Situated in the heart of the city, the historic Old Steine was once a place where residents and visitors would flock to – famous for its promenade, open green space and the ornate Victoria Fountain.
Over the years, the development of well-intentioned traffic infrastructure has led to the area being segregated and harder to access.
The encircling road has closed off the green spaces and invited more traffic, causing congestion and increasing air pollution.
The introduction of a series of junctions and gyratories has made walking and cycling through the area difficult and unpleasant.
The Valley Gardens project is designed to address this.
Overall, the finished scheme will bring two key outcomes. Firstly, it will form a vital part of our move to become a carbon neutral city by 2030 through investment in a sustainable transport network that supports walking, cycling, and public transport.
Secondly, it will give public space back to the local community, allowing the city’s residents and visitors the opportunity to enjoy this area of our city once more.
Phases 1 and 2 of the scheme are now well under way, with significant changes already made to improve the road layout and open spaces from St Peter’s Church to Edward Street and introduce new paths for cycling and walking.
Works to create a central park will soon follow, including the planting of more than 150 trees, which will improve the environment and air quality.
Phase 3, which focuses on the area from the Old Steine to the Palace Pier, is a continuation of this work and is vital to achieving the overall aims for the area, including co-ordinated sustainable transport links and open public spaces through the city centre and down to the sea.
While the current area has become a transitory route for visitors and residents, the completed scheme will open up key city landmarks, including the iconic Royal Pavilion and the vibrant Kemp Town area in the east of the city.
The Pavilion Gardens, one of the most popular and well-loved green spaces in the city, has been listed as at risk by Historic England.
Creating an open public space in front of the gardens and distance away from road traffic, will protect and preserve the gardens into the future.
The Valley Gardens project has always been about changing the very nature of how we access, use and value this public space at the heart of our city.
Input from the local community is therefore vital in shaping the design for the area and it is my intention that this engagement continues in the final detailed design stage.
Undoubtedly, things will change as the design is worked on but the overall vision for the area and core objectives will not be changed and I make no apologies for that.
If we are serious about addressing climate change, improving air quality and future-proofing the city for the years to come, then we must be bold in our vision and we must act now.
As an administration, we have to implement the changes that will bring the biggest overall benefits to the most people.
That does mean moving away from car usage in the city centre to improve air quality. It does mean creating more green space to protect the local environment and it does mean creating more public space to enhance the landmarks that draw people to the city, including the Royal Pavilion and the seafront.
Once completed, the Valley Gardens scheme will help to realise the full potential of the area by giving the community access to public space while providing the infrastructure needed to meet the pace and scale of the environmental challenges of the day.
Let’s not waste this significant opportunity and pressing need to move towards a more sustainable city for our citizens today and for future generations.
Councillor Anne Pissaridou chairs Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.
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