Category Archives: Business

Valley Gardens roadworks to cause traffic ‘chaos’

From The Argus

An artist’s impression of the Valley Gardens scheme

Every southbound car entering Brighton’s central avenue will be squeezed into a single lane of traffic this summer. Two years of roadworks to redesign traffic flow and pedestrian access around Valley Gardens will begin as early as June.

The decision to start digging up one of the busiest roads in the city during the tourist season was criticised by tourism experts, traders, residents’ groups, public transport pressure groups, taxi companies and unions. Critics have predicted “chaos” and “gridlock” and raised the spectre of tailbacks radiating far beyond the centre of the city. The council said disruption would be mitigated wherever possible.

Meanwhile the roadworks surrounding the Shelter Hall development at the foot of West Street will not finish this summer as planned but will continue until at least next autumn. That development is now projected to cost twice its original £10 million budget, and the council is working on ways to come up with extra money from its own tight resources as well as from central Government.

On Tuesday 6th February, a meeting of the Greater Brighton Economic Board confirmed work on the £11 million Valley Gardens scheme would begin in June, although yesterday a Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said it “hoped” to start work on the highway “towards the end of summer”.

The first phase of the scheme will include closure of one of the two southbound lanes of traffic on the eastern side of Victoria Gardens from near St Peter’s Church. The Valley Gardens development seeks to open up the several, underused green spaces in the centre of the city from St Peter’s Church down to Old Steine.

At present the route is a one way system with two lanes running north, and two south. Once the redevelopment is complete, private vehicles will be restricted to the east of the gardens, with one lane northbound and one lane southbound. On the west, a much quieter road will carry just buses and taxis, northbound and southbound. Extra crossings, extra cycle lanes, and extensive planting and landscaping will make the area easier to access and enjoy on foot.

Yesterday the council said work and diversions would be well publicised and the main route would only occasionally be subject to complete closure.

Anne Ackord, who runs the Palace Pier and speaks for the Brighton and Hove Tourism Alliance, said: “Summer is never the best time to start any disruption. We need to get people in to the city, and we know parking is a problem as it is, so you don’t want anything to get in the way of the best possible summer. At the pier, we’re doing refurbishment work and maintenance now, because it’s winter and it’s quiet. We wouldn’t schedule anything to start later than Easter, because then you damage business.”

Adam Chinnery, chairman of the Seafront Traders Association, said: “It seems very odd, when we get massive domestic tourism that comes right down that road in the summer. And we don’t get nearly as much during the winter. It would seem a lot better to do this kind of project in the winter.”

Steve Percy, chairman of the People’s Parking Protest, said: “It’s going to be an absolute nightmare. I fail to see why Valley Gardens is going to start at the beginning of the tourist season when in fact it should have been started at the end of the season. That’s just common sense.”

Peter Elvidge, secretary of Brighton Area Buswatch, said: “It’s absolutely not the right time of year. “It’s going to be chaos I imagine. The Valley Gardens scheme is going to narrow the road down to a single lane through the roadworks, which will cause huge traffic jams and that will spread throughout the city.”

John Streeter, of Streamline Taxis, said: “I can see this scheme backfiring big time. There’s going to be major tailbacks coming into the city. Summer weekends are very busy and this will have a major impact.”

GMB union branch secretary Mark Turner said: “That’s not very clever timing really is it? That’s the beginning of the summer season, it’s the most important for the city and we’re going to cause major disruption to traffic. It’ll be bad for local businesses – we’ll be saying ‘come to Brighton and be gridlocked’.”

Not everyone was so negative. Theatre Royal manager John Baldock said: “Whenever you did it it’s going to upset somebody. Anything that can improve the city is a good thing, it’s never going to be painless.”

The scheme – originally a Green idea – has cross-party support so opposition politicians have focused on whether the Labour administration will make it happen efficiently.

Green Party spokesman Councillor Pete West said: “My concern is the Labour administration can’t deliver this competently – their project management is not good.

“Once they’ve started digging up, they need to complete within the shortest timeframe to minimise disruption.” 

Conservative Party spokesman Councillor Lee Wares said: “It is essential the Labour administration carefully co-ordinate the construction phases to avoid interrupting all the events our city holds. With Shelter Hall now over-running by a year it is crucial that Labour don’t take their eye off the ball because if they do, it will be a disaster for the city.”

Labour Councillor Alan Robins, the administration’s lead member for tourism, said: “I knew it was going to start, I didn’t know the start date.”

Later in a council statement he said: “Brighton and Hove attracts up to 11 million visitors a year and our marketing activity already encourages visitors to come by train or use other forms of public transport, where possible, as we know that car travel is a major contributor to congestion and poor air quality.”

The Valley Gardens scheme is expected to take around two years.

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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.”

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.

‘Under-used’ retail park to get £6 million boost and new ALDI store

From The Argus

The Pavilion Retail Park in Lewes Road is set for a £6 million makeover.

The Pavilion Retail Park in Lewes Road is set for a £6 million makeover.

A Supermarket giant is hoping to add its third store in the city as part of £6 million refurbishment plans for an under-used retail park.

German retailer ALDI is looking to open a new store on the Pavilion Retail Park in Lewes Road, Brighton. The move is part of a £6 million expansion by retail park owners Aviva Investors which will include the construction of a new café.

Councillors have welcomed the news to breathe new life into the struggling retail park where half of the units are currently vacant. The overhaul will begin with the refurbishment of the B&Q store set to start shortly and expected to be completed early next year.

A planning application for the unit expansion for Aldi and a coffee shop is set to be submitted within months with the possibility new tenants could be trading at some point next year. The investment is designed to revive the retail park which has been hit in recent years by the closure of Comet and Benson for Beds.

ALDI said its new store would have a “modest” 1,100 square metres of sales area, less than half the size of the nearby Sainsbury’s, but would create up to 50 new jobs with the company looking to recruit locally. The new store will be in addition to ALDI’s existing supermarkets in London Road and Carlton Terrace.

Councillor Tracey Hill, who represents the Hollingdean and Stanmer ward, said: “I’m pleased that Aldi are asking local residents for their views and would be interested in knowing what comes back from that. The retail park has been under-used for a while. All the comments I have heard so far have been positive, people are saying it would improve the area and help local people with low cost food. It shouldn’t be a threat to Sainsbury’s as it’s only half the size.”

An ALDI spokeswoman said: “We are delighted to be progressing plans for a new ALDI in Brighton, to make it easier for local people to shop and save. We are encouraging local people to let us know their thoughts on the plans over coming weeks and after reviewing their comments we will finalise the application and submit an application to the council.

“If the plans are approved, we are keen to open the store as soon as possible so local people can start working and shopping at ALDI.”

Feedback on the plans can be submitted before Friday September 23 by emailing aldibrighton@planningpotential.co.uk.

Businesses vote to invest millions in Brighton

From Brighton Business

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Brighton city centre to benefit from £1.8m of investment over the next 5 years as businesses vote to renew the Business Improvement District [BID].

During March, businesses have been voting to see whether they wish to continue investing over £1.8m in a range of projects designed to make Brighton city centre a thriving, safe, clean and vibrant place to be for the next five years. The final result of an independent referendum has now been counted and verified by Electoral Reform Services and shows 74% of business in favour by vote, representing 68% by rateable value.

This means that the renewal of the current Business Improvement District [trading as Brilliant Brighton], has been successful and the new Business Plan will commence delivery on 1st July 2016 [the day after the current BID expires] for a five year term until 30th June 2021.

The projects include; the city centre Christmas lights displays, the City Centre Ambassador service, an evening security support function and the return of banners, bunting and hanging baskets to city centre streets from July to September. On top of that, the Brilliant Brighton website will be developed along with the @brillbrighton twitter feeds and other social media platforms to keep members of the public up to date with all the best deals, special offers and news from the city centre. There is also a range of additional benefits designed to help support the 517 unique businesses that make up the retailers, bars, café’s, restaurants and clubs in the city centre.

Gavin Stewart, BID Manager said, “This is a great vote of confidence from the BID business community in Brighton City Centre. For the last five years, we have been working hard to deliver a range of projects that help support the trading environment for our businesses”.

“In turn, we’ve proposed a new business plan that reduces the amount more than 50% of the businesses in the area are asked to contribute, while simultaneously delivering more projects than we have in the past. We are all looking forward to the next five years in helping to create a vibrant city centre that everyone can enjoy.”

For more information on Brilliant Brighton visit www.brilliantbrighton.com

BRIGHTON BID SECOND RENEWAL RESULTS 2016

Positive by votes 74%

Positive by rateable value 68%

Turnout 39%