Labour claims to be listening and the Greens constantly complain there is not enough consultation. Yet with Valley Gardens Phase 3, neither seems interested in what is being said.
Labour’s report at Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee this Thursday, that the Greens will support, air-brushes out the economic and environmental concerns the design will bring.
Few I have spoken to disagree that the bottom of Valley Gardens needs major regeneration and that we need to improve provision for cyclists, pedestrians and accessibility for less able citizens. Most agree we will all benefit with the right design.
In the report, a single paragraph acknowledges businesses and stakeholders raised concerns but Labour merely says they will ensure lessons learnt will be incorporated into future projects.
Equally, Labour sweeps aside alternatives such as using Pool Valley saying they have been noted and retained for consideration for any future projects that may come forward. These ideas would further enhance cycling provision and mitigate the risk of lowering air quality.
Labour highlights 52% agreed that cycling routes and crossings will be improved. It doesn’t highlight 62% said the roundabout should be retained.
Labour shows contempt for those that dare oppose their scheme. They praise “supportive and constructive letters” from those that back them, suggesting any opposition is unhelpful. However, those concerned with the current design (and who stand to gain from a good design) employ tens of thousands of people and bring billions of pounds of economic prosperity to our City and include:-
North Laine, Brighton Lanes, Seafront Traders and Kemptown Traders associations, Brighton Fringe, Brighton Events Group, Brighton and Hove Taxi Forum, Tourism Alliance, Pavilion Surgery, Brighton Language College, Brighton & Hove Restaurant Association, Brighton Grassroots Music Venues, Sainsbury’s Local, Marlborough Pub & Theatre, Palace Pier, Royal Albion Hotel, Brighton Old Town Local Action Team, The Kingscliffe Society, employers such as solicitors, surveyors, digital start-ups and local residents and public transport groups.
Therefore, irrespective of promises to listen, nobody is being heard and nothing fundamental in the design will change.
Labour acknowledges their design is flawed with the need to now spend millions on Dukes Mound to compensate for an error they don’t have to make. They propose to allow right turns across the seafront road that are prevented because roads get blocked and accidents happen. They acknowledge the design is unaffordable now having to rely on private investment that cannot be identified.
Public transport operators and users concede they are now left with trying to make a bad design work rather than having an optimal design.
Labour argues a risk to Government funding. They were not concerned when they delayed Valley Gardens 1 & 2 by two years. Risks such as these need managing through dialogue with Government rather than forcing through something that will negate all the benefits that could be achieved.
Unless there is a change of heart by Labour or Greens we are on a journey of economic self-harm. It is now down to them.