A contentious vision for Valley Gardens

— 6 Aug 2020, 10:22:43 by Nick Mills

valley gardens

So here we are - at the beginning of the decade in which Brighton & Hove City Council has pledged to achieve carbon neutrality. They have just begun the final stage of consultation for phase 3 of the Valley Gardens transport project (detailed here).

Viewed from our office in the south west corner of Old Steyne, the proposal seems to embody the elements one would expect to see if their ambitious target is to be achieved.

Reduced traffic, new tree planting, increased pedestrian space - “a more people friendly environment”. We are already seeing a growing fleet of electric buses passing by and there are rarely many unused bikes in the nearby BTN bikeshare rack.

But, 100 metres to the east, our neighbours must be wondering how the project can attain those admirable aims. Despite a well organised and vociferous response to perceived shortcomings in the 2019 preferred scheme, this final design does not seem to acknowledge or address any of their concerns.

Now all vehicles travelling north/south to and from the seafront will be corralled on the east side of Old Steyne. With a traffic light controlled junction at the pier, southbound traffic is more likely to be stationary for longer and, even with the reduced traffic levels post-lockdown, the single lane section in Grand Parade is causing queues back past Edward Street and up towards The Level at busy times. 

It is difficult to see the environmental positives of this. The consultation document says that air quality will remain “well within legal limits’” (presumably helped by sea breezes) but that doesn’t mean it won’t be lower than before on that side of Old Steyne.

Sceptics might suggest that the strategy to achieve a carbon neutral city is to create a road system that dissuades car users from wanting to visit the centre of Brighton. The downside of that is that many local businesses, ourselves included, need both to be able to visit clients in various locations in the city and they and other service providers need to visit us; public transport is not always a practical alternative for those journeys. 28 parking spaces will be lost in Old Steyne (over half the present number); we will soon have to tell visitors that the nearest parking is 100m away by the Town Hall but to get to it they will need to drive ½ mile via the seafront.

And then there’s the 18 months of roadworks we’ve all got to look forward to before the project is completed. 

Whilst we’re proud of our council for being one of the first in the country to declare a climate emergency, some would argue that cars (electric or otherwise) are a necessary evil. As Managing Agents and eco advocates, we’re looking at other ways to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, both on our own premises and those under our management. In the meantime, it seems that BHCC is faced with the impossible task of trying to please everyone.

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