THE FOUNDER of a residents' association has said that a Christmas festival has left public gardens in the city centre looking like a "Siberian gulag".

Gary Farmer, founder of the Old Steine Community Association, said that the gardens have been turned into a "quagmire of mud, water, tyre tracks, broken branches, destroyed plants and trenches" after the Brighton Christmas Festival came to an end.

Other residents had raised concerns about noise and music coming from the festival late at night, particularly from the range of funfair rides at Old Steine Gardens.

The market is set to return for the next two years - but some people living in the area want the council to reconsider this decision.

Mr Farmer said: "The situation is beyond belief, it is a hazard for anyone who wishes to navigate the gardens and needs urgent attention - at night it is lethal.

"Visitors to the city are presented with a swamp, not a pleasure garden, and any plans to re-landscape the area should be shared with the public, as this is an unacceptable situation."

Mr Farmer described the noise at the time as "having your neighbours hold a house party every night for 36 nights".

In December, he told The Argus that residents were being forced to "endure a Christmas of Justin Bieber and Little Mix".

However, he said things did get better after talking to organisers, including reduced volume in the evening and the use of more Christmas-themed music playlists.

Councillors approved organisers E3 Events to run the Christmas market for three years back in March last year.

David Hill, CEO of E3 Events, thanked those who supported the festival in its inaugural year and said: "There is no doubt that the huge number of visitors had a positive impact on the city's local economy.

"We will make changes in 2022, including the layout of the market, and we have also listened to local residents, particularly about noise levels.

"I want to reassure everyone that this was a big learning curve in 2021, and we look forward to 2022 with great excitement."

More than 131,000 people visited the festival's Christmas market alone and was named one of the best in the UK.

A council spokesman said: "The Valley Gardens area has been a popular location for the city's night-time economy for many years.

"We have recently improved St Peter's Square as an events space. It is used at key times of the year, such as the Brighton Festival and the festive season.

"After a challenging year for everyone in the city, we've been pleased to see a new winter event attract footfall and interest.

"The council aims to manage a balance between a successful events programme in the city centre and the views of residents.

"Plans for reinstating the physical areas affected by events are always included in our permissions for events to go ahead, and the Christmas festival is no exception.

"Grassy areas that become muddy or dry out are given time to grow back. Obviously this is a gradual process, particularly at this time of year.

"The organisers of the Christmas Festival event had a noise management plan agreed with our environmental health team. The organisers took noise meter readings throughout the event, each night on agreed points around the site.

"We found no evidence that they exceeded agreed volume levels.

"Councillors granted permission for this event last year on a three-year basis. We will be reviewing the success of this first event in due course, taking into account feedback from the event organisers and residents."

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