A diverse group of traders and residents, supported by politicians from all sides of the council chamber, have called on Brighton and Hove City Council to ‘pause’ plans for phase three of the Valley Gardens project.
The controversial plans would see the Aquarium roundabout on the seafront replaced with a T-junction.
Work has already begun on the first two phases of the Valley Gardens project, which stretches from St Peter’s Church to Old Steine.
But the Valley Gardens Forum, made up of residents, traders and other local groups, has written to Cllr Gill Mitchell, lead member for transport on the council, asking for a halt in the plans and calling for further public consultation.
The letter was signed by councillors from each of the local authority’s political groupings: Tom Druitt for the Greens, Lee Wares for the Conservatives, and Adrian Morris for the council’s leading Labour group. It was also supported by the city’s Tourism Alliance, several traders groups transport forums and event organisers.
The Forum said: “The presence and support of councillors representing all three main political parties in the city at our last meeting underlines the Valley Gardens Forum’s non-partisan position and that a consensual approach to the Valley Gardens scheme is the only sensible way forward.”
The group has even started working on an alternative plan, which would retain a ‘revamped’ roundabout on the seafront road.
The letter to Cllr Mitchell said: “We are writing to you ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the Local Enterprise Partnership where the Valley Gardens Stage 3 business case will be discussed to seek an urgent pause in the process.
“It has come to light that the current designs on which the business case rests still contain aspects that large parts of the community find problematic.
“The key aims of the scheme – to enhance the public realm and improve air quality, pedestrian safety, cycling and walking infrastructure, access to public transport and access to the seafront – are ones which we all support. However a number of key stakeholders continue to have concerns around the current designs which remain unresolved, and it is not clear that the current designs properly fulfil the aims of the scheme.
“The importance of getting this right cannot be under-estimated. Brighton & Hove continues to suffer from poor choices made three decades ago when the current road layout was created. The scale of this project requires that we get it right, and while no one wants to delay vital improvements to the city, we are deeply concerned that if we set the current design proposals in motion now we will end up with a flawed system that we have to live with for the next 25-30 years.
“We also understand that although the Local Enterprise Partnership is understandably keen to progress projects in a timely manner, there is no immediate deadline and if there were a pause to allow more time to get this right, there would be no penalty for that.
“In light of the points above we are asking that the City Council withdraws the business case submitted to the Local Enterprise Partnership with the current design and enters into meaningful engagement with residents and traders through the Valley Gardens Forum and with other stakeholders such that the concerns over the current design proposals are properly addressed with amended designs and business case being subsequently prepared for further consultation.”
The letter was signed by: Cllr Tom Druitt, Green Party; Cllr Adrian Morris, Labour; Cllr Lee Wares, Conservative; Daniel Nathan, Valley Gardens Forum; Anne Ackord, Tourism Alliance; David Sewall, North Laine Traders; Denise Taylor, Brighton Lanes Traders; Neil Sykes, Seafront Traders Association; Diana Palmer, Kemptown Traders Group; Julian Caddy, Brighton Fringe; Adrian Bristow, Brighton Live Events Group; Andy Peters, Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum; Michelle Spicer, Pavilion Surgery; Gary Farmer, Brighton Language College; Paul Seivewright, Brighton Grassroots Music Venues; Simon Botting, Sainsbury’s Local; Emma Clarke, Marlborough Pub & Theatre; and Debbie Gibson-Leigh, Brighton Old Town LAT.
Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “There has been extensive public information and consultation to date on the Valley Gardens Phase 3 project with two rounds of public consultation held and a further two rounds will be proposed following a meeting of the environment, transport and sustainability committee on February 7.
“Over 800 responses have been received to the most recent consultation that included face to face dialogue, very many on site discussions, two public exhibitions and a series of workshops for specific groups. This feedback has resulted in changes to the plans which the Local Enterprise Partnership will take into consideration.”
For more on the Valley Gardens Forum and its alternative vision for Phase 3 of the project, visit: www.valleygardensforum.org.uk/valley-gardens-plans