Saturday, 21 May 2011

With no money in the budget, can policy alone achieve Sustainable Transport in Brighton and Hove
On Thursday (21 May) the UK's first Green council administration was voted into power by a full meeting of the city council in Brighton and Hove. The council officers are said to be overjoyed to be working with a Green administration and bursting with ideas of how to implement the local Green manifesto. How exciting, you might think, now we can put all those sustainable transport plans into action? Not quite. There is no money at all for new capital projects in the council's Transport budget, so this rules out infrastructural changes.

But not everything needs money. Significant change might be achieved through policy decisions alone. I've been chatting to activists, consultants and councillors about what can be done. Above all, what the city needs is a detailed sustainable transport plan. Some policy changes might be effective in the short term:

1. 20 mph default across the city. Signage is expensive, and planning is needed, eg where higher speeds are needed. But on the face of it, 20mph default should cost almost nothing.Some big signs as you enter the city, possibly enforced by sub-contracted commission-paid officers presently engaged in parking ticketing. 20 mph will make other transport options more attractive by slowing traffic - and if people use other transport options, traffic will be less and journey times may even end up being shorter - even by car. We can visit Portsmouth and ask them how they did it.

2. Planning suburban traffic around 'semi permeable cells'. Suburban areas can be planned so 'rat-run' type traffic speeding through residential roads (and endangering children) is blocked. This is done by 'semi permeable' barriers such as one-way streets and bollards, creating cells with limited access to cars but open to walkers, cyclists and public transport. Cars can only enter via a few roads. Cells are linked by traffic arteries. So if you want to travel by car from suburb to neighbouring suburb, you need to drive out of your cell onto a connecting road (such as a ringroad) and back into the neighbouring cell. In Dutch cities this type of planning means that short journeys are much more convenient by foot, or cycle or public transport.

3. Speed up bus transport. We need rapid buses on strategic routes. It is ridiculous that it takes an hour to travel from Aldrington to Hollingbury or Falmer by bus - but 15 minutes by car or taxi. Brighton's main bus company is a near-monopoly that runs huge buses on centralised routes that suit them. Encourage more independent bus services to bid for routes that communities help to plan. Set up a council-led community bus service so that a self sustaining community service can evolve. Policy decision and encouragement may be all that is needed here.

4. Invest in planning. The budget inherited from the Tories allocates £4.5m to improving car parks. This can be put off for a little while. Invest the money into making a unified transport plan for the city. Maybe we won't need these car parks in these places if we do a proper plan.

5. Look at best practice. Let's talk to the Dutch. We may even find the EU will help pay for consultation with people who have already made sustainable transport work. EU funding is allocated to Brighton and Hove for sustainable transport - this was used to pay for the cycle counters installed last year. Better to use this money for planning than for cycle counters.

6. Central Government has set up a £560million Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF). Brighton and Hove applied for grant funding from this, during the previous Tory administration. But the proposal involved scant community consultation and I have not yet seen it - I'm hoping to soon. It is said to involve the Lewes Road corridor, which has issues of heavy traffic, poor air quality and a dangerous cycle route.


When voters reacted against the Labour government and let a Tory minority administration take power in 2007, the city suffered four years of mean spirited self interest that clearly saw sustainable development as a threat to the Tory way of life - especially the right to drive and park cars everywhere. The Tories leaned on the city's planners, and tore the heart out of the city's sustainable transport plans by cancelling the core elements of it, for example the city centre Valley Gardens project, Old Shoreham Road cycle freeway and Marine Parade cycle lane. In January 2011 they actually tried to repeal the council's commitment to sustainable transport.

Tory admin was voted out of power in the 5 May local elections, and the voters have entrusted the city to a new group of Green councillors. But the period of freely available funds is over. We will long regret the damage done to our city by the Tory failure to take the golden opportunity during the decade of unfettered funding.

The budget inherited by the Green administration from the Tories imposes £23million of cuts on the council. This is due to cuts in funding from central government. More cuts are indicated in future years?

1 comment:

  1. With enough budget the campaign would be highly implemented and run as soonest.

    Kenny Scott