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News Release, Wednesday, 16 July, 2014

A27 dualling could cost the city

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to reject the Conservative Notice of Motion to support the A27 Action Campaign [1] at the Full Council meeting tomorrow [2].  Apart from the fact that dualling the A27, particularly around Worthing, would be extremely costly, BHFOE does not believe it is in the interests of the city.  Also, it is sceptical that there is any evidence that it would boost economic growth.

New roads generate more traffic and that will increase congestion and pollution within the city as more people are tempted to drive along the south coast.  This would also undermine public transport and put the city’s road network under further stress while reducing the transport options for tourists visiting the city.  Much of the traffic on the A27 is local traffic and requires local transport solutions, not big new roads.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Many councillors spent years supporting the creation of the South Downs National Park.  Now they risk throwing much of that away if they support the A27 Action Campaign.  This group’s aim to see the A27 dualled along its whole length would be extremely costly economically and environmentally.  If successful, it could then lead to more roadbuilding around Brighton & Hove, and cause huge damage to the South Downs.

“Rather than going backwards we need to be moving forward with ideas and solutions fit for the 21st century.  Many of the concerns businesses have could be addressed by small online improvements, such as a new junction at Crossbush, and by measures to reduce traffic.  If as they claim traffic and congestion is so bad yet so critical to the economy it begs the questions:  Why are we doing relatively well along the south coast?  And secondly, why have local authorities, aside from Brighton & Hove, done so little to promote walking, cycling and public transport and traffic reduction measures?”

“Given the cost of doing anything around Worthing – a tunnel is like to be of the order of £2 billion – it is unlikely the A27 will be dualled any time soon.  This campaign is only raising false hope while failing to tackle the real problem of there being too much traffic.  Car journeys don’t start and end on the A27, they start and end in the towns and cities adjacent to it.  These are the places where the congestion will transfer to.  The city’s energy and efforts would be far better focussed on tackling the real issues of our day:  climate change [3], air pollution, obesity, diabetes, mental health are putting the NHS under severe strain and costing it billions.  Isn’t it about time we had some joined up thinking and started promoting healthier transport choices?”

[1]   The Conservative Notice of Motion states:  “In order further to promote business investment and economic growth in the Greater Brighton area this Council resolves to pledge its support to the newly-formed A27 Action campaign.”

[2]   BHCC’s Full Council meeting is taking place on Thursday, 17 July, 4.30pm Council Chamber, Brighton Town Hall.

[3]   The UK’s Committee for Climate Change yesterday published a report saying that we are unlikely to meet our carbon reduction targets without greater action.  Building new roads increase carbon emissions and will make this task even harder and more costly.

 

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Copy of a letter sent to the Argus (and published 7 June) regarding the ‘news’ that congestion had got fractionally worse last year as measured by TomTom (Argus, 4 June).

Dear Editor,

Seeking free-flowing urban traffic conditions is like searching for the holy grail.  The hard truth is that every urban area suffers from congestion and it’s not going away.  The fact that it’s got fractionally worse in Brighton is hardly news (Argus, 4 June), given the number of large schemes built last year plus emergency repairs to North Street and elsewhere.  In fact it’s surprising that congestion wasn’t worse in the circumstances.

Your editorial (Argus, 4 June) was also mistaken to talk of typical commuters and to quote the Government’s traffic forecasts.  Firstly in Brighton & Hove there are no typical commuters as a lot of people walk, cycle and catch a bus or train as well as drive a car.  Secondly, it is unlikely that traffic levels will rise by 40% within the city.  This figure is based on a Department for Transport model which does not work well for urban areas and in any case nearly always overestimates traffic levels.

Within the city, the key thing is giving people access to the goods and services they need.  This does not always have to be done by car.  Indeed, in tight urban spaces, cars are one of the least efficient ways of moving large numbers of people as they take up so much space for the numbers they transport.  Buses are for more efficient, while walking and cycling are far more flexible and often quicker for short journeys.

One of the biggest threats to urban congestion, ironically, could come from Government’s roadbuilding plans.  Not only will upgrading the A27 scar the National Park, it will encourage more people to drive in and out of Brighton, rather than use public transport.  That will drive up congestion and pollution offsetting any quicker journey times on the A27 itself.

Finally, the article says that a car commuter will spend around 4 months of their lives stationary in traffic.  Yet this is nothing compared to the fact that in the city around 115 people are estimated to die each year due to air pollution.  Somehow I don’t think we’ve got our priorities quite right.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Todd

Planning & Transport Campaigner

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth

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News release issued Monday, 24 March, 2014

Free Sunday parking could cost us dearly:  Bus services and air quality could be at risk

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is condemning calls by Brighton & Hove Liberal Democrats for free Sunday parking [1] as financially irresponsible and potentially damaging to the city in the long term.  The Lib-Dems petition on this is due to be discussed at Brighton & Hove City Council’s Full Council meeting on Thursday.

Local authority budgets are under severe constraint and with bigger cuts coming over the next few years, as indicated in the recent Budget, BHFOE believes that to reduce income which could be used to improve the city’s crumbling infrastructure is foolish.  BHFOE also believes that making a substantial amount of parking free on Sunday could cause even more congestion and pollution as cars drive around the city looking for free spaces.  The measure would also risk undermining Sunday bus services, which are often less profitable than weekday ones.  Loss of these services could see some people become more isolated, while others might feel they need to own a car whereas previously they didn’t.  This would then create more congestion and pollution and put more pressure on residents’ parking.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“These proposals from the Liberal Democrats are just plain daft.  They are jumping on the free parking bandwagon without thinking through the consequences.  Who is going to pay is clear.  We all are.  Our roads are crumbling and services for the needy and vulnerable are under severe pressure.  From the budget last week it’s obvious that things are only going to get tougher for local authorities with even more cuts on the way.  So chucking away income from Sunday parking would be financially irresponsible.

“Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker, when he was Transport Minister, probably did more than any minister previously to support the bus industry.  Yet here are his colleagues in Brighton & Hove proposing a measure that could lead to a loss in bus services.

“We would urge the City Council to ignore this rash petition.  If the Liberal Democrats really care about the city, they should support measures to reduce car use and improve air quality, while making it safer and more pleasant for people of all ages to walk, cycle and use public transport.”

[1]   The Liberal Democrats are proposing that parking charges are scrapped for all council run car parks and on-street parking bays on Sundays

 

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BHFOE recently complained to The Argus about its reporting of the Council’s decision on extending the 20mph speed limits across more areas in Brighton & Hove.  To its credit, The Argus published our letter in full, however, the editor, Michael Beard said the following underneath:  In response to Chris Todd, we carried out an extensive vox pop in Portland Road to gather views of residents and found the response was against it.  our reporter contacted Mr Todd as soon as he was able to.  Mr Todd is always welcome to contact The Argus if he wishes to make a point.  In addition, the fact that someone advertises in The Argus has no bearing whatsoever on the editorial judgment of the paper.

In response to Michael Beard, The Argus said that it spoke to 100 people in Portland Road, 43 of whom supported 20mph.  In terms of balance, we therefore felt that at least one, if not two, of the four vox pops quoted should have been supportive of 20mph, not all four against it.  This is not sour grapes, not least because we supported Portland Road being 30mph out of concern for the impact on the bus services.  However, we are concerned at the content and quality of the articles appearing on transport in The Argus.  More recently, there has been as article about how free parking has helped boost trade in the city.  Yet it contained absolutely no evidence to support this, other than anecdotal.  The most likely reason for shop owners having a good two weeks’ trade is the upturn in the economy and the fact that it’s only a few weeks to Christmas

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Letter from BHFOE to Brighton and Hove Transport Planning in support of improving Dyke Road for pedestrians and cyclists – click below to read the full letter:

BHFOE Dyke Road Response

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Responding to the consultation on Brighton & Hove City Council’s City Plan Part 1, Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE)  has said that while it is supportive of much of the plan, it is objecting to weak and ineffectual policies on transport.  Of particular concern are that the Plan does not properly protect or recognise the city centre bus corridors, nor does it propose sufficient measures to tackle air pollution.

In the Churchill Square and Brighton Centre special development area, no mention is made of the economic importance of the North St / Western Rd bus corridor with its 12,000 seats an hour passing through the area.  No mention is made of the inadequate bus shelters in Churchill Square nor that air pollution around the Clock Tower is the worst in the city. The plan also allows for more car parking in the city centre which with the extra traffic this will bring could bring the bus network to a standstill.

BHFOE have also said they would like to see Shoreham Harbour used for large scale renewable energy projects and that there should be more sports provision in the city to improve public health.  While supporting development at Toads Hole Valley, it wants to ensure that an exemplar development comes forward which respects the setting of the South Downs National Park, while maximising the number of homes built there.

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