At ETS Committee, Labour, supported by the Greens, pushed through the business case for Valley Gardens Phase 3. This was despite leading figures from tourism, business, doctors, bus operators, bus users, the taxi trade and residents repeatedly advising that the proposal would economically harm the City or impact on how the City would move around.

Cllr. Lee Wares
Cllr. Lee Wares

The Conservative Group, as well as supporting those sectors, highlighted errors, omissions and flaws in the business case. This was met with confusing responses only supported by “we used the model” or computer says “no”. 
As a City that relies heavily on tourism, it was a surprise to be told that no assessment on the economic impact had been included.

However, what binds those speaking out against the proposal is that they all want to see Valley Gardens regenerated and to secure funding from the Government to do so. But we agree it should not be at any cost.

The key problem is that projects like this are considered in silos without any solution to the knock on issues they create. With Valley Gardens there seems to be a narrow minded approach to try and squeeze everybody into a tiny space that simply cannot work for everybody. The Aquarium roundabout works, it is free flowing and given the 18.3 million journeys through it each year, it is a relatively safe stretch of road.

To reduce the risk of serious accidents, the proposal is to remove the roundabout, construct a box like signal controlled junction and cut off Madeira Drive’s access to the junction. This act of economic “self-harm” is being ignored. With all traffic being planned for the east side of the Old Steine and longer journey times on the A259 (40 seconds at peak periods) air quality is likely to decrease.

Our City has miles of seafront, we are spending millions along the promenade, redeveloping Shelter Hall, progressing with the Gateway Boulevard from the Station and getting close to agreeing the massive Waterfront project. Now is the time to look strategically as to how we can best move and connect people around the City.

We don’t need to try and funnel every pedestrian, cyclist, motor cyclist, car, truck, lorry, bus and any other form of transport through one junction. We need more of a holistic view to see how we can use our space to de-conflict these risks. Why can’t we design cycle routes further away from the junction or direct pedestrians through our trading and shopping areas to our visitor attractions. We have an opportunity to help our business and tourist sector, we can make cycling and walking much safer, we can improve bus use for our passengers and we can continue to allow free flowing traffic through the Aquarium roundabout.

There is only one reason this isn’t happening. Labour refuses to see outside the boundaries of the Valley Gardens project. Now is time to think outside the box.