A controversial road layout scheme in the heart of Brighton has been awarded a £6 million grant by regional funding chiefs.
The money will go towards the £8 million cost of a revamp planned for the Old Steine area of Brighton – known as Valley Gardens phase 3.
The grant to Brighton and Hove City Council was approved by the board of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) on Thursday (17 October).
The council has redesigned the road layout, footpaths and cycle routes from St Peter’s Church to the seafront.
Work on phase 1 and 2 of the Valley Gardens project is well under way – from St Peter’s to Edward Street – but phase 3 has been dogged by controversy.
Plans to scrap the Aquarium roundabout and replace it with traffic lights won the support of cyclists.
Some critics have pointed out though that cyclists and pedestrians will probably breathe in more fumes than anyone else from the way that traffic jams will be engineered.
But the proposal angered drivers and those worried about the pollution that would be generated by the resulting traffic jams.
The council’s favoured design has also upset people living to the east of Old Steine who have their own concerns about pollution. The current design would bunch four lanes of traffic together.
The taxi trade and some involved in buses had safety concerns and other worries, including about the area between the bottom of North Street and St James’s Street.
There were also concerns about a proposal to make Madeira Drive entry-only by the pier, forcing traffic to leave by Duke’s Mound.
The LEP said yesterday: “The Coast to Capital board has approved £6 million (from the) Local Growth Fund for Valley Gardens phase 3.
“The board is satisfied that the relevant funding criteria have been met and that Brighton and Hove City Council has met the conditions set by the Coast to Capital board.”
The council said: “Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership has approved £6 million of funding for phase 3 of the Valley Gardens project.
“The decision was made at the Coast to Capital board meeting. It means that the council can now enter into a funding agreement and progress the scheme.
“Valley Gardens is a prime city centre site surrounded by attractions such as the Royal Pavilion and shopping areas leading down to the seafront and the Palace Pier.”
Pier boss Anne Ackord made a strongly worded plea in advance of the LEP board meeting – writing as chair of the Tourism Alliance – saying that the new scheme would harm the visitor economy and cost jobs.
Councillor councillor Lee Wares said that the project had scored poorly for value for money – and that was before changes that would be needed at Duke’s Mound had been factored in.
The Valley Gardens Forum, which represents businesses and residents, is believed to have been working on design improvements that would win the council the backing of many of its current opponents.
Labour councillor Anne Pissaridou, who chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “We will continue to engage with people to ensure we provide the best scheme possible.
“Valley Gardens is a key part of our commitment to improve the city’s environment for people.
“It will contribute to our wider aim of becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 by making it possible for more of us to make our journeys using public transport, cycling or walking.
“We have the opportunity to realise the potential of Valley Gardens as a place to visit, spend time in and host events.
“It will provide the infrastructure needed to give people access to the whole area, turn Valley Gardens into a destination in its own right and make it easier to explore other areas like Kemp Town and the seafront.”