Council rejects request for environmental impact of Old Steine revamp to be assessed

Businesses will close and the city centre will have nothing to attract tourists if the third phase of a project to redesign the road layout in central Brighton goes ahead in its current form, according to a leading councillor.

This was the stark warning of Conservative leader Steve Bell, who described the project to replace the Palace Pier roundabout with a traffic light junction and move all traffic to the eastern site of Old Steine as having been “railroaded through”.

Councillor Bell told a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council that businesses, communities and the concerns of councillors were being ignored in favour of the opinions of council officers, at Hove Town Hall Yesterday (Thursday 24 October).

He said: “We’ll start losing businesses. We won’t have a problem with climate change because all we’ll be seeing here is grass growing on the roads and tumbleweed blowing because there’ll be no one left to trade.

“No one will come down to see anything. It’s a sad state of affairs. We’ll have the ‘i-sore’ sticking up but obviously no one goes there so it won’t be a problem.”

His comments came after a member of the Valley Gardens Forum presented an alternative design for the project, which is the third phase of a complete revamping of the roads and green spaces from St Peter’s Church to the seafront.

Work is already well under way for the first two phases and £6 million towards the £8 million cost of phase 3 was agreed by the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) just over a week ago.

Valley Gardens Forum representative Serena Burt told councillors that the forum’s design was created with leading architects and was not considered finished.

It includes a two-way bus lane from the bottom of North Street at Castle Square, past the Royal Pavilion, to keep the bus hub.

Other suggestions include remodelling the pier roundabout to keep Madeira Drive as a two-way street, removing the need to redevelop Duke’s Mound.

She said: “We genuinely believe that something close to this plan is one that the entire city can get behind.

“Indeed, we would welcome the opportunity to collaborate with the council in achieving the best possible outcome for the whole community.”

The Valley Gardens Forum hopes to persuade councillors that its proposals would provide better value and improve the area for cyclists, pedestrians and bus passengers

She asked for the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee to give the plans full scrutiny.

Labour councillor Anne Pissaridou, who chairs the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said that the council’s choice of final design would be the one facing the scrutiny as it was approved in February after “considerable debate and thorough public consultation”.

She confirmed that there would be further engagement with the community and the Valley Gardens Forum.

Conservative councillor Joe Miller called for an environmental impact assessment and a full consultation into the impact of the project on the junction of the A259 and Duke’s Mound should plans to make Madeira Drive one-way from the west go ahead.

Councillor Miller, who is his party’s parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, said that he supported the Valley Gardens Forum’s design and suggested that the council consider other options.

The Valley Gardens Froum’s annotated alternative plan is intended to build on the best of the council’s proposals for the Old Steine area

He said: “It’s a great waste of public money implementing a scheme that is going to in the end cause huge damage to the city.

“It’s great that we’ve got the money, the government’s £6 million to improve the area, but I do believe this scheme will grind the city to a halt like we’ve never seen before.”

He was seconded by fellow Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth, the party’s parliamentary candidate for Hove, who said that he wished that the discussion had taken place before work had started.

Councillor Nemeth described the plans as being drawn up “behind closed doors” without input from businesses, residents and elected representatives.

He said: “I would say generally not embracing public opinion has been a problem in recent years. I’ve raised the problem of King Alfred, Circus Street, the beach huts, school transport, litter and graffiti.

“This scheme rolled along. It was bullied through at times and led to the formation of multiple campaigns against something that should bring joy to residents minds.”

Serena Burt at the council meeting last night

Rottingdean Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh backed the Conservative call for an environmental impact assessment.

Councillor Fishleigh said: “People have told me that the Greens and Labour will oppose this motion. Not because they think it’s bad but because it’s been proposed by the Conservatives.

“However, as public officials you have something else to consider beyond party politics. Legislation is on the way which will mean that anyone in public office who knowingly supports a policy or project that harms the environment is liable for prosecution.”

She said that the smart traffic lights operating at the proposed new junction by the Aquarium and Palace Pier would be run on 5G networks, which were raised as an issue at the same council meeting.

Green councillor Pete West championed the project which he described as creating a “fitting welcome” for visitors, creating new places people would want to be in.

He said: “The obsessing by the Tories over keeping an unsafe roundabout and the vexatious concern about air quality is misinformation and scaremongering and really misses the point entirely.

“If we cannot create the conditions for people to ditch the car and switch to public transport and active travel, how can we ever hope to create an environment that we need.”

Councillor Anne Pissaridou

Councillor West said that all questions had been “well answered” for the last couple of years and the council needed to move on and focus on delivering the scheme.

Councillor Pissaridou said that she understood people’s concerns about air quality and assured councillors that the project was properly screened.

She said: “Environmental impacts will continue to be reviewed throughout the design process and monitored during and after construction is completed.

“We will also ensure that environmental impacts will continue to be reviewed throughout the detailed design process and will be monitored during and after construction.

Councillor Pissaridou said that Duke’s Mound would be included in the further consultation.

The Conservative request for an environmental impact assessment and a public consultation on changes to Duke’s Mound was rejected, with Labour and Greens voting against although two Green councillors, Big Yellow bus company boss Tom Druitt and his wife Alex Phillips, the current mayor, abstained.

The Valley Gardens Forum design will be considered by the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee when it meets on Tuesday 26 November.

  1. Gaz Reply

    The greens aren’t that green.
    This should be a big park with affordable housing on it

  2. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I do not see how anybody can claim that the current roundabout is a thing of beauty and safety.

    Whether a different style of roundabout would work is a matter for debate. That said, there are traffic lights at other junctions, such as West Street, along the Coast Road. Should these be replaced with roundabouts? There would probably be uproar at that idea.

    • Rolivan Reply

      Christopher there is a big difference between the Aquarium intersections and West St one has5 entry and exit points and the other three.The existing roundabout is far too small which allows vehicles to converge adhoc whereas a larger roundabout would not.

  3. David Robson Reply

    Why are these people elected by us not listening to anyone
    Even with the existing roundabout the new road layout is causing congestion which increases pollution. Replacing a roundabout with a t junction surely the build up of backlog traffic will be even worse

    • Chris Reply

      They’re not listening because the whole thing has become a “vanity” project, to be forced through, instead of something to benefit Brighton. The original roundabout was a lot bigger which controlled the traffic, albeit by slowing it slightly. For me the main issue is making Madeira Drive one way – why not have traffic lights at that junction for emerging vehicles?

  4. Gary F Reply

    Stop voting in council members for city issues on national policies which do nothing in any way to help Brighton or any other city. “I vote Green because I care about the planet” does not equate citywide issues which damage the current and future prospects of every citizen and the city.

  5. Kevin Smith Reply

    So let me get this straight. The Greens opposed an Environmental Impact Assessment, as did Labour, the advocates of a carbon-neutral city, but the Tories were in favour. If this scheme genuinely will reduce carbon emissions and prove beneficial to the environment, why would the Greens and Labour oppose an assessment to demonstrate this. In any event, a proper EIA could identify other ways to make it greener. Something about this doesn’t smell right!

  6. sheila Reply

    Of course it won’t “prove beneficial to the environment” otherwise they’d jump at an EIA. It’s about creating traffic jams by design so they can justify ways of bashing drivers (carers, people with limited mobility, trades people, delivery drivers and so on). Expect higher parking charges, more controlled zones and even a congestion charge. Oh, not forgetting criminal levels of pollution. The money being wasted on Labour’s traffic-choking legacy would be better spent on greener engines, a park and ride scheme and a proper coach park.

  7. Anon Reply

    To avoid this page becoming a complete echo chamber – I and the majority of my colleagues (central Brighton office, 50+ employees) fully support the proposed Valley Gardens schemes. To state that the “people elected by us [are] not listening to anyone” is simply untrue.

    • Shelley Reply

      Of course the scheme has its supporters, but the report and associated documents presented to the LEP, as well as some of the council’s own reports etc, were clear about the many deficiencies of the council’s proposals.
      If the comments appear to be like an ‘echo chamber’, maybe it’s because many people feel strongly about a costly mistake being made by the council. It will not improve the environment, just like the Lewes Road and North Street fiascos. As well as adding to congestion and pollution in Lewes Road (at a time when more cars have stop-start engines to reduce idling fumes), traffic has been displaced, adding to the existing congestion in places like Woodingdean.
      The less said about North Street the better, but as a pedestrian, I now actively avoid the street. Even with a growing number of greener buses, the air is foul. And that’s a street where it’s rare to see a car other than a taxi.
      I agree it is not true to say ‘people elected by us [are] not listening to anyone’. Astonishingly (to me), the Tories are listening to the public, while the Greens and Labour are listening to what I can only presume is the work-experience person who drew up this botch of a design. Typically for a council, they’ve dug their hole and they’ve entrenched their position and they darn well ain’t gonna change their minds now because they’re too proud, pig-headed or stubborn or whatever.
      One of the most frustrating things is how this will make the air worse for pedestrians, cyclists and residents in the so-called Valley Gardens area when sensible changes, like those put forward by the Valley Gardens forum, could make such a positive difference. I don’t know the forum people, but I am impressed by their determination to do what’s right for Brighton, for businesses and jobs and for the environment in the face of a tin-eared council.

  8. jess hartley Reply

    An EIA, undertaken in good faith, is a good way to improve the environmental impacts of a scheme. It speaks volumes that Labour and the Greens oppose one here. No politician wants to confront the indisputable evidence of his or her folly once they have signed up to dogma.
    Anon, the echo chamber is a result of lots of people like me, who never usually comment on press articles, driven by frustration and disappointment to speak our minds. I care for the environment. I care for the local economy and the livelihoods of my friends and neighbours. I care that Brighton is a wonderful place to live and work in and visit. But all this is now at risk because a relatively small number of blinkered individuals, subscribing to group-think, are imposing a disastrous scheme without even having the guts to test the impact properly.

  9. Penny Hajduk Reply

    I fail to understand why there is a need for “a pleasant open space” or “park” at that particular place. It might be a nice green space, but I can’t imagine many people would wish to picnic there – they would be surrounded by cars and buses on either side, and probably subjected to increased air pollution from the traffic. Let alone the noise. Hardly a place to sit and read a book, or have a coffee.

  10. Pat Reply

    I walk across the Steine when I have to. I wouldn’t spend any longer there than necessary, and when the traffic gets worse, I’ll avoid it even more. The council policy on driving is all about driving people away. My family now drive to Worthing, Holmbush, Crawley or Eastbourne to shop instead of Churchill Square. Parking is easier and cheaper, without the hostility engendered by Brighton council.

  11. Mo Reply

    Why is the council, or by the looks of it, why are Labour and the Greens, afraid of an Environmental Impact Assessment? Presumably, they know it won’t back up their claims that the changes will reduce pollution, otherwise I bet they’d be chomping at the bit.

  12. Martin Spencer Reply

    Sorry if it sounds like an echo chamber, but when councillors didn’t do proper air quality assessment in the first place, and won’t agree to proper measurements via an Environmental Impact Assessment now, any sane person can draw the obvious conclusion – they are not actually concerned with protecting air quality!!

    Now they are further proposing yet another set of congestion-increasing and time-wasting traffic lights on the A259, at a roundabout they claim is dangerous, but the figures prove conclusively otherwise.

    The Labour council even admit openly that the real driver of their policy is trying to stop car use in the city. Absolutely boneheaded, unfortunately … how are people who need to get work done (think deliveries, tools, working under time pressure) supposed to function?

    Overall, it won’t work, in the short term we already have terrible congestion and apalling air quality, and that’s even getting worse! You can visit London and the air quality is actually better!

    Also, after the public money is all spent in a rush and without a thought for the future, we’ll be left with a rotting city centre the council can’t afford to maintain properly because revenues are gone. Mark my words. We are heading rapidly to be Crawley Mk II.

  13. fed-up with Brighton politics Reply

    This is very shameful on the Greens, who claim to have the environment at heart, and this is supposed to be the main reason for their existence, but after the horrible mess they made when Kitcat (who ran away in the end, lest we forget) was in charge, you can just blame the people who apparently forgot all that and voted them in as councillors in large numbers. The Greens just kowtow to Nancy Platts and her Momentum bunch – she gets articles on here as routine which say nothing much. At least Warren Morgan had something to say, even if you didn’t agree with him.

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