OPINION

It’s now time to unite and move on

Posted On 15 Aug 2021 at 3:30 am

The growing climate emergency has always been at the front of our minds and it remains ever more so today.

Recent floods in Germany, Turkey, Italy and China and wildfires raging in Europe surely focus our attention to this issue.

It appears that UK government thinking has now moved from pandemic to climate change and while this in itself is certainly an overdue step in the right direction, most of us have known that climate change has always been the omnipresent threat, hidden while the country grapples with the pandemic.

We in the Labour Party remain steadfast in our determination to promote active, healthy communities across our city, as well as tackling climate change.

When in administration, we declared a climate emergency, began development of the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP), the Local Transport Plan, delivered the next phase of Valley Gardens, rolled out electric vehicle (EV) charging points, signed up to the Road Safety Charter, set up the city’s first ever climate assembly, closed Madeira Drive to cars and called for a car-free city centre.

More recently, in opposition, we secured funds to explore a 20mph city, an EV car club and 20-minute neighbourhoods.

I would like to reassure the residents of our city that the Brighton and Hove Labour group carefully considered all the Active Travel Fund schemes alongside listening to the residents, businesses and other stakeholders of our city before coming to the decision to remove the temporary Old Shoreham Road cycle lane – and that it in no way represents any lessening of our commitment to a carbon-neutral future.

On the contrary, we are keen to ensure there is more active travel infrastructure built around the city but we have always been clear that we must take residents with us on this urgent journey and their opinions must be respected.

The government’s Active Travel Fund imposed a punishing timetable on a council already under enormous pressure. This helps to explain many of the problems that have arisen since with respect to delivery.

Pandemic emergency or not, rushed designs will be weaker and may ultimately fail in time if they do not secure broad public support – and we have been very open about wanting to ensure our residents were better consulted when we came to tranche 2 and beyond.

In addition, the recent City Climate Assembly delivered 10 key recommendations, including a demand that Brighton and Hove City Council should actively consult and engage with the community.

It was the Labour group therefore that called for a pause in the roll-out of the active travel measures and for a meaningful consultation with our city’s residents and businesses.

To plough ahead without the support of our residents would be irresponsible, as it is they who will need to make significant lifestyle changes in order for us to become a carbon-neutral city within the decade.

To make those changes, we need to bring them with us , not leave them behind.

The recent consultation with the city was the true test of local opinion and, despite its limitations, Labour feels that residents made their feelings overwhelmingly clear in wanting the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane to be removed.

It is important to be able to say “stop” when necessary and make the right decision in the face of sometimes powerful pressure.

Councils need to be honest enough to understand when something has seemed a good idea on paper but is simply not working and not used.

To say all cycle lanes are good is as pointless as saying all cycle lanes are bad – some work, some do not.

We supported the extension of the schemes at Preston Park, Western Road and on the A259 seafront road, as it is clear that there is demand there, and that in the long run it will greatly improve the road and pavement space for all users. However, we do not see the same rationale for the extension of the Old Shoreham Road cycle lane.

To become a carbon-neutral city, we must all work together to respond in meaningful ways that engage and carry our communities.

This is the challenge facing not just Brighton and Hove but every city at this crucial moment in time.

Fundamental to this is trust. Good governance is built on a deep and abiding relationship of trust between our leaders and our residents. To be candid, trust is preserved by how we are seen to fix and not hide or deny problems.

I believe we have come to this position in the best interests of all in the city, in seeking to understand the successes and failures of all the temporary schemes so that we can plan effectively for more and better cycle lanes in the future.

Labour remains absolutely committed to further active travel measures, to carbon neutrality and to a car-free city centre but we must ensure that schemes work and that we listen to our communities.

It is now time to unite and move on.

Councillor Gary Wilkinson speaks for the Labour opposition on the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee on Brighton and Hove City Council.

  1. Chris Reply

    “Carbon Neutral” seems to the buzzphrase nowadays, but how does a single connurbation become carbon neutral when it’s not in full control of all utilities and functionality? Please don’t suggest everyone cycling will achieve it!!

  2. Nathan Adler Reply

    Labour and the Conservatives got this spot on. If you don’t listen to a consultation then what is the point in the consultation? Will people even bother filling them in going forward? I notice cycling groups are happy to embrace the WSCC consultation but want the brighton one ignored. The OSR has been a catastrophic failure with poor usage, making the cycling debate actually ‘toxic’and such a poor idea the extension was dropped. Lets admit the mistake, remove it and move on. Although I expect Green Councilors will continually belly ache for another few months.

  3. Kelly Reply

    Another policyless blairite, we need to have policies looking at the dangers of climate change even if means annoying some residents as it will impact all of us. Only the Green Party has saving the planet in mind.

  4. Tony Harper Reply

    Well said, Gary. However, by looking at their Twitter accounts, I don’t think the Greens are at all happy about having to cope with democracy

  5. Robbo Reply

    The “Green” Party are hardly green at all! They waste resources, fail on recycling and are opposed to park and ride.

    • Chyna Bryte Reply

      Park & Ride can actually increase car use. It’s a way of avoiding finding true alternatives to driving. If you’re just switching to a bus for the last couple of miles, that’s going to do nothing to reduce emissions.

      Recycling is a red herring. It encourages people to consume more, through giving them the idea they’re consuming virtuously. Germany is Europe’s biggest plastics recycler and it’s also its biggest plastics consumer.

      As for wasting resources – this move means the loss of thousands in funding, and potentially millions more.

  6. Jonathan Simons Reply

    This is incredibly dishonest, even by Gary Wilkinsons’ standards. You’ve delayed climate action, claimed credit for action taken by then opposition councillors and forgotten how much yourp party has done to block this city making progress. And your claim of commitment to the climate assembly is utter nonsense when you’re acting contrary to several of the recommendations, simply claiming “consultation” as your golden shield against having to do anything.

  7. IanB Reply

    This comes under a heading “Brighton and Hove News” but it is not clear in what sense it is “news” as opposed to unmoderated labour party propaganda.

    • Helen Reply

      Erm, it’s clearly marked Opinion and is in a section where people of all parties and none write about all sorts of issues, although the silly cycle lane has rather dominated lately!

      • Sally Challis Reply

        Silly? Try cycling down the unprotected part of the Old Shoreham Road and then if you still think it’s silly.

  8. Gary Gibbon Reply

    The gullibility of people never ceases to amaze me, all this talk about “climate crisis” and being carbon neutral is just B/S, we as a country account for less than 1% of the worlds emissions. When you have China building two coal fired power stations a week for the foreseeable future all our virtue signaling is doing is making us poorer, so until the rest of the world starts doing it’s bit we will just be the laughing stock. Just remember next time you pay your very expensive electricity bill 30% of that is subsiding green energy.

    • Shaniqua Reply

      Blaming others for emissions is a great way of delaying action and it’s exactly why the world is now on fire.

      Someone has to start making meaningful change soon, and stop hiding behind the excuse of ‘it’s someone else’s fault’.

      If Brighton takes drastic action, that’ll help the rest of the UK to follow. And the UK’s example will then be followed by other countries.

      This is Brighton’s chance to lead, not follow.

      • Gary Gibbon Reply

        Like I said “The gullibility of people never ceases to amaze me”
        Thanks for proving my point.

  9. Iain Chambers Reply

    The annual global subsidy of the fossil fuel industry is about half a trillion dollars. So maybe that’s the one to focus on rather than the much lower subsidy for renewable energy..

    • Gary Gibbon Reply

      Why should we worry about “The annual global subsidy of the fossil fuel industry”? How much are they subsidised in the UK?
      I think we should worry about our pockets not the rest of the worlds.

  10. Iain Chambers Reply

    BH Labour have been keen to emphasise the report from the climate assembly, with Cllr Wilkinson referring here (only) to Point 4 of the report. I think it’s worth seeing all of the points, noting that the assembly requested that the report should be taken as a suite of measures rather than be used selectively. Given this and noting in particular points 3 and 6, is it right and proper of BH Labour to use the climate assembly to support their decision regarding the OSR temporary lane?

    “A detailed report has been prepared on the findings of Brighton & Hove’s climate assembly, the first of its kind for the city.

    The report, which has been produced by experts at Ipsos MORI who independently facilitated the citizens’ assembly on behalf of the city council, summarises its findings and recommendations.

    Ranked in order of importance, the 10 recommendations from the climate assembly are:

    A car-free city centre
    The public transport system should be affordable/accessible
    Creation of healthier low traffic/pedestrianised communities
    The council should actively consult and engage with the community
    Introduce mobility hubs – a mobility hub is a recognisable place which provides and connects up different types of travel, like cycle hire, station, parking and transport information
    Cyclists should be prioritised over cars through well-designed dedicated cycling networks that are safe and practical for day-to-day use as well as leisure
    Introduce a park and ride to minimise car use in the city
    Make public transport a more convenient alternative to driving a car
    Messaging should focus on what people gain rather than lose and educate/expand citizens’ knowledge
    There should be a focus on incentives rather than sanctions as interventions
    The recommendations are viewed by the assembly as a suite, rather than standalone ideas. They should all be implemented together in order to be as effective as possible”

    Given the likely loss of central government funding for any agreed future active travel measures, might it not have made more sense to leave the temporary OSR lane in place for a few more months while more measurements were taken and a future plan agreed?

    • Gary Gibbon Reply

      You could try answering the question. “The annual global subsidy of the fossil fuel industry”? How much are they subsidised in the UK?

  11. Iain Chambers Reply

    As the cut and paste didn’t save the numbers from the climate assembly report here’s points 3 and 6.

    3.Creation of healthier low traffic/pedestrianised communities.

    6. Cyclists should be prioritised over cars through well-designed dedicated cycling networks that are safe and practical for day-to-day use as well as leisure

    • Gary Gibbon Reply

      I also have my own cut and paste.
      To put this into perspective…

      1. The UK generates about 1% of global carbon emissions
      2. Brighton & Hove represents less than 1% of the UK
      3. Transport generates 27% of all emissions on the UK
      4. About 78% of transport distance is by cars. 1% is by bicycle.
      5. As an aside since 1990 car traffic has grown 22% but total emissions have dropped by 3%

      If we assume that, maybe,
      10% of car journeys could switch to bikes,
      albeit that recent traffic data shows car journeys and cycling has returned to pre-pandemic level,
      we can estimate the value to cycle lanes in the city to deal with the global climate crisis to be:

      1% x 1% x 27% x 78% x10% = 0.000210600%

      If you just look at our city and suggested a TOTAL car ban, even if that were possible,
      would only deal with 21% of the city’s carbon emissions – and we also need to deal with the other 79%.

      And the only tool the city council is using to address the climate emergency are cycle lanes.

      • Torsten Reply

        Cycle lanes are only partly to do with the climate emergency. More importantly, they give people transport options.

        What everyone is complaining about, including all the anti-cycle lane nimbies, is the effects of cars. They’re all complaining about congestion, pollution, etc.

        There are so many reasons to reduce the number of cars in cities. It’s what everyone wants.

        Anyone who’s anti cycle-lane is basically campaigning for the number of cars to carry on increasing.

  12. Dave Reply

    I live up a hill therefore I’m not cycling.
    So that leaves me with two other options A) car, B) bus.
    To catch a bus costs 5x as much as using my car and I cannot transport any thing large on the bus.
    So living in the real world, why do we not have a park and ride in this city, why are the train stations in the most in convince places, Moulsecoomb and London Road…
    We are bleating on about climate change yet we are responsible for 1%
    I personally instead of seeing our city’s roads and local economy destroyed would like this council to focus on recycling, plastic pollution causes real harm to the environment yet its all burnt down the road in Newhaven, can we deal with this before we shoot ourselves in the foot…

    • Blair Reply

      You don’t have to cycle. Just stop standing in other people’s way.

      Most people will only cycle if it’s safe. It’s currently not safe. Apart from on the seafront, the only people you see cycling around town are the hardcore.

  13. Christopher Hawtree Reply

    I do not trust Labour, which has twice tried to close down Hove Library.

    “Unite and move on” is very New Labour’s continual “draw a line under” something or other.

    The point about the Old Shoreham Road is not only the temporary cycle lane but the surreal fact that a four-lane highway is trunked through a residential area. It could be so much more pleasant.

    With Death so much on everybody’s minds in these times, it is worth wondering whether anybody uses a last breath to say, “I wish I had driven more.”

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