Growing our Living City: Securing our Environmental Life Support System into 2030 and beyond


Brighton & Hove is a rapidly evolving place. Over the next 10 to 20 years we are forecasting an increasing population, changing demographics, and increasing pressures on housing and other resources. We also know that we are living in times of technological change, although what these changes will mean for our future is not always clear.

Brighton & Hove Connected and city stakeholders are running a series of events on a number of themes, to help the city examine how we can prepare for the future.

The GROWING OUR LIVING CITY event was held on 4th July 2018 @ the Brighthelm in Brighton

The Living Coast Biosphere programme and Brighton & Hove City Council, together with Community21 presented a provocative engagement event to explore possible futures for the environment and the sustainability of our city as it grows.

Who for: This event was for all people with an interest in the future and long term sustainability of the city as it continues to grow and develop. We welcomed attendees who work within and / or have a keen passion in the area of the environment and sustainability, those who have not previously been involved in a consultation of this kind, as well as those engaged in developing our city for the future, including planners, developers and 'green infrastructure' experts.

Questions discussed included:

  • How do we conserve our natural capital while providing thousands of additional homes and growing the local economy?
  • How can we work together to effectively integrate nature into our urban areas and daily lives?
  • How will we cope with the additional challenges of reducing public-sector funding and increasing climate change impacts?

Who attended? Over 70 people from a variety of organisations took part, including:

What happened at the event?

Active participation!

After listening to our two inspiring speakers (scroll down for more information about them) we invited participants to first think about the city now - what is the 'treasure' and 'trash'? And what are the 'opportunities' and 'issues' from the perspective of the sustainability of our natural environment?

We then asked everyone to imagine we were in the city of Brighton & Hove in 2030 - what does it look like? How have we managed to maintain the sustainability of our natural environment despite the challenges of an increasing population, more urban development, and growing climate change impacts?

Feedback was gathered across four wide areas to provide focus. We will be bringing this all together in a summary and adding to this page at a later date, so keep checking back. Here are some images of the feedback gathered by area, followed by some of the key visions:

1. Seafront

Visions for the Seafront:

- Sustainable transport system flowing from city centre to Seaford

- Reduce retail outlets

- Ensure connection to Marina for citizens

- Co-creating to capture the character of Brighton and its people

- ‘Urban room’ city space on the seafront for participatory decision-making

- Resilient and green streets

2. The City Centre

Visions for the City Centre:

- Connecting the City to the Seafront for the people

- Green corridor from station to Seafront with tram system

- Replace some of seafront tarmac with biodiversity

- Traffic into underpass and no traffic at all on Seafront

- Urban greening

- Traffic free city centre

- Seafront tram system

- All-electric buses

- Replace tarmac with permeable surfaces

- Stop people tarmacking over gardens

- Valley Gardens development complete

- Better mix of affordable city-owned mixed housing

- Use of space, building out on the Marina?

- Re-purposing of empty property

- Reduced car ownership, planning for new technologies

- Using space saved for green spaces and corridors

- Taking better care of our aquifers

- Green arteries from Downs to Sea

- Promoting community and guerrilla gardening

3. Neighbourhoods

Visions for our Neighbourhoods:

- Individual and community at centre of planning process

- Active engagement with positive results, driven by the community

- Affordability and flexibility in the housing stock

- Sustainability built in to new builds

- Retrofitting existing stock with sustainability features

- Prioritising health and wellbeing

- Tacking inequalities and supporting community cohesion

- Greenways to encourage walking

4. Urban Fringe

Visions for the Urban Fringe:

- ‘Layer and link’ transport and wildlife corridors from Downs to the city

- Green walkways and cycle ways

- Encouraging wildlife

- Urban fringe with housing and more nature

- Connectivity with the city through good transport, buses, bikes and bus-bikes

- Mixed housing and affordability to ensure diversity

- Designed, owned and maintained by people who live there

- Buildings on land in peri-urban fridge to house sustainability projects, composting, digital labs etc.

- Behaviour change, installation of good enough public transport that people living in the urban fringe are willing to give up their cars

Questions asked, with a summary of the responses from the keynote speakers, Tony Whitbread (TW) and Steffen Lehmann (SL):

Q: In your experience of successful projects around the world is there a pattern of key drivers that made it happen? (from Jess Price, Sussex Wildlife Trust)

A: SL - Citizen participation and co-production is key. Singapore is heralded as a great example of successful urban regeneration, but under a non -democratic system it is relatively easy to make top-down decisions. Actually, the reality is disappointing: billions have been invested in developing public space, but because citizens weren’t really involved in their planning, things aren’t nearly as effective as they should have been.

Short -termism creates difficulties and this is perpetuated by term limits and political cycles. The reality of elections every four years creates a window of two years for real decision-making and action. There is a misalignment with environmental, which operates best on a much longer term basis.

Q: Where will the money come from? Paris has been doing participatory budgeting for years, should we look at this? (from David Greenfield, SOENECS and Brighton Eco Dinner Club)

TW: There is a real economy from natural capital that we are not discovering, or accounting for. We are getting the benefits but not recording the value. However, if natural capital lost we will feel it, not least in economic terms. Accurate cost / benefit analysis is needed to find out: what is the cost of NOT doing the things we need to around sustainability? Investment can then be made wiser.

SL: In support of Tony’s point, there is a Seattle study looking at whether having a bench/tree or a car parking space in front of a shop yields more value, which found the value of benches and trees to be significantly more (because more shoppers are attracted by the amenity).

Furthermore, there is funding out there available through the EU and government and we need to ensure we are tapping into it.

Q: Most cities have a centre of gravity like a bullseye on a target, the centre of gravity for Brighton is the Palace Pier. Multi-centric centres would be a fantastic thing to do in our city (a recent Gehl report gave some ideas for how the city can do this). How can we connect the city up more without just building more roads for cars? (from Matt Easteal, Communities Team, BHCC

SL: Short routes between centres, which need to be bikeable and walkable.

TW: There are trends already emerging towards a natural polycentric approach. We should take note of these and develop new centres through evolution not revolution

Q: We do lots of work around participation and citizen engagement. How do we encourage politicians and decision makes to participate in citizen engagement, when they can’t guarantee the results they may want? (from Victoria Williams, Food Matters)

SL: Politicians are very aware of the backlash if they do not engage, and social media encourages this. Engagement needs to be authentic and honest and start at the very start of strategy development, and remain open-ended, not driving towards a prescribed outcome.

TW: Politicians tend to slip back into a traditional mindset; don’t let them!

Q: I was pleased to hear you say that health and wellbeing should be at the centre of policy making. What are some strong examples of this? (from Katie Cumming, Public Health Consultant, BHCC)

SL: Scandinavia: Helsinki, Copenhagen, Oslo. These cities have had huge successes encouraging walking, and all in a climate where there is snow for half the year. They have had great impact despite less favourable climate conditions than we have in this country.

TW: All around the Sussex district and region there are people in authorities who are very excited and active on these issues, we have a lot to learn from our local area.

SL: In order to survive, retail needs to reinvent itself as a new attractive centre of social and community activities. This can also address loneliness and isolation and contribute to wellbeing.

Q: Is there an example of anywhere that has been regenerated without gentrification? This seems to be an inescapable trend. (from Cheryl Finella, Economic Development, BHCC)

SL: This trend is very deep rooted. A Liverpool development project: Granby Four Streets by Assemble Architects has been very successful at managing to keep housing affordable, and is community driven:


However, even here we are seeing a prevalence of academics in their 40s and 50s moving in and diversity is disappearing. Everyone is searching for the silver bullet to keep it under control (we can’t eradicate it completely) but it’s not clear what this is.

Feedback from participants was gathered with an online survey - here are some of the comments:

1. What did you like about the event?

o Activity and Speakers

o inspiring speakers

o Fast pace with written outcomes rather then just long discussions. The talks were also very good.

o The Bringing together of different interested parties. Common feeling of inspiration to really invest in the future of Brighton to make it a world class exemplar of a "sustainable city". A desire to do something quiet radical to future proof the city.

o The quality of the participants

o The workshop part where we could get involved

o Meeting such a range of people and hearing different ideas. Also having the space for 'blue sky thinking'.

o great speakers and ideas from them and the group

o Collaborative working and interesting presentations.

2. What is your key ‘take away’ from the event?

o Brighton is a great place and has the potential to be even better.

o The difficulty of behaving as an autonomous council when strung with national constraints and reduced finances

o There are lots of people thinking the same things about what needs to happen in the city e.g. green infrastructure, but it is not clear why it isn't getting done.

o Potential to really do something different and meaningful. Putting Health & Wellbeing at the heart of policy making and delivery. Creating a green infrastructure network with multifunctional benefits. Connecting to the South Downs.

o I want to drive change in planning and play a part in the shift to sustainable living

o Sadly nothing really changes. Been having the same conversations for years.

o There is a long way to go in letting people know about community-led options, particularly in terms of how it can help battle gentrification.

o health and wellbeing as a driver for a lot of the changes to our city to increase green spaces and our natural capital

o It is critically important to address issues of inequality and enable a wider community to participate in City planning and development to protect and enhance the shape of our City for the greater well being of all.

3. Do you have any further questions arising from the event?

o How do you engage with the wider community, not the same old faces?

o What are the next steps. How will the vision influence BHCC policy and activity?

o The challenge of keeping the community engaged and involved!?

o What's the next step?

o more examples of how cities with similar contexts, constraints and potential opportunities to inspire our health agenda

o How will everyone work together to implement this vision for the future.

4. What topics would you like to hear discussed at a possible future event on 'Growing our Living City'?

o How local groups are making progress with the agenda

o Boosting the public's sense of ownership of place.

o The barriers to change, why things haven't happened so far.

o Multi centric sustainable mixed use housing development and agroecological food production on the Downland Estate

o The barriers that prevent us from making real progress

o Land and property ownership. Access to public space. How to (seriously) make cars less dominant.

o Tackling poverty and deprivation. Involving communities in planning their needs for healthier living spaces. Prioritising green networks alongside better public transport systems and setting targets for tree planting, allotment spaces and small parks in all new developments

9 / 10 respondents wanted to remain on the mailing list for future events and collaborative opportunities.

Some key questions were put to Speakers and participants at the event, see what they had to say, here:

What will happen to this feedback?

 All the feedback gathered at this and the other Vision 2030 engagement events will feed into a shared vision for Brighton and Hove as a city in 2030, and will be presented to city leaders to help them make key decisions about the future development of the city.

 It will help clarify what policy questions will need to be asked, to help shape decision makers now and in the future.

 This process of coming together and discussing the future of our city with the focus on the natural environment was achieved, and we hope it will spark more conversations and partnership working across the city.

If you would like to contribute further to the discussion around the sustainability of the environment in our city for the future, please send any thoughts and comments by email to nuala.friedman@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Huge thanks to Nick Gant of Community21 for the expert facilitation and students from Brighton University for their help with resources and set up.

THANK YOU FOR VISITING THIS PAGE! We hope to see you again soon, and here's to a healthy and sustainable future Brighton & Hove!

Best wishes, from the The Living Coast Biosphere programme, Brighton & Hove City Council Policy Partnership & Scrutiny Team organisers.

Scroll down to enjoy some resources gathered to help stimulate your thinking about the future for our city:

The Living Coast Biosphere Programme

Brighton & Hove and Lewes are a Unesco Biosphere Region. Check these films out to find out more:

The Biosphere's Rain Garden project:

Here is our event facilitator Nick Gant talking about his project Community21:

Check out these resources from one our guest speakers, Professor Steffen Lehmann:

Click here to read more about Steffen Lehmann's Future Cities Leadership Lab: http://www.city-leadership.com/

Former CEO of Sussex Wildlife Trust, Tony Whitbread also gave a presentation at the July 2018 event. Here'a a video with more about what they do, and why our Sussex countryside is so important:

Council studies, strategies and other resources

Brighton & Hove City Tracker Resident Survey 2017

The City Tracker is an annual survey conducted by the council to collect the views of residents on a variety of areas. Here is a snapshot of the results from the 2017 survey, on questions about the cities open spaces and seafront:

Brighton & Hove Population projections

Current and relevant planning documents

'Urban Characterisation study' from Brighton & Hove Council (2009) is a comprehensive study of the characteristics of different neighbourhoods, which make up the city of Brighton & Hove. It was produced to inform future planning policies, and assist with planning decision making: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/planning/heritage/urban-characterisation-study


'Public Life, Public Space'. Brighton & Hove City Council is committed to enhancing the public realm and making the city work better for everyone. Our Public Life Public Space Study audits the current quality of the public realm and makes recommendations as to how things can be improved in future. View the study here: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/content/parking-and-travel/travel-transport-and-road-safety/public-life-public-space


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