Parts of the city will become a “no-go area” during construction of the third phase of the Valley Gardens project, a councillor has claimed.

Brighton and Hove City Council announced that the final phase of the project, which will affect the area between Old Steine and the seafront, will go ahead following a review with some minor alterations to plans.

Proposals to scrap the Aquarium roundabout, which have caused some controversy among residents, will continue as planned, with construction work for the project expected to take around 18 months.

However, Brighton and Hove Independents councillor Bridget Fishleigh has warned that the project is a “huge mistake” and said Labour has not listened to concerns from residents, despite a promise to be a “listening council”.

The Argus: Councillor Bridget Fishleigh has said going ahead with the project is a 'huge mistake'Councillor Bridget Fishleigh has said going ahead with the project is a 'huge mistake' (Image: Bridget Fishleigh)

Cllr Fishleigh said: “This is exactly the same scenario as the i360 - residents pointed out the multiple flaws but the council pushed on regardless and it’s all a disaster.

“We have been told repeatedly by this council that the coffers are empty and a huge budget shortfall is expected this year - so why is Labour getting the city into even deeper debt with an ill-conceived traffic scheme that will create even more congestion and pollution, rather than focusing on their stated remit of supporting the most vulnerable in our society?

“This is a huge mistake by a Labour administration that has stated repeatedly that it is listening to residents - but clearly not to the thousands who have campaigned against the current flawed plans for Valley Gardens phase three for years.

“I feel so sorry for city centre businesses and all those that live and work in the area - as the east of the city is set to become a no-go area for many residents and visitors will take their money elsewhere rather than sit in a massive traffic jam.”

Campaigners have also criticised the latest stage of the project, with the Valley Gardens Forum claiming to have been “stunned” by the sudden announcement that the project will be going ahead mostly as planned.

A spokesman for the group said: “More than anything, this will define Bella Sankey’s Labour administration.

“For everyone’s sake in the city, we have got to hope the evidence was wrong, and that the eye-watering cost and disruption will be worth it.”

The Argus: The Aquarium roundabout near the Palace Pier will be replaced with a junction as part of plans for Valley Gardens phase threeThe Aquarium roundabout near the Palace Pier will be replaced with a junction as part of plans for Valley Gardens phase three (Image: Brighton and Hove City Council)

Gary Farmer, founder of the Old Steine Community Association, said that the Labour administration had “blindly bulldozed” the scheme without fully engaging with community groups, residents and businesses.

He said: “The city has been cheated out of an opportunity to create a truly workable solution that benefits the wider community.

“It is as if the Greens have not left office. Labour missed an opportunity to better the city centre and the scheme as it is will further damage the city’s economy and reputation.”

Announcing the reviewed plans, Councillor Trevor Muten, chairman of the council’s transport and sustainability committee, said: “Phase three will offer a wonderful open green space in the Old Steine and extend the public park that was delivered through phases one and two.

“We are confident that delivering Valley Gardens phase three will complete the centrepiece of our amazing city that residents and visitors alike will be very proud of.” 

Responding to the criticism of the project, Cllr Muten told The Argus: “I would stress that Valley Gardens phase three is one of the most consulted-on projects in the history of our city, with three public consultations stretching back to 2018 that gathered more than 2,000 responses.

“It will make the area more attractive and safer for pedestrians and all road users.

“As with all major projects we carry out, it will be done in stages and everything possible will be done to minimise disruption.

“Completion of the Valley Gardens scheme will make this part of our city an area to be proud of by creating much better use of this wonderful space and enabling all to pass through this area safely and effectively.”