Politicians from the Labour and Conservative parties have joined forces to call for changes to the controversial Valley Gardens road layout scheme.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour councillor Jackie O’Quinn and Conservative councillor Lee Wares issued a joint statement after a meeting this week.
They listened and spoke at a packed meeting of the Valley Gardens Forum which brings together residents, businesses and trade associations affected by the scheme.
While the Forum supports improvements to the Old Steine area, members oppose key details of the project known as Valley Gardens phase 3.
They are concerned about plans to replace the Aquarium roundabout with traffic lights and changes at the bottom of North Street, at the Old Steine and Castle Square junction.
They are also unhappy about a proposal to allow vehicles to go into Madeira Drive by the Palace Pier but for a one-way stretch to force drivers to leave at Duke’s Mound.
And they are worried about the road safety risks, an increase in air pollution and the creation of a five-lane super-highway on the eastern side of Old Steine.
Transport user groups, trade associations and big employers have all issued their own warnings about the potentially harmful effects on the local economy.
The three politicians said: “Forum members expressed concern about the continued lack of consultation, the lack of consideration regarding air quality and pollution, the risk to the city’s economy and vehicle congestion and displacement.”
They agreed that the present scheme risked doing more harm than good to the city.
And they supported calls for Brighton and Hove City Council to stop the scheme and rethink its plans.
Lloyd Russell-Moyle, the Labour MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “There are some very good aspects of this project that everybody seems to support such as cycling, walking and accessibility.
“But removing the access to Madeira Drive and redeveloping the Duke’s Mound junction to compensate is not one of them.
“There are other concerns about how this will affect Kemp Town, including the lack of additional tree-planting on the Kemp Town side, lack of bus stops which will reduce footfall to Kemp Town and the restricted access to the Old Steine for event organisers.”
Labour councillor Anne Pissaridou, the new chair of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “Improving road safety is one of the core objectives.”
She has facilitated a number of meetings with council officers and local elected representatives, including agreeing mediation with the Valley Gardens Forum.
But Mr Russell-Moyle said: “I welcome Councillor Pissaridou’s engagement in this issue but the community don’t believe that the mediation has yet been effective.
“The modelling on the junctions remains only the second-worst option for cyclists and safer options with lights and roundabouts were presented and should be considered.
“The current scheme will also have a large economic detriment to Kemp Town and one of the key ‘high streets’ in our city.
“These developments need to come with mitigation measures to prevent the loss of business in our city.
“I have relayed many of the concerns to officers in the council and I continue to receive reassurances that these will be taken on board in later design iterations but these need now to be in writing and legally binding.”
Councillor Wares, deputy leader of the Conservative group on the council, said: “The level of anxiety and anger across a large section of our city is unabated.
“There are so many faults with this project that could be put right if the council were to pause, reopen discussions, get everybody round the table and listen to all the good ideas that exist.
“We can greatly improve sustainable and active travel, create world-class event space and still keep the city moving while protecting our local economy.”
Councillor O’Quinn, who chairs the council’s Licensing Committee, said: “Having listened to the taxi trade and seen first-hand the implications, they will negatively impact the trade and their customers, with Madeira Drive entry-only – and exit at Duke’s Mound.
“Officers have shown a willingness to seek solutions to this, allowing two-way traffic with restricted turning at the pier entrance, these options now need to be confirmed to reassure the community.”
After the Valley Gardens Forum meeting on Wednesday (21 August) Councillor Steve Bell, leader of the Conservative group, said: “We have expressed our concerns about phase 3 from the very beginning and we are grateful for Lloyd’s interest.
“The city has a golden opportunity to use government money to considerably improve the area.
“Our commitment to the Labour administration is that we will work with them, doing whatever it takes, to reach a solution that is good for all our citizens and businesses.”