General News

Conservatives critical of Labour and Greens over Valley Gardens development

Gary Hart February 6, 2019

Cllr Lee Wares
Cllr Lee Wares

Cllr Lee Wares, the Conservative spokesperson on Environment, Transport & Sustainability accuses Labour and Green councillors of ignoring widespread resident and business concerns over the Valley Gardens stage 3 development.

Cllr Wares said: “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 that will be presented to the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee tomorrow, February 7 with support from the Greens, 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 that businesses and stakeholders raised concerns but Labour merely says they will ensure lessons learnt will be incorporated into future projects.

Cllr Wares continues; “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.”

These businesses and groups 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.

Irrespective of promises to listen, the Conservative say nobody who is critical of the project is being heard and nothing fundamental in the design will change.

Cllr Wares said: “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.”

Cllr Gill Mitchell
Cllr Gill Mitchell

Responding for the administration, Cllr Gill Mitchell, Chair of Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said: “There has been extensive public consultation on the Valley Gardens Phase 3 scheme since last Spring, with further consultation planned. Over 1600 people, organisations and businesses have sent In their views.  At each stage these are reported back to the ETS Committee so it is surprising that Cllr Wares, who sits on the committee, has not noticed.

“In addition several workshop sessions have been held with Tourism leads, local transport providers, equalities and disability groups, pedestrian  and cycling representatives and conservation groups.  There has also been a lot of 1-1 contact with local traders and businesses.

“We are committed to listening and  maintaining this high level of engagement as the scheme develops.”

Cllr Leo Littman
Cllr Leo Littman

Green Group spokesperson on the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, Councillor Leo Littman added: “Original proposals for the Valley Gardens scheme from the Greens focused on providing a new city centre park – a desperately needed ‘green lung’ for residents that would also enable greater access to the seafront for pedestrians and cyclists. Rather than support this work, the Labour Council’s prevarication delayed the entire project, risking the hard-won funding handed over to them by the Greens to get it started. Greens have met with many of the businesses affected and it is clear that many feel Labour handled the progress of Valley Gardens very poorly indeed.

“Greens want to see safety and green space made a priority in this project once again – and we put forward our own amendments to push the Labour Council to recognise the importance of sustainable transport. Valley Gardens was never intended to be a ‘traffic scheme,’ yet both Labour and Conservative Councillors have framed it as such, with the Tories also seeing fit to propose that we keep the aquarium roundabout, when we need to minimise dangerous traffic junctions, not retain them.”