The seafront is often described as the “shop window” of Brighton and Hove, where tourists, conference delegates, stag and hen parties, locals and students mingle and enjoy the bars and restaurants along the coast road.
Two months ago, part of that road near the junction with West Street, the main road up to the city centre and station, was shut following a collapse in the arches below. It remains shut now, with metal fencing enclosing an area littered with kerb stones, cones and bits of discarded fencing.
Unsurprisingly nearby businesses are very unhappy. The restaurant nearest the site said:
‘The effects of this incident on our Little Bay restaurant on King’s Road in Brighton have been devastating. People have been afraid to visit the area. As a result, whilst our sales should be picking up with the good weather and increased summer tourism, we have found that our like-for-like turnover is down nearly 20% each week on average compared to the same period last year.
The lack of information and support from Brighton & Hove City Council has made it impossible for us to plan our marketing strategy for the summer. We feel that we’ve been left in the lurch.’
Meanwhile one Green councillor tweeted that the collapse and subsequent contraflow was a good bit of additional “part-pedestrianisation”, something he said was a joke. Not too funny for motorists caught in 45 minute tailbacks along the seafront in the June heat, or businesses like Little Bay losing thousands of pounds.
If it were just a delay in repairs that was the issue, that would be bad enough, but the state of the seafront has been identified as a “corporate critical risk” for at least two years, with the Riptide Gym just yards away from this collapse having been shut for the same reasons in 2012.
The Greens running the council say they did bid to the Local Enterprise Partnership for funding, but were turned down, however they were successful in getting a bid for more cycle and bus lanes in the Old Steine. Repairs to seafront arches are underway a mile away in Hove, near to the site of the new i360 viewing tower, approved by the Greens and Tories and backed by a £36m taxpayer-guaranteed loan.
I’m not criticising the council itself, which has tried to sort out the mess as best it can, but I am critical of a Green Administration that has prioritised traffic schemes with multi-million pound funding across the city in line with it’s own priorities, whilst the road most critical to the city’s economy seems set to be partially closed for the entire summer. To some it feels like the Greens have put a brick through the city’s shop window at a time it can least afford the disruption or the repair.
A Labour-run council would make it a priority, and put every effort and direct every available resource at getting an issue like this sorted as quickly as possible.