Monthly Archives: October 2016

Autumn – don’t prune, paint!

London Road Station Partnership Blog

Autumn has arrived, lots of yellow and gold leaves on the trees and the station forecourt is littered with dried dead leaves. It’s been unusually dry. We had rain last Tuesday (of course, on our workday, but it led to comfy conversations in the conservatory on plans for 2017).

We did a good job of tidying the edible plot the Tuesday before last, and we cleared a lot of straggly plants from the poor old shady triangle. This area has really suffered from the dry conditions this summer. It’s shaded by sycamore trees but the base of the soil is some horrible claggy hardcore-and-chalk, so despite adding year upon year of compost, it still dries out quickly. Given the pressures on watering this last summer, I deliberately ignored the shady plot. I knew we just couldn’t get enough water into the soil to keep lush growth going, and we needed…

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Business travel by train to Brighton up by 230 per cent

From The Argus

Brighton has become the fastest-growing hub in the country for budding entrepreneurs and enterprises – but the current rail chaos could put an end to that.

Business travel by small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) has increased by 230 per cent in the last four years on rail routes between Brighton and London.

Brighton topped the list of emerging business hubs from across the UK, followed by Swindon and Oxford. Often referred to as Silicon Beach for its ability to attract creative and digital talent, Brighton has emerged a business hub boasting more creative SMEs and start-ups per capita than anywhere else in the UK.

The data from in a report by Trainline for Business -a train booking website – also shows SME rail business travel across the UK has increased by 65 per cent since 2012.

But this may now be at risk due to the current chaos on our rail network with the ongoing bitter dispute between management and workers showing no sign of ending.

Former Brighton and Hove City Council leader Jason Kitcat, micro-business ambassador for Chorus – a free membership organisation launched to provide support, advice and to campaign for the needs of the UK’s micro-businesses – said the train situation is causing real problems every day.

He said: “Rail chaos over an extended period of time is a huge problem for everyone.

“That includes freelancers, contractors and micro-business owners who rely on the rail system to get them to client meetings in good time, and back home again in time for dinner.

“The current rail system just isn’t delivering, it’s definitely time for change.”

The new report shows that SME rail business travel across the UK has increased by 65 per cent since 2012.

Dr Alasdair Rae, senior lecturer in urban studies and planning, said the growth in travel to and from Brighton suggests a growing appetite for more companies to be based outside the capital.

He said: “Trainline’s data on rail business travel provides a compelling and timely insight into the geography of SMEs across the country.

“It’s clear that something significant is happening in terms of the growing number choosing to do business outside London.

“With cheaper rents, quick access to the capital and highly skilled local labour markets, many SMEs appear to be taking advantage of cities across the UK, with Brighton proving particularly popular.

“Yes, the capital remains the brightest star in the UK economy, but there is a constellation of smaller towns and cities upon which our economy also depends.”

Meet the Healthtrainers

From Corinna Edwards-Colledge

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The Healthtrainer team here at Public Health at the council are a fantastic free service offered to everyone in Brighton & Hove who would like to improve their health or make a positive lifestyle change like giving up smoking or eating better.  They work one-to-one with people, helping them set achievable goals and supporting them as they try to achieve them.

We are now having monthly ‘meet the Healthtrainer’ Healthwalks, where a  Healthtrainers come along to one of our regular walks, gives general advice, but through whom you can also sign up for a one-to-one consultation.  If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, here’s the details of the next few walks:

  • Meet the Healthtrainer Preston Park: Monday 7 November, meet at the Rotunda Café, 10am.  1.5 miles
  • Meet the Healthtrainer Seafront: Tuesday 6 December, meet at the entrance to Palace Pier, 10am. 1 mile
  • Meet the Healthtrainer Brighton Women’s Centre (BWC): Wednesday 8 February, meet at BWC, 72 High Street, Kemp Town 11.30am.  2 miles (please note this is a woman-only walk).
  • Meet the Healthtrainer Portslade Library Walk: Friday 10 March, 10.15 am meet at Portslade Library.  2 miles.

Best wishes and have a lovely weekend.

Corinna

Healthwalks Manager, Public Health, Sport & Physical Activity Team

(Please note, I am part time and my usual working days are Tuesday-Thursday)

Brighton & Hove City Council, Bartholomew House, Bartholomew Square, Brighton BN1 1JE

01273 292564.  www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/healthwalks .Twitter: @HealthwalksBH.       Facebook: brightonhovehealthwalks

Brighton seafront scheme ‘will still happen’

From Brighton & Hove News

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A £60 million scheme to revamp one of Brighton’s prime seafront sites “will still happen”, according to council leader Warren Morgan.

In the meantime the site’s owner is putting up hoardings to improve the appearance of the site – the Aquarium Terraces, just to the east of the Sea Life Centre.

Private members’ club Soho House intends to demolish part of the site and revamp part of it, creating a club for members as well as restaurants open to the public.

Click here for the full story.

‘Taxi Wars’ as Uber arrives

From The Argus

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Taxi wars are set to take hold of Brighton and Hove as Uber hits the city today.

The controversial taxi-hailing app will launch in the city at 4pm Friday 28th October.

It comes as Southern Taxis – which runs Brighton and Hove cab company City Cabs – launches its own mobile phone app also enabling passengers to hail cabs with a click from their phone.

It is set to spark a price-cutting war between the two firms as Uber drivers set their own prices and can undercut competing Hackney Carriage cabs.

Both apps will enable customers to pay by card and track their vehicles’ arrivals on a map.

Uber was given the green light to roll out across the city last October after four days of deliberation by Brighton and Hove City Council.

Uber’s private hire vehicles are distinct from hackney carriages in that they must be booked in advance. They cannot ply for hire in the street, wait at cab ranks or be hailed by passers-by.

But that means they can set their own prices.

The introduction of Uber is set to spark a price war amongst the city’s taxis. Whilst Hackney Carriage cabs have to charge a set tariff of prices ranging from £2.80 to £5.60 for the first 320 yards and any subsequent 160 yards.

Most of the city’s existing private hire cabs also charge the same rates – meaning Uber could bring in stiff competition.

Fred Jones, Uber’s general manager in Brighton, said: “We are a smart phone app through which you can book licensed private hire vehicles.

“There are lots of cool features to improve safety. You can see a picture of the man or woman coming to pick you up and the make and model of the car and the registration details so you can be 100 per cent sure they are background checked.

“In Brighton the private hire companies run off the Hackney Carriage fares. This is one of the only places where private hire rates aren’t cheaper so it’s really exciting to be introducing that level of competition.

The company was only granted its licence by the council’s licensing committee on the grounds that they abide by all the conditions in the Blue Book – a set of guidelines for the local cab trade.

All Uber drivers will have to hold the same licence as any other private hire driver, which includes a check by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), successor to the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB).

Uber has always stated they want to be treated the same as every other operator in the city and they will only be allowed to send Brighton and Hove-registered drivers to pick up customers.

The launch of the app also means that licensed drivers already working in the city will be able to move over to working for Uber.

Neither of the city’s two biggest existing taxi companies City Cabs or Streamline wished to comment on the launch of Uber.

In relation to their new rival app Andy Cheesman, managing director of Southern Taxis, said: “As a local, independent company, we are delighted to launch this new app which means our customers can now pay for their journey by debit or credit card while also taking cash and account bookings.

“In addition, it also means they can see the exact whereabouts of their taxi so this will improve waiting times. “Finally, and most importantly, when they use the app to book a taxi, they can do so in the knowledge that all our drivers are DBS checked and all our taxis have state-of-the-art CCTV.”

Click here for the full story.

More strikes threatened on Southern Rail

From The Argus

Now a second train driver union ballots for strikes

Now a second train driver union ballots for strikes

Southern rail drivers in the RMT union will join Aslef colleagues in voting on possible strike action which would cripple Sussex rail links in the run-up to Christmas.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said drivers it represents on Southern Railway will vote on industrial action over driver-only trains.

The ballot will open on November 4 and close two weeks later, mirroring the voting timetable of the main drivers’ union, Aslef, in the same dispute.

Southern is embroiled in a bitter dispute with the RMT over changes to the role of conductors which has sparked a campaign of industrial action.

General secretary Mick Cash said: “Drivers on Southern Rail will find themselves dangerously exposed if the company decide to plough ahead with their ill-conceived and dangerous plans for a wholesale extension of driver-only operation on their routes.

“Drivers will be placed in an impossible position, trying to monitor despatch from overcrowded platforms while they should be concentrating on the job of driving the train. The consequences for safety at the critical platform/train interface are horrendous.

“The union will be calling for a massive Yes vote as we step up the pressure on Southern to abandon their high-risk plans.”

Southern insists driver-only trains are safe, stressing the system is in place across large sections of the rail network.

Meanwhile, the RMT announced the timetable for a strike ballot among almost 3,500 London Underground workers over jobs and the closure of ticket offices.

Voting will start next week and the result will be known in mid-November.

Mr Cash said: “London Underground knows that it has compromised safety and customer service across its stations by cutting jobs. A responsible employer would reverse the job cuts and put staff back into station control rooms.

“If London Underground really cares about passengers, it would reverse the ticket office closure programme.

“The continuing impact of those cuts leaves us with no alternative but to move to a ballot for industrial action and the terror alert at North Greenwich last week has confirmed the urgency of the current situation and the nonsense of axing station staff.”

Bid to make Brighton seafront a year-round attraction

From The Argus

Brighton seafront from the air

Brighton seafront from the air

A bid to revitalise parts of Brighton and Hove’s aged seafront could get a £24 million funding boost amid a new plan to make it an all year round attraction.

Brighton and Hove City Council has received positive funding news on plans for a new conference centre and arena at Black Rock and the renovation of Madeira Terraces and has also made a five-year improvement plan.

If successful, the bids will add to what Brighton and Hove City Council believes is the biggest programme of seafront investment anywhere in the country to move it away from a seasonal to a year-round visitor attraction.

The news comes 18 months after The Argus launched the Seafront 2020 campaign calling for an ambitious long-term vision for our county’s precious seafront.

One of our most pressing points calling for a five-year plan has now been met in Brighton and Hove with the recent publication of the Seafront Investment Plan 2016-2021.

The extensive report, produced with engineering consultants Mott MacDonald, outlines timelines for major seafront projects already in the pipeline as well as outlining an aspiration to complete the £100 million renovation of seafront arches west of Brighton Palace Pier.

It states: “Much of the coastal city’s visitor offer has been seasonal in the past, reducing the strength of this sector’s contribution to the economy. Development needs to ensure year-round utilisation of the seafront’s offer.

The report adds: “Proposals should support the year-round sport, leisure and cultural role of the seafront for residents and visitors whilst complementing its outstanding historic setting and natural landscape value.

Regarding Madeira Drive the report states the council and partners are working together to “create a year-round usable space that extends the total footfall along the seafront right through to the Marina.”

The report also explores how major projects could be funded with the authority “actively considering” borrowing against forecast business rates growth at an expanded Churchill Square to subsidise the cost of the Black Rock Arena.

Also explored is a possible supplement to business rates which could raise around £2 million a year though the report is quick to stress there are no current plans to bring this in.

Council leader Warren Morgan said: “The Seafront Investment Plan details our vision of how the whole seafront can be improved, the options for funding it and the challenges to be overcome.

“Madeira Terraces is a complex, long-term project but we will stick with it.

“It’s not possible anyway to start immediately because we have so much other regeneration work happening on the seafront.

“Progress is being made towards agreeing the conditional land agreement with Standard Life Investments for the £540 million Brighton Waterfront and we’re aiming to reach this milestone in the coming months.”

One of those major projects is the proposal to create 50 glass-fronted pods to nestle in the restored Madeira Terrace. The council has recently learnt its £4 million bid is through the first round of the Coastal Communities Fund.

The council also hopes to learn whether it has been successful in its £20 million for Local Growth Deal funding for the new centre at Black Rock.

The project was one of six Sussex projects shortlisted which could eventually bring a combined private sector investment of £745 million delivering almost 10,000 jobs, 600 homes and 300,000 sqm of employment space.

Chancellor Philip Hammond will unveil which projects have been successful in his autumn statement next month.

Click here for the full story.

Preston Park Hotel to be converted into flats

Preston Park Hotel

Preston Park Hotel

Brighton & Hove City Council has approved the plans after the owner said he could no longer compete with cut-price chains like Travelodge.

The planning committee unanimously agreed the building could be turned into 22 flats, nine of which will be affordable, and 23 parking spaces.

Directors at the hotel said the 34-bed venue is currently trading with “unsustainable” annual losses of up to £103,365 and has required capital injections of more than £53,000 per year continue trading.

Calls for further restrictions on student houses

From The Argus

Calls have been made for stronger restrictions to curb the rising number of shared houses after the high number of students in areas of the city reached “tipping point”.

Currently restrictions on new applications allow for ten per cent of homes in a 50 metre radius to be houses of multiple occupation (HMOs).

But Conservative councillors have proposed to change this to 5 per cent in a 150 metre radius.

Meanwhile Labour councillors repeated calls at the full council meeting last night for business rates to be charged on HMOs while Greens called for any restrictions to be extended to holiday lets that operate for less than 140 days a year.

The discussion was sparked by a petition of almost 1,300 signatures from Bevendean local action team chairman Bill Gandy opposing rising HMOs in the ward.

His area has more than 25 per cent of properties being used as shared housing as the number grew before restrictions on new HMOs took effect.

The ward, which is off the main commuting route to both city universities, is home to 40 per cent of the city’s HMOs.

Mr Gandy told councillors of the devastating impact of the loss of balance between students and families in some streets detailing how residents woke in the morning to clear vomit and smashed vodka bottles off the street and tidy up bushes that had been jumped upon.

He said the area had reached its “tipping point”.

Conservative councillor Carol Theobald called on the universities to consider building their own student housing in neighbouring authorities in Lewes, Falmer and Newhaven.

Fellow Tory Joe Miller warned that waiting for tougher restrictions to be incorporated into the City Plan Part Two could take up to three years to come into effect.

He added there were dangers of creating a “ghost city” in summer months when students went home if the issue of HMOs was not curbed.

Labour councillor Tracey Hill said some HMO landlords had built up large portfolios of properties and should be treated as businesses.

But she confirmed that the council would not look to overturn the exemption of council tax for students which costs the authority around £5 million a year.

And she welcomed warnings from Conservative councillors Lee Wares and Andrew Wealls that charging business rates might force some HMO landlords to sell up freeing up properties that could return to family housing.

Her party colleague Mo Marsh said rising HMOs became a “self-fulfilling prophecy” as more families were forced out of their areas they had grown up in sell their homes paving the way for more shared homes.

Green councillor David Gibson said HMOs made up to 50 per cent of some streets in his Hanover and Elm Grove ward while his colleague Dick Page said the growth in students had been enormous in the city and measures to tackle the issue were a case of “chipping away at the iceberg”.

City centre traffic system to be revived

From The Argus

Previous images of how Valley Gardens could look as unveiled in 2015

Previous images of how Valley Gardens could look as unveiled in 2015

A controversial multi-million pound road scheme for the city centre is being brought back to life amid fears it will still cause traffic chaos.

The £18 million Valley Gardens scheme brought forward by the city council’s Green administration was put on hold when Labour came into power in May last year.

Now Labour has brought the proposals back having tweaked the original designs, but sources say the scheme will not improve traffic flow and could actually make it worse.

The plans to improve green spaces and cycle routes between the Brighton Palace Pier and St Peter’s Place would replace the one-way system with two two-way roads, one for public transport and the other for private vehicles.

One source said: “For residents of Brighton and Hove who don’t want anybody else to come here and don’t want to see the city grow, it’s great. For anybody else it will be a disaster.”

There are also fears that in working out traffic volumes for the new scheme, the council has only looked at traffic flow between Monday to Friday.

The source added: “When it’s the height of the tourism season, you get traffic queued from the pier all the way back to Pyecombe and it’s going to get worse if you’re cutting four lanes of traffic down to two.

“The scheme lacks common sense.”

Transport consultant in the city Mark Strong said some elements of the design still needed to be “ironed out”.

Becky Reynolds, chairwoman of Bricycles, said the cycling pressure group was in favour of the scheme.

Sources said the plans had changed little from the March 2015 designs, with the private-vehicle road on the east of the parks widening to two lanes at junctions to ease traffic flow.

But for a key stretch from North Road to Richmond Parade cars will still queue along a single lane of traffic each way – because the road could not be widened due to a desire to preserve the city’s beloved elm trees.

Brighton and Hove City Council did not confirm the methodology of the traffic modelling but Cllr Gill Mitchell, chairwoman of the environment, transport and sustainability committee said: “We’re discussing aspects of the project with stakeholder groups but no plans are finalised.”

She added: “All information upon which any decisions are taken will be made fully public. The overall purpose of the scheme will be to improve movement through the area.”

Interest groups, including transport companies, are currently being consulted on the updated plans, which will be revealed in a report to the city’s transport committee on November 29.

Work is not expected to begin until spring 2017 at the earliest.

Labour was forced to go ahead with the scheme because the Green administration had already secured £14 million funding for it.

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LENGTHY WORKS TO BEGIN NEXT YEAR

ROADWORKS expected to last several months will start on a busy city centre shopping street next year.

A series of sections of North Street in Brighton are to be dug up and resurfaced after work carried out nine years ago unexpectedly deteriorated.

Brighton and Hove City Council is working with Southern Water to co-ordinate the programme of repair works to the road which is a key artery, especially for buses and taxis.

The roadworks are not expected to start until the new year but will take “a matter of months rather than weeks” according to an informed source.

The stretch of road was originally excavated in 2007 when Southern Water replaced around 400 metres of ageing Victorian water mains.

However, the passage of thousands of vehicles every day over the resurfaced road has eroded the surface which has, say the council “not proved to be as durable as was anticipated”.

Councillor Gill Mitchell, committee chairwoman for the environment, transport and sustainability committee, said: “We’re resolute that disruption will be kept to a minimum and that the necessary work is carried out as quickly and effectively as possible.

“A final approach and timetable is currently being discussed.

“We will share the detail of our plans with local businesses and other stakeholders for their feedback.

“During the works, Southern Water and the council will make sure we keep the public, local businesses and other stakeholders fully informed.”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove city council stressed that the work would be carefully timetabled to fit with other developments and schemes including the significant changes to Valley Gardens.