Plans for the radical transformation of the city’s main gateway have been revealed.
The proposed traffic masterplan for Valley Gardens – which stretches from The Level to Palace Pier – has been put out for public consultation by Brighton and Hove City Council.
The new layout would see cars restricted to the east side (Kemp Town side) of Valley Gardens with a dedicated bus and taxi lane to the west (Hove side).
Proposals will also see a vast pedestrianised zone on the west side modelled on Edinburgh’s famous Grassmarket.
Planning experts, who are showcasing the designs this week, have said that the intention is to make the area an attractive meeting space for residents and visitors while at the same time improving the traffic flow.
However the council last night refused to reveal how much it would cost taxpayers.
They are now appealing to residents to have their say before the proposals go before the transport committee in March.
The council carried out a consultation in April last year to gauge opinion towards the Valley Gardens area.
Over 80% of people said that they wanted to spend more time in the area while just 1% said they thought it was fine as it was.
Simpler road layout
In particular residents said that a simpler road layout was needed.
Jim Mayor, one of the scheme’s project managers, explained that the reason the area was so muddled and confusing was down to the sporadic nature of improvements over the years.
By simplifying the layout, they expect to reduce the amount of space dedicated to traffic by 25%.
The east side will see four lanes (two going north and two south) from the Level to the Palace Pier.
As a result the extra lanes will eat into the gardens with an estimated 7.6% loss of green space.
Additionally the existing elm trees will be incorporated into the central reservation although a few are expected to be cut down.
The west side will see two lanes dedicated to buses along with a cycle lane.
There will be three main bus interchanges along the route at St Peter’s Church, Marlborough Place and the Royal Pavilion.
The council confirmed that the newly agreed 20mph limit will apply along the length of the new network.
One of the key objectives of the project is to make the area an “attractive, flexible, safe space” for people to meet and spend time in.
Developers hope to achieve this by making the west side of the gardens a pedestrian friendly walkway. The project’s headline feature is set to be a huge pedestrianised walkway modelled on Edinburgh’s Grassmarket.
That space, which was once a public gallows, has been transformed into one of the Scottish capital’s most popular outdoor event spaces.
Running along the Old Steine between North Road and Church Street, council planners hope that the space can be used for Festival, Fringe and other community events.
Julian Caddy, director of Brighton Fringe, said: “From an events point of view I think it is very positive.
“However I think they can go even further.
“They could make that whole area more like Trafalgar Square, which used to be incredibly busy.
“It is the grand gateway to the city and has so much potential.
“It just needs a bit of love and attention.
“However, as ever with these proposals, the question is where is the money going to come from?”
Despite the reduction in green space down the middle of the road, planners also hope to make it a more attractive area for residents and visitors to spend time.
Along with zigzagging pathways and water fountains in front of St Peter’s, there are plans to have wild grass land and special plants which absorb pollution from the road.
Mr Mayor added that the plans were still just a “concept” and by no means “set in stone”.
Stephen Owen, from Graves Son and Pilcher on the Old Steine, contacted The Argus after information on the scheme was dropped through his door.
He said: “It’s unbelievable, yet again motorists are being pushed out.
“The main lifeblood of this city is tourism and if people can’t get here then they won’t bother. It looks like this scheme is going to make it harder to get to the seafront.
“If visitors from London are having to queue from Pycombe to get here, then they won’t bother.
“Anyway, I thought we had a council with no money?”
Steve Percy, from the People’s Parking Protest group, added: “I can envisage so many problems with the proposals.
London Road trade
“Yet again this whole project is at the expense of the motorist.
“I also feel sorry for the traders on London Road. The single side of traffic will direct cars towards Lewes Road and while it won’t be impossible to get to London Road, it will be a lot harder.
“The council spends all this money on these fancy schemes – but where is the money coming from?
“They are either going to have to increase rates or spend money they don’t have.”
What happens next?
The council is appealing for the public to have their say before the plans go to the transport committee in March.
They then hope to start work “later in 2013” following a successful grant application from the Better Bus Areas scheme.
Council bosses claim further funding is in place but refused to reveal to The Argus last night what the cost to the taxpayer would be.
Additionally they were unable to estimate when the work may be complete.
To view the proposals in detail visit www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1261094.
Responses should be sent to Valley Gardens feedback, Brighton & Hove City Council, Room 404, Hove Town Hall, Norton Road, Hove, BN3 3LS.
Additionally you can call (01273) 293858 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgiana Negrisanu, 22, Brighton, said: "I think the pedestrianised zone sounds really cool. It’s not really warm enough at the moment but come the summer I’m sure it will be very popular."
Michael Ernst, 24, Hove, said: "I’ve lived here all my life and I don’t think it is too much of an issue to be honest. However, I think they could get rid of the obsolete cycle lane, nobody ever uses it."
George Brooker, 77, Coldean, said: “I don’t trust this Green council with anything. They are forcing the motorist out. If you drive a car you are paying your road tax so should have a say on what your money is being spent on. They just don’t want to listen.”
Cara Mair, 47, Preston Circus, said: “Well from what I can see it looks good – I’m pleased they have included a cycle path. However, parking is still going to be the big concern, If they want people to walk down to the seafront they will need to sort out the parking situation.”
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