Archive for Brighton and Hove City Council

Planning for the Future

Posted in Brighton, Education with tags , , on July 30, 2015 by telescoper

Some great news arrived this morning. The Planning Inspectorate has given approval to the University of Sussex’s Campus Masterplan, which paves the way for some much-needed new developments on the Falmer Campus and a potential £500 million investment in the local economy. As a scientist working at the University I’m particularly delighted with this decision as it will involve much-needed new science buildings which should ease the pressure on our existing estate. The planned developments include new state-of-the-art academic and research facilities, the creation of an estimated 2400 new jobs in the local community and 2500 new student rooms on the campus, while still preserving the famous listed buildings designed by architect Sir Basil Spence when the University was founded back in the 1960s. We’re in for an exciting few years as these new developments take shape, especially a new building for Life Sciences and redevelopment of the East Slope site. The expansion of residential accommodation on campus will take some of the pressure off the housing stock in central Brighton while the other new buildings will provide much-needed replacements and extensions for some older ones that are at the end of their useful life.

Here’s a video fly-through that illustrates the general scale of the development – although the individual buildings shown are just indicative, as detailed designs are still being drawn up and each new building will need further planning permission.

But it is not just as an employee of the University that I am delighted by this news. I also live in Brighton and I honestly believe that the expansion of the University is an extremely good thing for the City, which is already turning into a thriving high-tech economy owing to the presence of so many skilled graduates and spin-out enterprises. There’s a huge amount of work to do in order to turn these plans into reality, but within a couple of years I think we’ll start to see the dividend.

Is the 2015 General Election being rigged?

Posted in Brighton, Politics with tags , , , , on February 14, 2015 by telescoper

Just a few months ahead of the 2015 General Election (and some council elections, including here in Brighton) there’s something very worrying going on with the whole electoral process. For the 2014 European Parliament Elections last year I was on the electoral roll and used my vote as normal. However, last last year I discovered to my horror that I had been removed from the register here in Brighton. When I asked why, I was told by Brighton and Hove City Council (local councils oversee the election process) that I had to register afresh if I wanted to vote this May and that to do this I would have to supply personal details such as my National Insurance Number. This despite the fact that I have been resident at the same address in Brighton and have paid Council Tax at that address for two years.  I had received no communication from anyone to warn me that I was being removed from the elctoral roll and, as far as I’m aware, had I not asked I simply would not have been able to vote in the forthcoming elections.

I assumed that this was just some sort of administrative error, but I have since heard from many other people who have similarly been summarily kicked off the electoral roll for no obvious reason. One has to be wary of anecdotal evidence about things like this, but the issue seems to be a national one, related to a botched attempt to move to individual voter registration, as opposed to registration associated with a residential address. People move around much more than houses do, so there is much more information to track. The new system has been rushed through without the resources needed to support the vastly increased complexity of keeping track of individuals. For the 2015 elections over a million people who should be eligible to vote will will be absent from the electoral register, and this will mostly be the young and mobile (including students) and those in private rented accommodation in urban areas. The potential inlfluence of this effective disenfranchisement on the election result is obvious.

The more I read about this the more alarmed I have become. I am really starting to believe that this is a cynical attempt by vested interests to manipulate the outcome of the General Election, which will hinge on a relatively small number of key marginal seats where the votes of students and other young people could be crucial. It looks very sinister.

Anyone else had trouble getting on the Electoral Register? Please let me know through the Comments Box.

The Vogue Gyratory: An Accident Awaiting to Happen

Posted in Brighton with tags , , , , on December 21, 2014 by telescoper

Major roadworks have been underway in Brighton, along the route that I take from the city centre to my workplace at the Falmer campus of the University of Sussex, for about four months from mid-August until just recently. These works are to do with “improvements” to the Vogue Gyratory system, a complex junction involving the main road between Brighton and Lewes (the A270/A27 Lewes Road) and three other roads: Bear Road, Hollingdean Road and Upper Lewes Road.

Here is a plan showing the effect of the work, which you can click on to enlarge:

VogueGyratory

The aims of this scheme are apparently to improve traffic flow through the junction, and to make it safer for cyclists. The latter objective is addressed by changing the bus stop which was originally just outside Sainsbury’s (to the left of the plan) into a “floating” stop and putting a cycle lane behind it.

These floating bus stops have been deployed further up the Lewes Road to good effect; cycles pass behind the bus stop so there is no need for them to attempt to overtake buses which have stopped and no need for buses to wait for cyclists passing the stop before pulling in to pick up passengers. The only problem is that pedestrians have to cross the cycle laneto get to the bus stop, and they sometimes do so without paying sufficient attention. There has therefore been an occasional collision between people on foot and people on bikes. Nevertheless these floating stops have largely been successful and I think are a good idea from Brighton and Hove City Council. This is no doubt why they decided to apply the same principle to the bus stop in the Vogue Gyratory.

Unfortunately, the new scheme is not safer for cyclists at all. In fact it’s a death trap. Don’t take my word for it: on one day last week there were three accidents as a direct result of the changes and another just hours later. These incidents were all caused by the introduction of a hidden kerb at the edge of the cycle lane. All four victims fell off their bikes and could easily have been killed by motor traffic as a result.

Vogue_argus

The hidden kerb is clearly a piece of idiocy, but can perhaps be easily fixed. But there is a far greater danger lurking in the new system. Imagine you are in a car, entering the gyratory from the southern end (bottom left of the plan) and intending to exit up Hollingdean Road (near the top). If a bus has stopped at the floating bus stop it will completely hide the cycle lane and cyclists on it until the car has passed the stop. However, almost immediately after the stop a car wishing to take an exit left has to cross the, totally unprotected, cycle lane. There are no signs to warn motorists to beware of cyclists coming from their left, no barriers and no lights. This is what traffic planners call a “point of conflict” and the current design of the junction makes this a potentially lethal one, which is exacerbated by the “improved traffic flow” through through the junction, which means that cars often travel at quite high speeds along the main carriageway. A serious accident, possibly even a fatality is just a matter of time.

People have suggested that car drivers should know where cyclists are likely to be, but what about a driver who is using the junction for the first time? You can’t expect motorists to be psychic.

So what can be done? It’s hard to see how such a basic design flaw can be fixed without rebuilding the entire junction, but two immediate steps must be taken before somebody dies. The first is to reduce the speed limit for all vehicles through the junction to 5 mph. That may just give drivers the time to notice cyclists immediately to their left. The second is to introduce much more obvious warnings. The problem with the second of these is where to position the required signs. There’s no point placing them on the island forming the floating bus stop because they would be hidden too. Perhaps there could be overhead signs?

But the best advice I can give cyclists in the meantime is to follow the warning given by this lady on Twitter:

The disruption that the Vogue Gyratory roadworks have caused has been horrendous: four months of almost continuous gridlock and the time taken for my daily trip to work almost doubled. This is in itself shows a disgraceful failure of planning. The area is not primarily residential, so they should have worked at weekends and possibly even round-the-clock to mitigate the impact. I’ve been completely exasperated on a number of occasions as the bus I was on inched up the Lewes Road tailback only to enter the Gyratory and find no work at all going on. I don’t think there was a proper estimate of the disruption the works would cause nor was any reasonable plan made to mitigate it.

Now we find out that all this agony will have to be repeated in order to put right what should have been obvious to the planners, especially the failure to recognize the poor visibility of cyclists through the gyratory. There should really be a public inquiry about this fiasco, but I think that will only happen if there is a serious accident. If that does occur, then the relevant employees Brighton and Hove City Council should be facing charges of criminal negligence or even manslaughter.