Valley Gardens will create a sense of place where everyone belongs
Earlier this year, Brighton was named as the happiest place to live and work in the UK and I’m not surprised. We have an excellent story to tell in Brighton & Hove. You only have to look around at the number of attractions, parks and open spaces to see why we attract 11 million visitors to the city each year.
Our famous seafront promenades and undercliff walks provides 13km of off-road walking for residents and visitors and in the city centre, while 40% of Brighton & Hove is within the South Downs National Park. Our 147 parks, including heritage parks, playing fields and green spaces, means that there is a green space in easy reach wherever you go. Of our major parks, seven have been awarded Green Flags by the Keep Britain Tidy Campaign.
We are very lucky to have all of this on our doorstep but if we are to remain one of the best places to live and if we want to continue to attract the millions of visitors we do each year, we have to continue to invest in and develop the city, to create an environment that people want to spend time in.
Valley Gardens presents a significant opportunity to create a sense of place by becoming a destination in its own right, as somewhere we want to spend time in, not just travel through. It is a prime site in the centre of the city, leading to the seafront and surrounded by popular shopping destinations and attractions, but it is falling short of being an environment that our residents deserve and that our visitors will enjoy.
Where we live has a strong influence on our health, wellbeing and our happiness. So strong is the link between these areas, that the NHS has recently produced guidance for local authorities on ‘healthy place-making’.
This means creating an environment which encourages people to be physically active and where people want to socialise and spend time in. Open spaces and particularly green spaces, offer enormous benefits to our mental and physical health, as well as supporting our local environment. These spaces also encourage social activity, providing a safe place for children to play and where older residents can take time to sit and enjoy the surroundings.
The Valley Gardens scheme will deliver on all of these fronts. It will offer huge environmental benefits by providing much improved sustainable transport links, which will encourage cycling and walking. The creation of a central park and planting of over 150 more trees and further planting will result in a much nicer environment and improve air quality. It will also offer better facilities and an enhanced setting for the popular events that the city has long been host to.
The area is already one of the city’s priority spaces with annual events including Brighton Fringe, the Ladyboys of Bangkok and The Warren, taking place on the site. While many other large scale events such as the Brighton Marathon and annual Pride parade, travel though the Valley Gardens corridor.
The completed scheme will support these events by offering more events space, an enhanced setting and better transport links throughout the area, attracting more people. Phase 3 of the scheme will open up space in front of the iconic Royal Pavilion and will greatly improve access to the green space in that area, which is currently cut off by outdated transport infrastructure.
All of this will allow the community to reclaim this space at the heart of our city, while opening up access to our iconic landmarks and celebrated events. Our public spaces are some of greatest assets and it is vital that they are protected and preserved so that we can all enjoy them long into the future.
Councillor Alan Robins is Chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee