Workers who hacked back Brighton’s historic green wall were following council orders

Workers who almost completely removed a stretch of the historic “green wall” on Brighton seafront were following the council’s own “plans and design drawings”, an audit has found.

The drastic pruning of a section of the green wall in Madeira Drive prompted an outcry and a protest

The 200-year-old living wall had been designated a local wildlife site by Brighton and Hove City Council in 2013 to give it greater protection.

But when the council approved changes to the road layout in Madeira Drive, including a new cycle lane, a contractor was ordered to hack back the foliage to improve visibility.

After the work was completed in March last year, there was an outcry, with green campaigners saying that they would hold a memorial event, laying wreaths in protest at the drastic pruning.

Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty ordered an investigation into the destruction of the historic feature which topped 60ft near Duke’s Mound and stretched for almost a mile.

The council said that it dated from 1830 and was the longest and oldest green wall in Europe.

A brief summary of the investigation findings was included in an internal audit report which said that the £12.7 million Black Rock project was forecast to go more than £2 million over budget.

The audit report said: “We considered whether the cutting back was necessary and found that a road safety audit highlighted a road safety problem and recommended that ‘adequate inter-visibility should be provided which may require some cutting back or removal of vegetation’.

“Based on advice to us on the issue of the severity of cutting back, it is inconclusive as to whether the pruning could have been less severe.

“It was found that the contractors acted in accordance with the general plans and design drawings.

“Our review has found that there was no regular planned maintenance in place for this section of the green wall but there have been regular requests and complaints to the council concerning the overhanging vegetation affecting visibility of pedestrians and road users.”

The report added: “Substantial regrowth of the vegetation has already occurred.”

The green wall in Madeira Drive today

The report also said: “One area of focus was whether this section of green wall was protected by statutory designation.”

While it fails to say whether the green wall had statutory protection, a Brighton and Hove News report from 2014 said: “Last year Brighton and Hove City Council designated the green wall a local wildlife site to ensure its continued protection. It is the only site of its kind in the UK.”

The report highlighted a programme of conservation work and repairs to the concrete retaining wall behind the 90 different species of plants growing there including fig and Japanese spindle.

Later the same year, another report looked in detail at the wall’s signifcance.

The green wall in Madeira Drive in June 2018

Today (Monday 27 June) the council said: “Local councils have a statutory duty, under section 39 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act, to ‘take steps both to reduce and prevent accidents’.

“In order to comply with the act, the council was forced to heavily prune the vegetation in this location. We reiterate our apologies for the way this was done.

“From here on, regular less severe pruning will now take place at a point in the year which minimises any impact on wildlife.

“Council officers met an ecologist on site to agree plans for the short and longer-term restoration.

“The audit report confirms that an inspection was carried out prior to pruning to check for nesting birds and that the vegetation has now substantially regrown.”

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    So two questions. How many complained about the over hanging vegetation? How many accidents have occurred there because of the vegetation? Typical council report though where no one is guilty and no one will be blamed. The initial statement was it was pruned for the cycle lane and that still looks like the real reason.

    • Phoebe Barrera Reply

      And who was in charge of this project but our very own “Teflon” Green Councillor Tom Druitt – quick to seek publicity and claim glory, and even faster to disappear from sight when things go wrong – https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/news/2021/work-already-underway-regenerate-black-rock-site

    • AO Reply

      Just add in the Hanover LTN, it is not in their vested interests to release any actual data as it would show the council up to be the lists that they are.

  2. Phoebe Barrera Reply

    And who was in charge of this project but our very own “Teflon” Green Councillor Tom Druitt – quick to seek publicity and claim glory, and even faster to disappear from sight when things go wrong – https://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/news/2021/work-already-underway-regenerate-black-rock-site

  3. Roy Pennington Reply

    Lower than a snake’s belly, the Green/labour shape-shifters

    • Katy Reply

      Don’t think Labour had anything to do with this Mr.Icke. Cutting down the protected wall was all the doing of the Greens.

      • roy pennington Reply

        i recant/retract that metaphor (as unfair to snakes) and replace is a version of existential “slimey-ness” or “visqueux” (see Susanne Wedlich’s new book which supports the shape-shifters ) btw, the Green/Lab have a formal document such that they stitch up the voters …

        • Andrew Reply

          Your lower than a snake line is ironic considering you’re a Conservative no doubt. The ultimate liars.

  4. Adam Reply

    Typical of Phelim and his ship of fools.

  5. Jason Reply

    Watermelons. Green outside, red inside.

    They hide their true motives behind fake “environmental concerns”, but the truth is that they’re not as “green” as they think we are.

  6. Paul Temple Reply

    An internal audit report? So the very officers that wanted the green wall chopped back are investigating themselves? The only truly independent investigation recently was the lengthy HTST report that ended up being made confidential because the council was worried they could be sued! We certainly have some of the worst council officers in the country.

    • Kevin Dell Reply

      It had to go – it was potentially blocking a cycle lane. Green dogma must triumph over all sensible and practical solutions. It really is as simple as that.

  7. Billy Short Reply

    I cycle past there a lot and this was and is a classic gardening blunder.

    The cliff wall slopes away from the road and there was little there to grow into the cycle lane which could not be simply pruned back at pavement level.
    Instead they hacked the whole thing down.

    Now they are keen to say that it is growing back, and it is, but of course it’s now bushing outwards towards the sun and into the cycle lane – and they don’t dare prune it again.

    it’s also shocking to see howe much money they have spent down on the beach at Dukes Mound, digging huge furrows in the shingle which they then planted with sea-friendly plants. Not many of those plants have taken, possibly through lack of watering, whereas nature has done its own thing nearby with some amazing self-seeded beach plants lining the Volk’s railway.

  8. Jon Reply

    The Green Wall drama is back. It seems to me that over the years a lot of sections of the Green Wall have been hacked down in-order to repair the concrete wall and then replanted .
    But because this is bike-lane related it’s a huge issue.
    IMO the whole of Madeira Drive should be turned into a green park which would resolve this problem . With a growing population more green space is needed and the Green Wall protesters would give it their full support

    • Terry Weston Reply

      More fruitcake, please!

    • Dave Reply

      Hmmm ok, yeah let’s keep that kind of nonsense idea quiet or knowing the greens they will try and implement it, disgustingly over budget and badly.

  9. Jon Reply

    ” Workers who almost completely removed a historic “green wall” on Brighton seafront ”

    The Green Wall is 1.2Km long they removed at most 50 metres

    • Frank le Duc Reply

      Fair point, Jon. I’ve amended our intro to take account of it.

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