The St James’ Community Action Group (SJCAG) has today launched a campaign calling for St James Street to be treated fairly by the City Council with regard to investment and the support it requires to survive the council’s redevelopment plans for the area which are out for consultation at the moment.
The decision has been taken following the announcement of the new American Express development on Edward Street which the group fears will turn St James’ Street into a ‘ghost town’, causing long established businesses to fail and property prices to fall.
With over 50 local businesses and 200 residents already involved, the St James’ Community Action Group is one of the fastest growing community groups in the city.
After a well attended public meeting last year at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church a dialogue was opened with the Council through two local Green Councillors for Queens Park, Cllr, Geoffrey Bowden, Cllr Stephanie Powell and led by the Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty.
Throughout all their discussions the SJCAG claim the councillors never mentioned the proposed development on Edward Street and residents and business owners feel they have been “strung along” for political purposes during the last six month.
The City Council is planning to spend £5,820.000 of a government grant on ‘Better Bus Areas’ which includes £700,00o earmarked for the Edward Street scheme. However, in a letter to the SJCAG, Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty, the deputy leader of the council told SJSAG no money was available for improvements to St James’ Street through the introduction of a ‘Pedestrian Priority’ scheme to reduce the number of buses driving up St James Street and the resulting pollution caused. Brighton is one of Europe’s High Air Polution Zones and exceeds EU safety levels.
Proposals for the ‘Edward Street Quarter’ the action group claim, pose a threat to the vibrancy and economic viability of many local businesses presently trading in the St James Street and Kemp Town area, threatening the livelihood of many local people and potentially having a negative impact on residents property prices.
Today leaflets are being distributed to every business and resident in the area and a general meeting is to be held on Wednesday, June 12 at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church starting at 6.30pm.
Nick Head, a local hotelier said:
“It is ludicrous to treat transport and planning in such a piecemeal way and a scandal that our businesses and residents are, once again, ignored. If this so-called ‘Edward Street Quarter’ is allowed to go ahead we will be facing ruin within the next 10 years”.
Chris Cooke Chairperson of SJCAG, said:
“We need more affordable housing not office space and retail space that will drain the trade and local shops from our vibrant community. We call upon local people to register their opposition to the ‘Better Bus Areas’ proposal by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to email@example.com”
Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty responded:
“We take seriously the concerns of businesses on St James’ Street, and are looking at ways to improve the local economy in the area.
“The ‘Better Bus Area’ grant is extra government funding we’ve won and brought to the city. A small portion is earmarked to be used to help improve bus reliability on Edward Street, a key corridor in and out of the city centre, in line with government rules.”
“The consultation remains open for all communities who wish to engage to be able to have their say, and council officers have offered to attend community meetings to explain the proposals and hear comments and concerns.“
*The government has granted Brighton & Hove City Council £5.8m under the ‘Better Bus Areas’ scheme specifically to spend on improving bus reliability. Of this, about £700,000 will be spent on improving bus times along Edward Street, with the remainder being spent in the Valley Gardens and Lewes Road area.
*The proposals for Edward Street aim to improve bus journey times to and from the hospital, and make the area safer for pedestrians.
Earlier this year the Argus reported that pollution in the St James Street area is 17 times worse than the A259 while current council proposals to improve the environment include nothing to improve St James Street.
The 2012 Health Survey revealed there was a difference in life expectancy of up to 10 years if you live along the number 7 bus route between Mile Oak and the polluted city centre. This is a result of air pollution which contributes to asthma, heart disease and cancer. In 2012, small particulate measuring was stopped and currently only ambient Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) is being measure around the city.
For more information about how pollution is affecting Kemptown residents and hospital patients alike, www.rtlib.org.uk
For more information about the SJCAG campaign, email:firstname.lastname@example.org