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By-election 2010

With Round Hill heading back to the polling station on 8 July, we have invited some of the candidates for the 2010 by-election to respond to some of our questions about issues affecting the neighbourhood.
Tom French
Tom FrenchThis week, Tom French, the Labour and Co-operative candidate gives his views on our questions:


1) In recent years, residents have feared a gradual erosion of open spaces as larger gardens and gaps between properties are used for new building. How can the value of private open space be balanced with a pressing need for more houses?

Tom: Brighton has a housing crisis and is in desperate need of more affordable homes and suitable social housing in order to ensure that people who are born here and those on a medium or modest wage are not forced out by the current shortage which has led to prohibitively high rents and prices across the city.

This is becoming all the more significant as the cost of living increases with the upcoming VAT hike, and cuts to the support many families receive through measures like child benefit, housing benefit, and tax credits. Key Brighton workers such as teachers, nurses and social workers are already being forced to live outside the city and commute in, and organisations like the Brighton Housing Trust are warning of the increase in housing problems and homelessness that will arise from the ConDem government’s cuts. We need solid solutions to the housing crisis and we need them now.

However, the solution will not be found in unwanted developments squeezed into already cramped areas such as our own Round Hill community. Such developments rarely deliver significant units of affordable housing, but do compact parking problems and threaten Brighton’s precious green spaces. These green spaces - public and private - are vital to maintaining the character of our city and protecting the natural wildlife that we love. It is for these reasons that I proactively supported local opposition to the Carelet development, by listening to your concerns and swiftly acting on them. I put your case to Labour councillors on the planning committee who then voted the most recent application down, preventing the inappropriate development of six three-storey houses on the green buffer zone behind Princes Road. I am the only candidate in this election that has taken any action on Carelet. For similar reasons I have also been actively supporting the Community Garden, and opposing the development of yet another supermarket on the Lewes Road. I will continue to work hard with the community in opposition to such developments.

Yet, whilst opposition to inappropriate developments is important it won’t solve the housing crisis. That’s why I do support bringing Brighton and Hove’s estimated 9,000 empty houses back into use and why I support significant affordable and social housing developments on the right brownfield sites. For instance, Labour councillors consistently supported the developments at King Alfred, the Marina and by Brighton Station, some of which were opposed by Tory councillors and all of which were opposed by Green councillors. Such developments are vital if we are to deliver the hundreds of affordable homes we need without negatively affecting the lives of residents and forcing developers to look to our green open spaces. Those that oppose these developments and offer no practical alternative do need to explain what they have been doing to deliver the affordable housing we need.


2) Since the opening of the waste management facility in Hollingdean, many of the area's residents are stuck with a foul-smelling and noisy neighbour. Are we just the unlucky ones who have to pay the price for dealing with the city's waste?

Tom: Living locally on Mayo Court I know that the site is an eye-soar, and causes very real problems due to the smell and noise emitted. It would no doubt cause these issues wherever it was placed, but that is not much conciliation for local residents or Downs Infant School who both suffer as a consequence.

This is, however, a difficult issue and it would be wrong to pretend there is an easy solution. The fact that we create so much waste as a society means that we need to find a way of recycling or disposing of it, this will never be a pain-free operation. No party has come up with another practical solution to the problem of waste management in Brighton & Hove, or a decent alternative to the waste management facility.

Nonetheless, there are practical means we can employ to improve our situation. I am the only candidate in this election to have attended a Round Hill Society meeting and discussed these practical solutions. One partial solution would be for the council to better enforce the operating guidelines for the site which appear to be being ignored by the management who, for instance, are apparently happy to let trucks empty waste whilst the doors of the facility are open. Devices have also been created to reduce the emission of smell which could be fitted to the Waste Transfer Station. Whilst this would cost money, if the community get together to campaign on the issue and built up enough support it can happen.

If elected, I will continue to actively support the Round Hill Society and local residents in campaigning on this issue. I believe strongly that the role of a councillor is to constantly remain in touch at the heart of the community they represent, and to be the eyes, ears and voice of the residents of St. Peter’s and North Laine on the council. I will be that person if you give me the opportunity.

3) As in many parts of Brighton and Hove, car owners struggle to find a parking place on streets designed for a horse and cart. Is there an answer?

Tom: Not an easy one, but we must keep working to find solutions and there should be more emphasis on ensuring our various parking schemes are actually necessary, supported by local residents and take on board the practical concerns of the community.

Occasionally the solution might be a residential parking scheme, however, such schemes should only be introduced where it makes sense and has the backing of the community. Forcing a £100+ parking permit on residents, such as those in Belton Road who can already park their cars locally, runs the risk of appearing like a revenue-generating exercise.

The bigger solution has to be to reduce car-use altogether. Constantly expanding the number of parking spaces available is not a long term solution and would simply encourage greater car use in our city. We should therefore ensure that more money from the transport budget is spent on encouraging walking and cycling, and making public transport cheaper and faster. I have outlined more detail on reducing car-use in my answer to the next question.

For the record, despite what the Tories say, I don’t believe in forced implementation of unwanted, unnecessary parking controls, and neither do I believe in making it more difficult or expensive for people to own cars. I believe in positive approaches to encourage greater use of public transport rather than a war on cars, but we do need practical solutions to the parking fiasco in our city.


4) A recent planning proposal on the Lewes Road was turned down because the quality of the air was deemed too dangerous for the prospective residents. With similar problems at Preston Circus, on the other side of Round Hill, how can we go back to breathing clean air?

Tom: The poor quality of air on the Lewes road, and areas like Viaduct Road, is a direct result of heavy car use. If we genuinely want to improve air quality and take action on climate change then we need to reduce unnecessary car journeys. I personally choose not to drive for environmental reasons, but I do understand that driving is sometimes a necessity, particularly for local builders and other tradesmen that require their own suitable private transport in order to do their jobs. That’s why I don’t believe in waging a war on cars and penalising drivers, rather I would prefer to see us reduce car use positively by making public transport, walking and cycling the more desirable options.

We can do this by investing in public transport to make it cheaper and faster. Whilst we have a relatively good standard of public transport in Brighton & Hove, residents have consistently raised the high cost of bus journeys as being prohibitive for frequent journeys. For instance, it often costs less in petrol and parking to take the car into town for a shopping trip than the price of a return journey on the bus. Currently a bus journey in Brighton costs significantly more than a bus journey in cities like Edinburgh and London.

Improvements to public transport should be combined with investment in fuel efficient and electric vehicles, and by supporting and expanding schemes like car club and shared car journeys to work. For instance, more charge points around the city for electric vehicles will encourage the increasing crossover to electric. We should also encourage more walking and cycling by ensuring clear cycle lanes, better on-street cycle parking facilities, and by improving the provision of safe crossings and pedestrianised areas.

Whilst I support 20mph limits in particular areas for safety reasons I do not support the Green policy of forced implementation of 55mph limits on motorways and I believe the public should be widely consulted before a forced 20mph limit on all residential streets is implemented. Having spoken to hundreds of residents across our ward I know there are mixed views on a 20mph limit and wide opposition to the 55mph limit on motorways. The blanket implementation of such limits runs the risk of worsening congestion, and damaging the economy and the environment. Where we need 20mph limits for road safety, for instance near schools or on narrow winding roads, and where local residents support it, I will back such limits, but I believe that councillors are elected to represent not dictate against the will of the local community in order to ‘make driving around less attractive’.


Lizzie Deane
Lizzie DeaneSee also: Lizzie Deane, the Green candidate gives her views on our questions:


1) In recent years, residents have feared a gradual erosion of open spaces as larger gardens and gaps between properties are used for new building. How can the value of private open space be balanced with a pressing need for more houses?

Lizzie: Greens have resolutely fought to protect our precious Open Spaces such as the area behind Princes Road. Ward councillors have campaigned against development there and Green members on the Planning Committee have consistently voted against planning applications for the site.  We are also calling for a city-wide Open Spaces strategy that provides proper protection for these precious 'green lungs'.

2) Since the opening of the waste management facility in Hollingdean, many of the area's residents are stuck with a foul-smelling and noisy neighbour. Are we just the unlucky ones who have to pay the price for dealing with the city's waste?

Lizzie: Greens have consistently opposed the MRF from the outset and have since fought to get residents’ rightful concerns taken seriously by both the council's Environmental Health team, the Environment Agency and the site operators.

Cllr Keith Taylor brought this issue to national attention with a visit to the school in 2005 accompanied by The Independent, who incorporated it into a story about our campaign work.

3) As in many parts of Brighton and Hove, car owners struggle to find a parking place on streets designed for a horse and cart. Is there an answer?

Lizzie: You are right, the city was designed for the horse and cart and is not capable of supporting the number of vehicles currently packed onto our crowded streets. We believe that the council needs to prioritise better and cheaper public transport, more car club places, improve facilities for walking and cycling and reduce the need to travel by improving local facilities such as schools and shops.

One concrete example is where we have been leading the fight to implement 20mph speed limits on all residential streets. This will help to promote uptake of sustainable options and make driving around less attractive. I believe we also need a comprehensive city wide bus based rapid transit, which will make bus travel quicker. Cllrs Ian Davey and Pete West initiated Transport 21, a network of community groups seeking answers to the transport and traffic problems. The Tories would not support the transport chapter of the Sustainable Transport Strategy.


4) A recent planning proposal on the Lewes Road was turned down because the quality of the air was deemed too dangerous for the prospective residents. With similar problems at Preston Circus, on the other side of Round Hill, how can we go back to breathing clean air?

Lizzie: The major source of air pollution is motor vehicles. We need to make sustainable options such as public transport, walking & cycling and car clubs as affordable and accessible as possible.  Many of the options outlined in Question 3 are pertinent to this issue, too.

Rob Buckwell
Rob Buckwell-See below for the responses from Rob Buckwell, the Conservative candidate:


1) In recent years, residents have feared a gradual erosion of open spaces as larger gardens and gaps between properties are used for new building. How can the value of private open space be balanced with a pressing need for more houses?

Rob: It is a very difficult balance. The new Government’s announcement last week that Councils will be able to prevent ‘garden grabbing’ by developers (overturning Labour’s daft classification of gardens as ‘brownfield’) is a welcome move. I believe that incentivising councils and communities by allowing them to keep council tax receipts to spend on improving local infrastructure is a good approach.

2) Since the opening of the waste management facility in Hollingdean, many of the area's residents are stuck with a foul-smelling and noisy neighbour. Are we just the unlucky ones who have to pay the price for dealing with the city's waste?

Rob: It is incredibly difficult to find land in Brighton & Hove for waste sites without this impacting on a community, but it is always important to minimise any such negative effects. The new incinerator in Newhaven will help alleviate the pressure on the Hollingdean facility, which was built under the previous Labour administration.

3) As in many parts of Brighton and Hove, car owners struggle to find a parking place on streets designed for a horse and cart. Is there an answer?

Rob: There is no simple answer. Labour’s approach was to introduce controlled parking piecemeal across the City. This has led to displacement parking and problems in neighbouring wards where previously no problem existed. Since taking over in 2007 the Conservative administration has been bound to this approach, mainly because residents keep coming and asking for schemes (as a result of problems that previously didn’t exist!). The Greens and Labour think that there should be more of these parking controls and that we should be making it more difficult (and expensive) for people to own cars. The Conservative approach is about choice. We don’t think people should be penalised for using their cars and we should make it as easy as possible to get around the City. I support the Conservative administration's plans to instigate a review of parking across the whole city to see if it is possible for any unnecessary schemes to be rolled back.

4) A recent planning proposal on the Lewes Road was turned down because the quality of the air was deemed too dangerous for the prospective residents. With similar problems at Preston Circus, on the other side of Round Hill, how can we go back to breathing clean air?

Rob: I believe the key to improving air quality is reducing congestion (making it easier to park, not more difficult), improving public transport, and encouraging walking and cycling. I think it's excellent that, under this Conservative administration, we are the first council outside of London to introduce electric vehicle charging points. The take up will be slow (electric cars are still relatively expensive) but it's a start and we should do all we can to encourage them.
This page was last updated by Dave on 06-Jul-2010
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