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News - 24 December 2005
It works for Norwich, why not for Brighton?

Letter to the Argus

The Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership responds to the page 8 article - Space to Breathe - in today's Argus newspaper by Chris Todd of Friends of the Earth

24th December 2004


I like Chris Todd. I think he has some interesting ideas and he is always knowledgeable and challenging in debate but I am confused by his comment (Argus 24.12.05) that the Council “failed to bring forward specific proposals to be implemented alongside” their park and ride plans (at Patcham Court Farm), which were rejected on December 7th.

As a member of the LSP’s transport sub-committee, and one of the few people that has read the Local Transport Plan cover-to-cover, he knows better than anyone that the park and ride was part of a much bigger transport vision. A vision that includes a £20m rapid transit system, increased real-time bus information displays, £3m of expenditure on improved cycling facilities, better coach facilities and the employment of a staff travel plan coordinator to name but a few of the things that the Labour group on the local authority are proposing.

He also talks a lot about the need to reduce car parking spaces in the city and cites the schemes that are adding to our stock e.g. Marina and King Alfred, without mentioning the 1000 city centre spaces we have already lost or the fact that under planning law these two schemes could have legitimately sought permission for 1,744 residential car parking spaces instead of the 481 included in their applications.

The reason for the drastically reduced numbers was because both developers support the Council’s basic tenet of discouraging car use. Such support was a contributory factor to the Marina application being turned down because one of the criticisms levelled against it by a member of the planning committee was insufficient car parking!

His assertion that an extra 1000 park and ride spaces on the outskirts of town would just free up 1000 in town which would immediately be seized upon by more car drivers and result in even more traffic is also flawed. It would be the case if our city centre car parks operated at capacity all the time but in fact, on average they operate at just 77% of capacity. At any one time there are just under 1000 spaces sitting empty. They sit empty because people are reluctant to spend an hour or two sitting in a queue to access them.

He is quite right of course that the best way to avoid that queue is to leave the car at home and get a bus or train or walk or cycle. But we can’t force people to do this. If drivers are reluctant to give up their cars entirely, the next best thing is to get them to leave them outside the city and get a (park & ride) bus. The most polluting part of their journey by car would be from Mill Road roundabout to the city centre.

Perhaps we should just say that we don’t want people to come to the city if they aren’t going to play by our rules, one of which is they get the bus or the train. This would require a fall-back economic strategy for the possible consequences of dictating to people how they come to Brighton because many will simply stop coming. Great swathes of the ‘Brighton experience’ enjoyed by its quarter million residents rely on the support of eight million visitors to survive. The seafront with its artist’s galleries, open air sports facilities, cafes and trendy bars, the North Laine with its eclectic shops, the choice of more restaurants in the city than anywhere else in the country (outside London), the world famous Lanes, the cultural offer of the Theatre Royal and the Dome, the Pride parade and all the other events – they all ride on the back of eight million people that choose to come here and give us their cash and employ nearly a fifth of our workforce.

The fact that they choose to come here is the bit that Chris does not feed into his utopian transport policy. They choose to come and they choose the means by which they will do it and if we make their preferred choice too difficult they will choose to go elsewhere.

There is a suggestion that a pleasanter environment, less traffic more pedestrianisation perhaps, would attract more people to the city and compensate for the possible loss of the car driver. But in truth the cities that have managed this metamorphosis have not done so at the expense of the car - they are the very cities that have embraced park and ride in the knowledge that you can’t dictate to people how they will get from a to b. You can only offer realistic alternatives and hope that people will embrace them.

I agree with all of Chris’s suggestions to improve transport in the city but alone they are just not realistically going to deliver the 8 million people we need keep this city afloat and consequently we will continue to lobby for park and ride.

Tony Mernagh Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership 8-11 Pavilion Buildings Brighton BN1 1EE

To view a copy of the article from The Argus (pdf  file 1.2 MB) click on download below

Click here to download Space to Breathe

Read related items on:
Park & Ride
Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership
Todd, Chris
Patcham Court Farm
Brighton Marina
King Alfred

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