues to the next stage.

“Councillor Pete West likened this process to Brexit. And it is true that at times I feel a bit like Theresa May.

“But I have confidence in VG3 (Valley Gardens phase three). The same cannot be said of Mrs May’s MV3 (the third ‘meaningful vote’ on Brexit).”

Councillor Lee Wares

Her last speech was applauded by many in the chamber at Brighton Town Hall.

Conservative councillor Lee Wares spoke in favour of the petition and against the council’s preferred design when the project was discussed by the council.

He said that future consultations would do nothing more than tweak the design, adding: “Our group wish to see the Old Steine regenerated and to use the money the Conservative government continues to pour into Brighton and Hove.

“We want to improve amenity, cycling and walking provision while keeping the city moving.

“Despite the frankly pathetic comments that we are trying to wreck this project, we seem to be the only group trying to stop others continuing to wreck out city.

“This project faces legal challenges, petitions, deputations, demonstrations, pages of bad press.

“Public questions are dodged with skilful dexterity to resemble a scene of bullet-dodging in The Matrix (the science fiction film).

“It seems that key documents and information that should have been disclosed … are only available because of freedom of information requests.

Councillor Leo Littman

“Our event organisers, such as those involved in the Fringe, are pulling their hair out.

“Councillors from other groups condemn the present design yet they seem to to have been silenced.

“Our city has seen a number of major projects in recent years. Lewes Road is no longer delivering. Queen’s Road by Brighton Station is failing. North Street is now the seventh most polluted street in the country outside of London.

“Albert Einstein was credited with saying the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

“And here we are doing the same thing again.”

Green councillor Leo Littman shared his frustrations about the project taking so long but backed sending it through to the next stage.

He said: “The project is a good one and deserves our support.

“It will provide excellent public realm and sustainable transport improvements … improving public health.”

Councillors noted a report on the project. Officials are working on detailed designs which should include further public consultation.

  1. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    It is a puzzle that there are suddenly protests about a scheme that will make the Steine into something pleasant rather than a traffic island.

    This has been in prospect since 2006, across differently comprised Councils.

    It will now also gain from swiftly-changing technology such as self-driving automobiles and devices which keep all automobiles to the speed limit.

    Do not let it be forgotten that over a million people are killed on the roads every year.

    • Valerie Reply

      I have no view about this drastic alteration but would echo CH saying its been rollled fwd through several Administrations – starting with Labour, then with the Tories and then with the Greens before coming back to Labour.

      Hard for any Party to play the ‘Shock! Horror!’ card NOW, just ahead of mocal elections again in May, and be taken seriously.

  2. Fred the Confused Reply

    Even this website has been following the constant debate about the T Junction vs Roundabout. So you can’t act as if this is “sudden”.

    I find it slightly comical as to how these plans work. As with the Lewes Road, impeding the traffic flow to this level will add to the pollution and fumes making it less likely you’d want to sit on the grass there.

    It is the reduction of the bus stops I don’t understand.

  3. Billy Reply

    I’ve signed the petition but I wonder if most Brighton and Hove residents are aware of the problems about to be imposed upon us?
    If you just look at the Valley Gardens scheme plans and then you can see how lovely it all looks, with roads being replaced by public spaces. The mock-up photos are particularly appealing in that all the traffic appears to have disappeared!
    But on closer inspection is soon becomes clear that traffic lanes are reduced, causing traffic log jams on major routes for which no alternative is provided. And where is the park and ride scheme?
    The bus service is also restricted by the lack of inclusion of lay-bys which would allow other traffic and other busses to pass – and problem we already have in North Street. The traffic is also set to go down one side of the Steine – the east side of valley Gardens – and that happens to be where most of the residential property is.
    The fantasy is that we are creating a city centre park, but a lot of the new ‘green’ areas that were proposed will in fact now be paved, presumably in part because the Parks Department has been cut back so much that they can cut crass lawns or plant any more flower beds.
    There’s still a lot of good about the Valley Gardens scheme, but the details really need to be tweaked so that buses can continue to move efficiently through the city centre, and so that other vehicles on essential journeys have a chance of getting to their destinations. In particular, the removal of the roundabout at the Palace Pier junction and replacing it with unnecessary pedestrian crossings right on that junction is a disaster for all those vehicles on a cross-city route for which there is no alternative. We are being conned into thin king this is about road safety when in fact the safety record is very good when you csondier how much traffic has to use this major junction.
    The likely results of the current proposals are log jams of traffic, frustrated drivers and bus users, worse pollution, and with knock-on effects for all residents and businesses. This should not becomes a party political issue either, as it’s about a shared space and the changes will effect us all.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      As cllr Littman has often pointed out, there will be more green space. Events can now be held on the paved space and so there will be less destruction of the grass.

  4. Billy Reply

    Typo error above:
    *….because the Parks Department has been cut back so much that they CAN’T cut crass lawns or plant any more flower beds….

  5. Salty Sal Reply

    Came home to Brighton by coach today and it took ages. Queued from Mid-sussex and the reason eventually became clear – the ‘Valley Gardens’ roadworks. I know we should expect some tailbacks on a lovely spring day, but the bottleneck from St Peter’s church is a shocker. My sister has just shown me some of your articles about the next planned stage of this work and I totally understand why she’s dreading it. Rather than reduce the spce for visitors, Brighton needs more car parks and a coach park, a park and ride scheme with a network of car parks on the periphery and a better network of secondary roads to disperse traffic away from the A23, A27 and A259 once it reaches the town itself. I always tell people it’s a digital city and a great place to visit, but increasingly it’s looking tired, old and second-rate and, when you see how other parts of the country cope with the volume of increasingly green cars and buses, I’m left feeling reluctant to return to my hometown or to recommend it as a place for my friends to come.

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Er, so where do you propose a “park and ride”?

      • Billy Reply

        That’s an interesting question and there’s a short answer and a longer one.
        Ideally, we want park and ride points to the north and west and east of the city, and in the latter case Black Rock is an obvious place for one with shuttle buses operating along Madeira Drive. There’s already the Volks railway line of course.
        The longer answer is about planning and strategy, and successive councils have failed to come up with a consensus about traffic flow. There is of course a spectrum of views about cars, depending on whether you need to drive or not. Those that are lucky enough to live in the city centre can often do so without cars and therefore seek to ban them. You might also hate cars as major contributors to pollution, and that any new car park built just encourages more cars. Those who love their cars as lifestyle toys might like flyover roads built to bring them to the city centre without delay – and in the 1960s there was once such a plan – which would have meant flattening part of what is now the North Laine.
        Somewhere in the middle of those two extreme are all the people who need their cars to commute to work, or to transport their kids economically, or who drive vans for work or to deliver our goods. As much as we like pedestrianised shopping and car-free social areas we do still need a network of roads, and Brighton also relies on its visitors. If you want to encourage people out of private cars and into public transport then that transport needs to run efficiently – and there’s nothing about the current Valley Gardens scheme that helps public transport, and no alternative routes or parking points are provided for those on essential journeys.

  6. Drew Ward Reply

    This whole scheme is madness

  7. Fishwife, 49 Reply

    “Petition urges council to pause work on Old Seine revamp”
    Why does the headline appear to be about the river that runs through Paris?

    • Christopher Hawtree Reply

      Droll!

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