FOLLOWING a summer of reports about the worsening state of the city, the Green Council responded this week, with a leading councillor saying that they are tired of ‘locals’ talking the city down and that the City is ‘the best it’s ever been’ (Councillor: City best it’s ever been, The Argus 16/09/21).

These comments, in one brush, dismissed the raft of problems residents have experienced during the summer, including the explosion of weeds on the pavements, missed rubbish collections, tents in public places, the continuous antisocial behaviour on public lawns and failure to issue parking permits.

They suggest that a chasm is opening up between the elected council and the local residents who view the current state of the city entirely differently and who feel their concerns are being ignored.

A prime example of this can be found in the heart of Brighton itself, where residents living in the area surrounding Old Steine Gardens are at their wits end with the council, which is failing to get on top of the continuing issues of tents and antisocial behaviour and also failing to maintain basic infrastructure.

READ MORE: Old Steine tent described as Homeless Bill of Rights 'test case'

The Old Steine Gardens, with the stunning 1846 Victoria Fountain as its centrepiece, used to be the jewel in the crown of Brighton and a joy to behold for visitors and tourists alike. It was very much a reflection of the city itself and the way it presented itself.

Today though this area has become one of the most dangerous places in the city and a no-go area at night. The council has stopped enforcing by-laws and left its infrastructure in ruins.

The fountain is switched off and being used as a public toilet and there are constant issues with tents and campers. As the Argus has reported, only one of ten lamp posts in the area is working, graffiti has been daubed over walls and rubbish has piled up on the street corners.

As the street scene and local environment has deteriorated, crime has followed in its wake. Over the past three years Sussex Police statistics have recorded 149 crimes within the Old Steine Gardens – War Memorial Gardens - Pavilion Gardens triangle, including 7 incidents of rape. The gardens being left pitch black at night have not helped.

This situation has become too much to bear for one resident who lives and runs a business in the Old Steine Gardens precinct, who after many months of not receiving a response from his local councillors, this week decided to email all 54 City councillors, reminding them that they have a joint responsibility to maintain the Old Steine gardens as the touristic zone of Brighton.

The problems at Old Steine gardens are obvious and could all be addressed by council action, but as the resident has pointed out, fixing them is simply not being treated as a priority.

The council, which continues to be provided enough funding by the Government to accommodate all homeless people in the city as it has throughout the pandemic, has shown little interest in enforcing its city by-laws that prohibit tents being erected on the gardens.

In fact, the council has voluntarily tied one hand behind its back by deciding to become the only local authority in the country to adopt a ‘Homeless Bill of Rights’, which makes it harder for officers to remove tents from public grounds.

Additionally, despite the broken street lighting and rampant crime, the council has previously been uninterested in applying for funding to improve the situation.

Remarkably, the council declined an invitation to participate in a Sussex-wide funding bid for CCTV and lighting in round 1 of the Government’s Safer Streets Fund when invited to by the office of the PCC. Our funding went to Hastings and Eastbourne councils instead.

Over the road at the Old Steine, the council has continually neglected to prepare the war memorial properly for important remembrance services. On VJ Day, it was so bad that veterans’ feet got stuck on the layer of bird droppings covering the paving when laying the wreath.

The council needs to get its house in order, enforce the by-laws, fix the lighting, switch on the famous fountain and return the Old Steine gardens to its former glory.

To do so will require the council to have the courage to enforce its own by-laws, for the benefit of its residents and the city.

The state of the city is certainly not the best it has ever been and the council’s denial of the problems are, as an Argus reader commented this week, like a child putting their fingers in their ears and shouting ‘I’m not listening’.