The Mazda fountain has been granted a last minute reprieve as part of Labour’s review of the Valley Gardens revamp.
The Mazda fountain by Dominic Alves on Flickr
More than a thousand people signed a petition started by Brighton journalist and mum Sarah Booker-Lewis after she read about it’s proposed removal on Brighton and Hove News.
One of the first things council leader-elect Warren Morgan did when his part became the largest group on the council was to review the revamp of the roads from St Peter’s to the Old Steine.
The Labour group expressed serious concerns about the financing of the scheme in the run-up to the election, saying the cost estimates were over-optimistic and the council was committing to what could become a money pit.
But because the decision to go ahead has already been made, and £14m of Government funding secured, it’s now too late for them to stop the scheme.
Instead, some changes have been made, including saving the Mazda fountain.
Mrs Booker-Lewis said: “I am delighted the Mazda fountain will stay in Victoria Gardens. Removing it would upset thousands of people.
“Councillors should listen to the public and not get carried away with vanity projects. Thankfully the new administration sees sense.”
Councillor Gill Mitchell, Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said:
“The previous Green administration, with support from the Conservatives, has allowed the Valley Gardens scheme to progress to an advanced stage. Despite our reservations, we will now make sure that we take into account fully the concerns of the local residents as the final designs of the scheme are developed. In order to make sure that the scheme will be delivered on time and on budget, we have asked for the most senior people at the council to take charge of the project. In addition, we will consult closely with key stakeholders, such as the bus companies and the police. It is clear that the previous administration had not given the project the focus it requires.
“The Government have given the council £14 million for this project. Returning the money to the Government has never been an option as this would mean that we would jeopardise investment for future projects. What we have to do now is reshape the project as much as we can without giving up the funding.
“Importantly, the last part of the scheme has not yet been finalised. This is the part closest to the seafront and includes the Aquarium roundabout. We will make sure that these plans provide the biggest benefit for our city’s seafront, which, as we know, is in need of significant investment.”
Labour says its changes to the scheme will:
– Make sure the final designs keep traffic flowing at peak times, especially at junctions.
– Make the design fit with the growing Brighton and Hove of the future.
– Put the most senior people at the council in charge of the project to minimise disruption.
– Save the Mazda Fountain.
– Make sure that the final phase of the project is changed so that it brings the maximum benefit to the seafront.
Coun Morgan said: “The next five years will see an unprecedented amount of new development in the city as disused brownfield sites are regenerated and the building of the new hospital gets underway. At the same time our transport infrastructure and seafront needs investment and renewal. Our challenge will be to deliver the projects that will take the city forward while keeping it on the move.
“Returning the funding to the Local Enterprise Partnership was never an option for us and we are determined to maintain our good relationship with regional partners to the benefit of the city and our Sussex neighbours.”