30 September 2014

Revised Valley Gardens plan would enlarge park and save trees

Third phase of plan would improve notorious Aquarium roundabout

A plan to simplify traffic flows and create an urban park in the central valley through Brighton could be refined to preserve trees and create more green space.

A concept scheme for the Valley Gardens area – which stretches from St Peters to the Aquarium Roundabout - was agreed by councillors in early 2013.

The government recently confirmed £8m of Local Growth Funding was available to enable Phases 1 and 2 of the improvements - between St Peter’s Church and the Royal Pavilion.  Funding is subject to approval by the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) of a council business case, in November. 

The government also announced an additional £6m funding for Phase 3 of the scheme - between the Pavilion and Aquarium roundabout, again subject to a business case being submitted to and approved by the LEP. Business cases have to demonstrate that government funding will unlock financial benefits in the local economy.

Transport planners say the current road arrangement in Valley Gardens is a confusing mix of gyratories, contraflows and complex junctions. The concept scheme approved by councillors saw the network simplified, with two northbound and two southbound lanes for general traffic on the eastern side of the gardens.  To the western side, there would be a north and southbound lane for buses and taxis.

To accommodate four vehicle lanes along the eastern side, without impacting on key Elm trees, the scheme required two new sections of road to be built within Victoria Gardens. This limited the extent to which public open space could be increased, and meant removal of 16 trees - of generally low quality, say officials.

However, further work, including detailed traffic modelling of junctions on the eastern side of Valley Gardens, has now shown that ‘second lanes’ are only required for short distances  before and after junctions with traffic lights. Simplifying the road network effectively means traffic can flow more smoothly, and so less road space is required to hold traffic waiting at lights.

As a result, traffic capacity can be maintained without building new roads in Victoria Gardens, further increasing the size of open space, and minimising impact on trees.

The options for extending green space and funding Phase 3 are contained in a report to the next environment, transport and sustainability committee on October 7.

Assuming approval of the business case, Phases 1 and 2 of the scheme would be built between 2015 and 2017.

Chair of the committee Cllr Pete West said:  “Seven Dials has shown that it is possible to reduce the impact of traffic and make places much more pleasant, while simultaneously improving movement for all modes of transport.  The government will provide most of the money to transform a large hectic roundabout and create a new pleasant park and arboretum.”

The report can be seen among the agenda papers for the committee here on the council’s website.  It also recommends setting up a cross-party project board to deliver the scheme, rather than repeatedly bringing details back to committee.