OPINION

Valley Gardens scheme isn’t toxic, it’s fabulous

Posted On 30 Apr 2019 at 5:57 pm

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


Last week I saw a post calling for radical solutions to the city’s transport network but was disappointed to read that one of the first ‘radical solutions’ was to retain some old bus stops, admittedly aesthetically pleasing bus stops, but all the same old bus stops.

Rather than a plea for an effective and imaginative transport system for our city it was yet another list of localised complaints about the Valley Gardens scheme.

Personally, and from a transport planning perspective, I think the Valley Gardens scheme is fabulous. It’s a small contribution to a much-needed solution for city centre travel woes which creates better spaces whilst promoting walking, cycling and improving bus journey times.

The delivery of effective transport services in Brighton and Hove has long been crushed into submission by objectors. A good, or bad, example is the city’s now defunct tram system that was lobbied into ineffectiveness. Hoteliers and shop keepers stopped trams from serving the sea front and Western Road and the middle class residents of Hove didn’t want anything to do with such dirty and dangerous contraptions.

The city’s political triad doesn’t help either. If our leaders were to adopt a truly world class vision for the city, they would start by removing all car traffic from the city centre.

This would include new park and ride facilities, repurposing the city’s many car parks, removing on-street car parking spaces, and spreading controlled parking to the whole city, not just the centre. Work place levies (WPL) are also a great idea and good generators of cash.

Nottingham’s WPL has generated nearly £9million per year since it started, with nearly 100% compliance, and no appreciable losses to the local business community.

We could create a seafront to be proud of, rather than having it dominated by a road that carries upward of 32,000 vehicles a day. It’s no surprise that the city’s air quality is poor.

If Brighton and Hove wants to be a city fit for the future, then we must let our hard working and diligent designers and engineers be allowed to think the unthinkable and design us a city that works.

These bold ideas must be supported by politicians and city wide residents to ensure that our city’s transport system doesn’t continue to be stifled, for decades to come, by local objectors.

One final thought. Whether it’s automation or to help fight climate change, within a generation eight out of ten cars will be removed from our roads. Let’s start designing for the future and not waste any more time listening to self-interested individuals and pressure groups.

Steve Reeves is a director of a Brighton-based transport planning and engineering business. He has lived and worked in the city for nearly 25 years.

  1. Terry Wing Reply

    I stopped believing what I was reading here as soon as I saw his, ‘We could create a seafront to be proud of, rather than having it dominated by a road that carries upward of 32,000 vehicles a day. It’s no surprise that the city’s air quality is poor.’

    The A259 is a major road with the seafront section being part of that network of ‘A Roads’; where does he intend diverting that traffic to and which road is he intending to use as a new A259?

  2. Steve Reeves Reply

    ‘He intends’ that polluting car traffic naffs off. The city centre & sea front should be for people not the 18th fascinatory that is the internal combustion engine. If anyone needs to traverse the city via the seafront/centre it’ll be walk, bike, bus. Too bad if some don’t like it. It’s the undeniable future.

  3. bradly Reply

    grab-land for retail tat = Steve Reeves is a director of a Brighton-based transport planning and engineering business and it is his business to stop private vehicles ect…. i am only concerned the use of the term “18th fascinatory” means that planning the transport system around palace pier requires no cars and denial of the facts and semantic truth.

  4. Billy Reply

    Someone else living in a fantasy world. I also hate the drawings of the new Valley gardens scheme which are so deceitful in their portrayal of traffic and bus routes.
    There’s lots of good stuff to like about the Valley Gardens Scheme, but the current version is bound to slow up all traffic including our bus services. The logjams created will also increase pollution in the area, defeating the main/original goal of the scheme.
    You don’t sort out the city traffic issues by closing roads in one area, and we already know that the narrowing of North street with no lay-bys for the buses means that buses there can’t pass each other, and so the worst air-polluted street in the city was created overnight.
    Go look at the dying trees they planted in North street too, and the chairs not-one wants to sit in.
    If you want to create a cleaner greener environment then use what space you have to separate people from cars, commuter routes for cyclists need to be kept away from pedestrians too. Above all, provide park and ride schemes to encourage private car owners to leave their vehicles outside the city’s hub centres, and then keep the remaining traffic moving.
    In the long term, encourage the use of electric vehicles – with discount parking and easy charging points for electric and hybrid vehicles.
    This is such an opportunity to improve the city for all, without killing the goose that lays the golden egg. Let’s hope they tweak the final details of this plan before the building work on key roads starts.

  5. Stuart Reply

    Good to hear a progressive perspective on the proposals for a change rather than either the self interested or the car driving dinosaurs. Hurrah.

  6. Lorenz di Qui Reply

    There should be at least one East-West tram route, either seafront or Western Rd.-North St.-St James’ St. and beyond. What was the hoteliers, shop-keepers middle-class residents’ problem with trams exactly?

    • Steve Reeves Reply

      This is a fascinating story. I discovered it doing some local research. The thrust of the objections were dirty, dangerous and importing riffraff.

  7. Valerie Reply

    Steve Reeves is a former Brighton & Hove City Council traffic and highways officer and was PROBABLY still in post when the last Labour Administration were beginning to plan this change – many years ago now!

    There is a school of thought that says that Urban Designers rather than highways people should have created whatever changes were needed. Steve’s flippant comment suggesting that cars will just have to go away is not helpful to the economy that REQUIRES huge numbers of visitors.

    Electric cars will do a lot to reduce/end vehicle emissions but cars are not going anywhere for a long time to come.

    • Steve Reeves Reply

      The archetypal Nimby. Knows everything and understands very little of what she speaks.

      For the record I joined BHCC in July 2005, and was there for 5 years. After that I took the role of Transport Manager at the Albion for 5 years, helping our world class venue settle into business. (Yes @Sal the P&R operation at the stadium works a treat – thanks).

      The Valley Gardens ideas were initially scoped in the 2001 Local Transport Plan I recall. Val seems to think that we should only be interest in visitors that drive to our fair city, ignore those that use the train, bus, coach, or cycle. Just worry about those filling our lungs with age-shortening gases. We know the ones that drive we see them either queuing on the A23 from Pyecombe on a summers day or waiting to get into a car park at Christmas. All the time belching out noxious pollutants.

      There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of cities around the world that have embraced some form of car free centre policy. Off the top of my head; Leeds, Oxford, York, Salisbury, Canterbury and Cardiff in the UK and Geneva, Seville, Basel, big chunks of Stockholm and Gothenborg, Malaga in Europe. All places I have visited in the last few years to check out how the car free parts are working.

      We should stop wasting our time and energy listening to those that have little idea of what the speak.

  8. Sal Reply

    Hard to disagree with Billy or Valerie. Steve Reeves is either unbelievably naive or ignorant of the weight of evidence about car use. Closing roads stops cars from using them. That’s about it, really. Car use keeps rising though modern engines are much cleaner. The number of vans on the road has soared even more as more people order goods online, even their groceries – rather than walk to the nearest supermarket. Green and trendy Hanover, where I live, is a case in point. It’s like the Ocado capital of the South.
    Brighton is on an East-West route and the southern end of two broadly North-South routes. It is a destination where coaches are not really made welcome and no political party has made good on promises to set up a park-and-ride scheme worthy of the name. Ironically, it’s a private company, the football club, which has come closest with its match-day arrangements.
    If Steve Reeves’ approach is implemented, the damage to the local economy will see Brighton’s seafront going back to being rundown and it will suffer even more under-investment. The terraces won’t be restored without a vibrant visitor economy. Closing the town to cars, or making it harder to drive and park here, will hit visitor numbers, including the valuable conference trade.
    If, as Valerie says, Steve Reeves was a long-time council employee, it would explain why he has such as an unrealistic appreciation of the needs of people outside the town hall bubble. The council has deliberately under-allocated parking spaces to new developments for so long in the chase for ever-growing parking revenues, it has lost sight of its proper purpose. It’s a form of institutionalised corruption and no one in the town hall has the courage to challenge it.

    • Steve Reeves Reply

      Neither ‘naive’ nor ‘ignorant’. Nearly 20 years in the profession. Now running a successful business after working for both local gov (BHCC, ESCC, and EA) and private sector. Helped deliver the stadium P&R services as well FYI.

      No evidence at all that a well implemented and holistic car free centre has any negative effects on the economic prosperity of a city, quite the opposite in fact. What is needed is speed and money. Build a system quickly and well it always works.

      Blathering on about ‘institutionalised corruption’ doesn’t help your arguments and sounds woolly headed to be honest. If you disagree with the principle of my suggestion that is fine but please express your vision within the parameters of the Royal Commission on Transport and the Environment.

  9. Terry Wing Reply

    Dear Editor,
    Could we have an ‘edit’ facility here, please? I posted the first comment and noticed that I had missed an ‘e’ off a word so that it read as ‘her’ instead of ‘here’; I was then unable to edit my comment. Steve highlighted that in his first sentence of his following post.

  10. Billy Reply

    Despite the good bits, the reasons there are many reasons why the Valley Gardens Scheme is toxic, as it stands.
    The original goal was/is to create more a car-free environment but in narrowing road you push the same cars into a logjammed space and that means more pollution. Frustrated drivers then seek other routes through the city centre, so that impinges on nearby residential roads.
    It’s fine to discourage cars from coming into Brighten but please provide alternative access at the same time. So where is the park and ride scheme? Why do our trains run so badly? And how come all the bus services were recently cut?
    If the roads are restricted this also affects the bus efficiency, and the changes in North Street show just what a disaster you create when pavements are widened and bus lay-bys are removed.
    So, on the one hand we are promised new open spaces and piazzas and seating areas (all good, as far as I’m concerned). But then it turns out there are lots of paved areas, rather than flower beds or grass. The cycle lanes go straight through pedestrian areas. Some of the junctions leave the buses no room to turn. Where there are bus stops they are guaranteed to slow up the traffic. And no-one seems to care that commuters have to pass along the city centre and along the A259 seafront road just to get to work, with no alternative routes being provided.
    Above all why, under the current plans, are all pedestrians heading for the seafront being directed right at the city’s busiest road junction?
    Perhaps someone can explain to me this muppet approach to planning.

  11. Sean Key Reply

    Having seen how you respond to the posters on here Steve, if it is genuinely you replying, it’s not hard to see how your schemes might fail on stakeholder engagement.

    Breathtaking arrogance and rudeness.

  12. mathieu Reply

    The Valley Gardens is a good scheme – it rationalises a chaotic and disfunctional layout and reallocates space and priority to pedestrians, cyclists and bus users. The scheme challenges the dominance of private motor vehicles, but IMO doesn’t go far enough, and I am concerned about how some junctions and east/west routes will work for cyclists and pedestrians.

    Steve is absolutely right that we need to look beyond the car – it is the most inefficient form of mass transportation ever devised, and current levels of car use are completely incompatible with the stated aim of our government and council to rapidly achieve a zero carbon economy. This will mean car free town centres as the norm, changes to infrastructure to support safe cycling and walking and a step change in the provision and variety of public transport options. There isn’t really an alternative, and the Valley Gardens scheme is a good start – tentative steps in the right direction.

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