Brighton Society objection to the Planning Application Ref. BH2017/02583 – Landscaping to Valley Gardens
The Valley Gardens Conservation Area is on Historic England’s ‘at risk register‘ for a number of reasons, the poor condition of the public realm and historic open spaces being one of the principal factors.
We therefore welcome proposals in principle to improve it.
We also welcome the proposed increase in the amount of public open space in total and the additional new tree planting, with new or reinforced avenues of Elm to the perimeter and arboretum trees more centrally.
However that is about as far as our welcome goes.
We object to the current proposals on the following grounds:
1. Layout and Design
We question the basic thinking behind the typical layout of north/south roadway/pedestrian route/cycle route /green open space, particularly as the proposed new footpaths are located between the busy main road traffic and the cycle lanes, both of which are likely to be carrying traffic significantly faster than people walking.
Would it not be better to relate pedestrian routes so that they are in direct contact with the green spaces which are most likely to be used by pedestrians than by other traffic?
It would also be preferable to avoid having the historic elm trees located in the centre of the paved pedestrian routes, where they are likely to be subject to damage.
Was consideration given to locating the main north/south pedestrian routes (or some of them) running through or to one side of the central green areas?
Our overall impression is that the layout has been designed by a traffic engineer rather than a landscape architect. It just is not good enough.
2. General lack of quality of material, detail and appearance
We consider that the new St Peter’s Square in particular deserves a better quality of paving material appropriate to the quality of the Church, rather than bound gravel as proposed. It appears that the quality of the new hard landscaping proposed is driven by the need for short term cost saving rather than by long maintenance life and good quality appearance.
In this area and other areas of the proposals, we think better quality textured and low maintenance paving and hard landscape surfaces should be proposed, as demonstrated by so many cities in both this country and Europe to enhance the quality of their historic urban landscapes.
Where for example are the reinforced grass areas which would be required to cope with the heavy vehicles likely to be involved in setting up temporary events which are likely to be located on the gardens?
For example cobbles, setts, brick paving, stone paving, and Conservation style concrete paving slabs could all be included in order to define different uses and to highlight differences between ‘static areas’, slow-moving pedestrian areas, faster-moving cycle routes, ‘slow down’ crossing areas, edgings to paving or grassed and planted areas, permeable paved surrounds to trees, kerbstones at road edges etc. There is a note saying existing tree planters are to be re-clad, but there are no details. The current proposals for the hard landscaping are all very unimaginative and severely lacking in detail – in fact all the small details which can add so much to the visual quality and character of historic open spaces are all sadly lacking from this application.
There is no information on the appearance – or even location – of new street furniture such as seating, bollards, tree guards, railings, fences, litter bins, signage – all the elements which can – if correctly selected and specified – contribute to the character and visual interest of the historical setting of Valley Gardens.
Nor does it in any significant way contribute to the quality and character of the Valley Gardens Conservation Area, and in our view does little to address or improve in any significant way the ‘at risk’ classification justifiably given it by Historic England.
In short, this application in its present form is quite inadequate and should not receive planning approval.
Jeremy Mustoe MA (Cantab), Dip. Arch
Chairman, Brighton Society