Thursday, 12 November 2009

Madeira Drive events in 2010

Brighton Council has just published a list of planned events taking place next year - including the usual crop of car-based rallies at Madeira Drive, a handful of events for Brighton Festival, and, of course, the inaugural Brighton Marathon! It's an impressive list.

I am delighted that so many different events - to cater for all tastes - are planned. They provide entertainment for residents - and play a key role in making Brighton an attractive tourist destination. A busy events diary is one of the mark's of our city's vibrancy. It keeps our hotels full (well fuller than they might be without so much going on, anyway) - and provides a welcome boost to turnover in our shops, cafes and restaurants as they are surely the reason behind many of the 8m or so tourist trips to the city made each year.

But as local councillors one of our roles is to defend the interests of residents - and that means doing the sometimes dirty job of holding event planners to account over the unintended negative side-effects of planned events.

For example, the recent White Air extreme sports festival held on Madeira Drive was fantastic - a real showcase for the city. I enjoyed it immensely, as did my five-year-old son (especially the glider simulator!) - but residents saw Kemp Town beach closed for three days, and disn't see a penny in compensation.

At last month's full council meeting I asked David Smith (the cabinet member responsible) whether he thought residents should be entitled to any payback for the loss of access to the beach for three days - even if only in the form of cheap tickets to future festivals.

He dismissed the idea roundly, claiming their was no loss of amenity at all. Well maybe being asked to pay £40 to walk on the beach outside your house for the day doesn't represent a 'loss of amenity' to him - but it certainly does to the thousand of Queen's Park and Kemp Town residents on low incomes.

And then there's the issue of air pollution and carbon emission generated by all the motor-based events. Surely the council could just adjust the way it charges event promoters so those events which generate more pollution are charged a little more than those which don't, creating a good old-fashioned financial incentive for events to clean up their act?

Any money raised in this way - and from a small levy on ticket prices, where these are charged - could be put into a 'Madeira Drive' fund to be spent on the regeneration of the area to everyone's benefit?

The full list will be discussed - and permission granted (or not!) at the next meeting held by the Culture, Recreation and Tourism cabinet member David Smith on December 8th.

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