The Green Group of Brighton & Hove councillors have welcomed the Labour administration’s confirmation that it will not, after all, suspend the Valley Gardens scheme and is now supporting it to go ahead.
However they warn that altering details at this late stage will not help. The Greens have defended their original plans, arguing that Labour’s ‘late-in-the-day ‘ revisions are ill-informed, unaffordable and may undermine the scheme’s original vision.
They point out that Labour’s plans to save the Mazda fountain have not been costed and do not take into account the obstacle that it represents to planned new footpaths and cycle paths that are central to the scheme. They also point out that the fountain was designed to be in a lake, not in a park.
Cllr Pete West, Green spokesperson on Environment, Transport & Sustainability, said:
“We welcome Labour’s change of heart to go ahead, after all, with this vital scheme, rather than suspend it, as they threatened a week ago. Contrary to Labour’s claims, our Green administration was very focussed on this project. It has taken years of work, including public consultations, to get to this point and the business case has been highly commended. It’s a visionary scheme which will transform this green space and vital route to the seafront, making it more attractive, accessible and effective both as a park and as a transport corridor.
“As a growing city, with increasing visitor numbers, we need to prioritise journeys by foot, by bike and by public transport because this makes better use of limited space, protects our city’s heritage and beauty and is better for health and wellbeing. These and the associated economic benefits have been the principles which have driven the scheme to this point. Of course, we also need to accommodate other road transport and the current plans do this with redesigned and reduced junctions which promise to make the roads work more efficiently with single lane traffic each way.
He added: “As a single joined up park, Valley Gardens will offer a fantastic enlarged green space, in the heart of the city, for everyone to enjoy.”
Green Group Convenor, Phelim MacCafferty, said:
“What an astonishing, though welcome, U-turn from Labour. Labour’s Leader told us only days ago that he would suspend the Valley Gardens scheme, without discussing the matter with opposition Councillors and transport officers. Today he is saying that he will go ahead with it.
“Labour’s new leader also says that he is looking forward to new regeneration but he opposed so much regeneration in opposition such as the i360.
“Our city is under huge cuts from the Tory government so I’m glad that Labour aren’t turning away cash coming into the city for this necessary development. Who would turn down £14m of funding at a time of financial crisis for local government? Labour were prepared to do exactly that only days ago.
“We have rightly been obsessed with the rejuvenation of the city and Valley Gardens is another example of how we want to transform our city for the better. In a city where 38% of people don’t have cars, a new city centre park has always been a brilliant idea. We have handed Labour a rich legacy of new, inspiring schemes in the city such as the new Royal Sussex County Hospital, the regeneration of the station and Circus Street.
“Greens are grateful that some sense has prevailed from Labour and we intend to keep this administration accountable to the democratic process.”
Mazda Fountain “not straight forward”
Regarding the Mazda fountain, Cllr West argued that this is not as straight forward as is being portrayed. He said:
“Its current position obstructs planned footways and cycle paths, it is very expensive to maintain and operate and, when it’s working, it soaks anyone downwind within 50metres. It was designed to sit in a lake, not in a park and might be better if it were relocated to a local pond such as at Queens Park or Hove Lagoon. Meanwhile Labour need to answer how much the running costs will come to and who will pay, given there is currently no revenue budget for it?
He added: “Given the advanced stage that the project has now got to, this unnecessary tinkering is likely to add cost, confusion and delay, risking the confidence of the scheme’s funders.