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Valley Gardens – or Ode to Concrete?

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Is this what the Valley Gardens Scheme will look like?

The Valley Gardens Scheme is supposed to be creating welcoming spaces for residents to enjoy their surroundings. But the vast areas of stark concrete paving now completed around St Peters Church does not come anywhere near the quality we were hoping for.

The council has also recently re-issued an image of the appearance of their proposed scheme south of Old Steine (above top), and it shows huge areas of concrete paving with no variation in materials and minimal greenery. We have had meetings with the council’s design team and encouraged them to bring in expertise on city centre landscaping and emphasised that the success of the proposals would depend to a large extent on the quality of planting, seating, landscaping, paving and street furniture.

We are therefore extremely disappointed with the stark appearance of the completed areas. The photos below illustrate the appearance – no variation in material, no trees, no shrubs, no interesting hard landscaping and certainly no greenery.

In terms of highway design, uninterrupted sight lines and clear delineation of roads, paving and cycle lanes are only one component of the overall design brief. The final result depends on far more than just highway considerations in order to create a welcoming, attractive and quality green parkland environment in which residents and visitors can enjoy a stroll, relax in shade under trees, or lie on the grass in the sunshine.

Valley Gardens is one of the most historic and important open spaces in the centre of the city. Public spaces in European cities have a wide variety of paving textures to suit different uses – stone, cobbles, granite setts, brick paviours – the list of potential materials is huge. The best Brighton seems able to do is concrete slabs – everywhere.

We are aware that 150 trees are to be planted in the central gardens, but the surrounding areas should be just as important. A good example of a wasted opportunity is the east side of Richmond Place opposite the church. The paving has been more than doubled in width, it is not a particularly busy route for pedestrians, so surely it should have been a location for some interesting hard landscaping and tree planting – Elms or London Planes would have been ideal. Instead all we have is a view of three lamp posts.The glimmer of hope is that we have now heard that the council will be carrying out further investigations to see whether it would in fact be possible for trees to be planted along Richmond Place. We very much hope that this can result in some much-needed greenery.

The Valley Gardens Scheme could transform the centre of the city, but vast, unrelenting areas of concrete paving slabs are a failure of imagination.

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