A leading figure in the tourism sector has slated Brighton and Hove City Council for ignoring concerns about pollution, congestion and economic harm as it pushes ahead with a controversial road scheme.
Tourism and hospitality bosses are among those concerned about phase 3 of the Valley Gardens project, especially plans to scrap the Aquarium roundabout and cram more traffic along the east side of a remodelled Old Steine.
The chair of the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance, Anne Ackord, has set out her concerns in a letter to the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
On Thursday (17 October) the LEP is expected to allocate £6 million towards the final phase of the Valley Gardens project which involves revamping the area from The Level to the seafront.
Mrs Ackord, who is also the chief executive of the Brighton Pier Group, which owns the Palace Pier, said in her letter to the LEP that the latest changes would add to pollution and cost jobs.
She wrote: “While any scheme that improves the environment is welcome, this does not meet the anticipated objective and I believe it will impact adversely on the tourism business upon which the city relies heavily.
“An ambition to get people out of their cars is admirable but this must be preceded with a viable alternative transport strategy.
“Visiting families from out of town need to come by car or train and as you are aware, I’m sure, a large percentage are put off trains by the sheer cost.
“This is a scheme that seeks to reduce traffic but actually increases congestion and therefore environmental damage.
“It is a very simple equation that more congestion leads to less willingness to travel and hence less income for the critical visitor economy.
“Currently there is much debate and work within the council and tourism groups to present a ‘Destination Management Plan’ for the city.
“This scheme flies in the face of the ambitions contained within that plan, to increase visitors and improve the environment.
“The removal of the Aquarium roundabout is ill-thought-through and indeed the ancillary costs of doing so (remodelling Duke’s Mound junction) are not even considered within the scheme.
“The impact of these additional but necessary costs along with the loss of tourism revenue would probably see the scheme move from low value to negative value. However, these factors have been ignored by the council.
“The council made a decision on the scheme, consulted, ignored the responses in opposition to the scheme and all along have paid scant attention to the opinions of those most likely to be affected – local businesses and the wider tourism industry.
“Any downturn in number of visitors to our city will lead to job losses in the sector and in the local services who support our industry. It is as simple as that.
“I, and Tourism Alliance businesses, along with many local residents and non-tourist businesses, believe that this scheme is nothing less than detrimental to the city’s economy, its workforce and its reputation as an environmentally friendly city and should not be funded in its present form.”
Her letter to Coast to Capital is included in the meeting papers for the board meeting on Thursday along with other letters of support and objection.
It comes as the council has been criticised for spending £140,000 on resurfacing the Aquarium roundabout – rather than carry out patched repairs – a year before it plans to replace the roundabout with a traffic light junction.
The council has said that the scheme is aimed at creating a green lung in the centre of Brighton and encouraging people to walk and cycle more while also creating dedicated lanes for buses.