Conservative councillor Lee Wares has called for an independent review of the way decisions were made about the £8 million road redevelopment, between Old Steine and Palace Pier.
Controversial scheme ‘Valley Gardens Phase 3’ (VGP3) plans call to replace the Aquarium roundabout on Marine Parade with a T-Junction and traffic light system.
The proposal was granted a further £6 million boost to funds in October, by Coast to Capital – a Limited Enterprise Partnership (LEP) of businesses and council leaders.
However, the scheme has already faced opposition from a public petition, presented to Brighton and Hove City Council in February last year.
The petition called for the Council to “pause design work on the Old Steine road plans (VGP3) and enter into full consultation with all interested parties”.
Cllr Wares backed the petition, asking for an internal review of spending on the project. However, has now cast doubt over the review, concerning environmental issues around additional developments to Duke's Mound, on Marine Parade.
“There have been no traffic assessments and no environmental assessments done” says Cllr Wares.
“We must know what damage that does to air quality, or increased pollution”.
Cllr Wares believes these assessments should have been conducted before decisions were made to pursue more funding for the development.
“These assessments are just not being done – they've been pushed away in the corner, so we can get another scheme done” claims Wares.
“That, in my view, is a scandalous way for [Brighton and Hove City] Council to operate.”
Cllr Wares put forward a new request for a third-party external investigation of the project to Brighton and Hove City Council. However, in the Audit and Standards committee meeting, held on the evening of Tuesday 14th January, the committee voted against his proposal.
Green Councillor Leo Littman, Chair of the committee gave a statement to BBN, saying he believes the review of spending on the project "had been carried out correctly".
"Our role is to ensure that reviews are carried out properly, without fraud, corruption, or conflict of interest."
(L to R: Cllr Leo Littman and Cllr Anne Pissaridou)
Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee, Labour Councillor Anne Pissaridou sent a statement to BBN, claiming she has “every confidence in the work of the officers who prepared and presented the report at the request the Audit & Standards Committee”.
“We now have a design agreed by the council and we have also secured £6 million of external funding from the LEP to help deliver this important project for the city.“
Cllr Wares has also responded to his third-party investigation request being blocked by his peers.
“It is a shame that when somebody dares to question or criticise the way in which this council and Administration operates, the only response is to suggest I question professional integrity” says Wares.
“If we can’t challenge or ask questions then frankly, what is the point?”
Valley Gardens Phase 1 and 2 are already under development, with work on Phase 3 to commence in 2021.