The destruction of paved footpaths in Brighton and Hove Conservation Areas

The destruction of paved footpaths in Brighton and Hove Conservation Areas

The Brighton Society have become extremely concerned with the council’s actions in replacing footpath paving with black tarmac in Conservation Areas in Brighton and Hove. We contacted Amy Heley, Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee and we received a short reply from the “Highways Asset and Maintenance Manager”, Simon Marchant.  The reply suggested that the work is because the footpaths were “a mish mash of concrete paving slabs, tarmac and concrete repairs and the footways were damaged by vehicle overruns”. Our photographs clearly show that this was not the case and most of our photos show lengths of footways with no access for vehicle overruns. 

The second sentence of the brief reply states that the many paving slabs that were removed and broken up were recycled by the contractor and broken down into material for re-use within the city.  We would consider that such a process is a terrible waste in terms of cost and carbon emissions.  It is reasonable to recycle concrete from demolished buildings but to break up hundreds of undamaged paving stones for crushing and recycling is a very strange decision when many footways in Brighton are in desperate need of repairs with undamaged paving stones.  Of course, the reason that the footways are crying out for repairs with paving stones are due to the Council’s poor maintenance over many years. 

No other information was provided in the email – no information on which roads are being lined up for this treatment and no information on the cost of these contracts.  So, we feel that it is essential to fully detail our concerns.

We have managed to find four roads where paving has been replaced by black tarmac – three within conservation areas (Preston Park Avenue, Preston Drove and Woodland Drive) and one running along the boundary of two conservation areas in Hove – Westbourne Gardens.  Photos of the condition of the paving and the black tarmac replacement are set out below.  In each case the paving was in a satisfactory condition, certainly not in any way dangerous.

Preston Park Avenue

The complete length of paved footpath (800m) on the east side of the road was removed in January 2021 and replaced with tarmac. There are only a few street trees on this side of the road. At the time it was confirmed that the Chair of Environment, the local councillors and the residents were not told that this work was to be carried out. The road is within the Preston Park Conservation Area. In the Character Statement written in more enlightened times, the visual appearance of this footpath is described as providing a significant contribution to the appearance of this area of Preston Park.

Preston Drove

Most of the paved footpaths on both sides of the road were removed in November 2021 and replaced with tarmac. Photos show the same length of footway.  Paving was in a satisfactory condition. The road is appreoximately 1 km in length and is within the Preston Park Conservation Area.

Woodland Drive

Paving removed during December 2021 and replaced with tarmac.  The road is approximately 1 km in length and the west side (shown in photos) is within the Woodland Drive Conservation Area.

Westbourne Gardens

The paving was removed during 2021 and replaced with black tarmac.  Photo shows same length of footpath – paving in good condition.  The road runs along the boundaries of Sackville and Pembroke Gardens Conservation Areas.

When Conservation Areas are set up, Historic England imposes an expectation on the council to plan to enhance the area.

“It is the council’s duties under the 1990 Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act to review the conservation area and its boundaries  and formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of the area”.

Could anyone conclude that the above photos show the council is making any effort to enhance the area?

The Preston Park Conservation Area also have Article 4 directions which means that the whole of the front elevations including the front garden wall cannot be altered without planning permission.  So, you would think that the council would submit such works for planning approval.  Not the case.  We have looked through the Agendas for the committee meetings for the past year and have not found any reference to proposals to replace paving with tarmac. It seems that these expensive contracts are decided upon by Highways management without reference to any planning concerns or any reference to elected councillors.  Just part of the maintenance budget which must have very generous levels of finance.

An illustration of the lack of any effort to maintain paving occurred in Preston Drove a week after the tarmac contractors had completed their work. “Highway’s maintenance” were seen trying to lever up one of the few paving stones left in the road – just needed to be re-laid.  But their solution was to break up the paving stone and shovel in some cheap tarmac.  At the same time in adjacent roads a contractor for the Water Company was relaying paving stones following renewal of leaking meters.  Difficult to believe that two different attitudes to maintenance occurring in the same area at the same time.

Water company’s contractors’ quality work in repairing paving around water meters.

In the last few days, the Council’s highways maintenance workforce has been working within the Preston Park Conservation Area removing and breaking up even more paving stones.  Having had a conversation with them we gather that they carry out the work to specific orders – if a paving stone is marked with a white cross, it must be removed and replaced with black tarmac.  The person who sprays on the white cross has decided that the paving stone has been affected by tree roots and cannot be re-laid.  As can be seen from the photo the area does not appear to be affected by tree roots – the adjacent paved area appears to be in excellent condition.  In addition, no effort is made to keep the paving stones for relaying – just broken up and loaded into the truck.  And how can the person spraying on the crosses conclude that tree roots are causing the problem without lifting the paving stone?  Would it not be better to trust the maintenance crew to assess whether relaying would be possible?

Paving removed for dubious reasons.

And what of the finished appearance of the newly created black tarmac footpaths in Preston Drove following completion of the substantial contract for removing the paving.  As would be expected they are not of the highest quality.  Was anyone supervising this contract?  How can anyone think that it is acceptable to throw away the substantial original kerb stones used throughout the Preston Park Conservation area and just shovel in some tarmac.  About as far away from enhancement of the Conservation Area that you can get.

Original kerb stones removed and replaced with black tarmac

To conclude we regard this work as a terrible waste for a number of reasons.

Hundreds of undamaged paving stones were ripped up and crushed.  Paving is expensive and to repave these destroyed footpaths would cost many tens of thousands of pounds.  And this valuable asset has just been destroyed for no apparent acceptable reason.

What a tragic waste of resources                         Valley gardens paving – will these be next in a few years.    

                     

The destruction of the concrete paving slabs, the energy used to crush the slabs, and the energy required to manufacture the oil-based tarmac just causes huge volumes of carbon dioxide to be generated – certainly no help in creating a zero-carbon future.

The black footpaths the complete lengths of these roads have radically altered the appearance of these roads and yet these decisions have been made

  • without any reference to informing or even consulting the elected representatives,
  • without any reference to the planning process where there is a requirement to enhance the appearance of the conservation areas
  • without any effort to consult the residents

We have asked the  Council Highways Dept to give us its answers to the following questions:

1.      Were you aware of the 1990 Planning Act referred to above?

2.      Did you consult the Heritage Team at the Planning Dept about the effect on conservation areas before proceeding with the work?  And if not, why not? 

3.      Did you consult the local Ward councillors before proceeding with the work?

4.      Was the proposal to replace the paving slabs with tarmac in these conservation areas presented to and authorised by any Council committee?

5.      Did the Council’s policy to minimise carbon emissions and move towards a zero-carbon future play any part in your decision-making process?

6.      Was the option of selectively replacing damaged paving slabs seriously examined and costed?

7.      What further pavement replacement work is planned in the city’s 34 conservation areas over the next 12 months and which streets will be affected?

We’ll let you know its answers in due course.

Brighton Society December 2021

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