We are very pleased to have been successful in our bid for £6 million of funding for Valley Gardens Phase 3 which was announced this week. As part of our consultation and stakeholder engagement we are taking on board feedback provided to us and using it to develop the proposed design of the scheme.
Here Councillor Gill Mitchell sets out our vision for Valley Gardens.
A new central park
Valley Gardens is the name given to the green spaces that run from St Peter’s Church to the seafront. It is one of Brighton & Hove’s overlooked gems, home to a National Elm Collection of international significance and a conservation area which forms an important part of the city’s heritage.
However, over time, this oasis of green has become a series of inaccessible traffic islands with busy roads on both sides cutting the area off from the communities around it. Rather than adding to the city’s renowned cultural and tourism offer, the current environment provides a poor first impression of people’s enjoyment of this part of the city centre, including those visitors arriving in the city at Brighton Station just a short walk away.
Our vision for Valley Gardens is to enhance the area’s green spaces and create new public spaces for people to spend time in, which will be linked together to create a single continuous public park. Simplifying the surrounding road layout and creating dedicated and connected walking and cycling routes will make travelling around the area safe and accessible for residents, commuters and visitors, in the most sustainable way.
Making the area safer
Work is currently underway on the first two phases of the project, from St Peter’s Church to Edward Street, and is on track to be completed in two years.
Phase 3 of the Valley Gardens scheme, which focuses on the Old Steine to Palace Pier area is a continuation of Phases 1 & 2 and vital to achieving a coordinated and well planned set of fresh, new gardens, paths and road links down to the sea.
Making the area safer for all transport users is a key objective; the existing area has the highest number of collisions in the city and conditions for cycling are particularly dangerous on the seafront.
The scheme will help address this by introducing a traffic signal T junction at the Palace Pier and create a significant missing link in the city centre’s cycling network and much improved and more direct crossings for walking. New ‘intelligent’ traffic signals will coordinate and balance traffic flows with pedestrian and cycling movements in a far better way than at present.
Improved access to sustainable travel
We are already one of the country’s least car-dependent cities outside London. More than a third of the city’s residents do not own a car and nearly twice as many people walk to work compared with the rest of the UK. We also have one of the most efficient and well used bus networks outside of the capital, connecting local people from around the city and enabling quick, short travel.
We are therefore developing the city’s public transport network with a future in mind in which reliance on cars for short journeys is reduced, air quality is improved and access to sustainable travel is made easier for everyone. Nowhere is this more important than in the centre of our beautiful city.
Consultation and engagement
To get this far, Phase 3 of the project has been through the council’s robust democratic process, which requires a majority vote to be passed at a committee to enable major capital projects like this one to advance to the next stage of development. Approval by the Environment, Transport and Sustainability (ETS) Committee has been sought at each stage of this project, effectively giving council officers additional delegated authority to conduct further work.
Last summer we consulted people on their impressions of the area, how they used it and what they would like to see improved. Over 800 people gave us their views and we used their comments to develop the eight core principles on which to base the new designs. Forty four design options were whittled down to four and then down to the preferred option – Option 1.
Option 1 was determined as the one which best meets the aims and objectives of the scheme overall and was therefore approved for public consultation. A six week public consultation which began in October 2018 and was widely publicised, gathered feedback from residents and stakeholders on this option and this has directly influenced the further development of the scheme which will be reported to ETS committee when it meets on 7 February.
The estimated cost of the project is £7.84 million, the majority of which (£6 million) will come from a central government pot of money called the Local Growth Fund (LGF) and is money that is set aside for projects that benefit the local area and economy, including transport. This money cannot be spent on any other council services or projects.
The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which approved the £6 million allocation, requires the local authority to contribute funding for the project of at least 15% of the project cost. This means that the remainder of the funding for the project, currently estimated at £1.84 million, will come from the council’s Local Transport Plan budget, local contributions and potentially private sector development contributions. The LEP also requires that we spend the project funding by a certain deadline, which in this case is March 2021.
Securing funding from the LEP and seeking approval from ETS committee on 7 February marks an important point in the project’s programme, which will again be followed by another round of public consultation.
Emphasising the area's historic character
On completion, the whole of the Valley Gardens will become a more attractive, accessible and usable city centre space which will emphasise the area’s historic and cultural character, and enhance key tourist attractions including the Royal Pavilion and Palace Pier.
Reconnecting the green spaces to the surrounding network of unique shopping streets, hotels and places to eat and relax will ensure that it’s potential as a public open space is fully realised and make Valley Gardens a destination in its own right.
Councillor Gill Mitchell is Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee