19 June 2017

Early plans for new city-centre park up for approval

Preliminary designs for a new “attractive, sustainable and safe” public park in central Brighton are set to go before councillors for approval.

Plans for the green areas of Valley Gardens between St Peter’s Church and the Royal Pavilion go to the environment, transport and sustainability committee on 27 June.

Traffic layouts were approved by the committee last November. These radically simplify the road system. General traffic travelling both north and south would use a new road on the east side, with public transport in a quieter corridor to the west.

Plans aim to improve the green space, increase public use and make the area easier to travel through - especially by walking and cycling. There would be “high-impact low maintenance” features enabling a range of events.

Changes also aim to improve air quality and community safety, and reduce flood risk.

The Mazda Fountain features in the current design. The report notes a 1000-strong petition in 2015 for it to be retained.

There would be a series of  hard- and soft-landscaped areas across three gardens totalling the size of two and a half football pitches – just over a hectare.

New footways and cycle paths would improve access both north-south and east-west.  These would enable traffic-free travel interrupted by just one formal crossing between St Peter’s Church and the Royal Pavilion.

The most striking change would be removal of the road separating St Peter’s Church from Victoria Gardens north.  Here, the busy Richmond Terrace junction is reclaimed as a public square – providing a fitting setting for St Peter’s Church. 

Above: the Richmond Terrace junction today and below that,
a map showing a proposed public square outside St Peter's Church
and a traffic-free area linking the church and gardens to the south

A new diverse range of trees would be introduced to future-proof the area against risks of Dutch elm disease and ash die-back.

Open spaces would be mostly lawned, suitable for informal activity or events.  Measures would be taken to ensure these do not damage the ground.  Steps will be taken to prevent waterlogging, with a meadow or water garden planted to increase biodiversity.

The scheme involves a net transfer of highways to parks space of 5400 sq m – roughly the size of five tennis courts.

If early designs are approved in principle, detailed plans will be drawn up. A planning application would then be needed, requiring further public consultation.

£9.7m is budgeted for the scheme. £8m is government money via the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). It cannot legally be spent on anything else. The rest is from council transport funds. The report says that if the project were cancelled the LEP money would have to be repaid.

The project is scheduled to start in March 2018, beginning with roads. Completion is estimated at

December 2019, depending on weather and any unforeseen events.

Committee chair Cllr Gill Mitchell said: “The main purpose here is to create an attractive, sustainable and safe park from what is currently a series of isolated, unpleasant roundabouts.  All the time we’ll need to be mindful that we must keep the city’s roads moving – and part of that involves making cycling, walking and public transport more attractive and viable.”

The report can be seen here on the council's website.