Last Friday I put on my local Living Streets hat to take part in a consultation about the future of Brighton Station, run by Brighton and Hove City Council, Southern and Network Rail. The event was billed as the Brighton Station Gateway ‘Charrette,’ which I now know (from Wiki) is a format for working through urban design principles and exploring possible solutions. And Brighton Station sure needs solutions, particularly from a pedestrian point of view.
Stakeholders at the charrette represented many different interests – the bus company, taxi drivers, people with disabilities, cyclists, the police and urban designers. Discussions centred on potential improvements to the ‘gateway’ approaches to Brighton Station, both north and south. Objectives? “To improve the experience for visitors arriving in Brighton; transform the poor quality of the public realm; and resolve traffic conflicts.” On the last, it’s clear that resolving the current problems will need some hard choices by planners, developers and stakeholders, perhaps routing transit traffic (ie, most of the cars which pass in front of the station) away from the station area. Such hard decisions should generate big benefits – St Pancras International shows that it’s possible to have a major rail terminus that is both functional and attractive, and the same goes for other stations. For example, Sheffield Station is now a great way to arrive in that city. There was a strong sense that, as an astrologer might say, the planets are now in a rare alignment, presenting the possibility that plans made now could actually make a difference. Senior people from the council were there throughout, including Mary Mears, Leader of the Council, and Geoff Raw, the Strategic Director of Place. Hopefully, the end result will be that Brighton Station gets on the right track.