By "the season" I don't mean the Society Season of Henley. Royal Ascot et al, but the silly season. I sincerely hope that the change in weather we have seen today marks the end of what has been a particularly silly Silly Season. Our wannabe Prime Minister has excelled himself this week here in Brighton at his political party's annual conference. Regular readers will - or might be - aware that I try to avoid political matters (and religion) on this blog as I have no wish to cause offence. But really! Ed Milliband, otherwise known as Red Ed, promised that if he becomes Prime Minister after the next election, he will immediately cap gas and electricity prices for two years. Only it's not really two years, just 20 months. And he seems to be unaware that he will have no control over the wholesale price of power coming from abroad. The price of shares in power companies immediately fell by 5%. I am surprised it wasn't more. Oh, and if development companies have land on which they have not yet started building, the land will be confiscated. Heaven forbid that the loonies ever take control of the asylum!
Perhaps it was appropriate that Red Ed's announcements were made in Brighton, a city where the loonies are already in control. Our Council is controlled by the Green Party, but most of the Green councillors represent wards in the city centre where green means a few blades of grass and from where few of the residents ever venture into true greenery. Well, that's how it seems to many of us who live in the outlying parts such as Westdene and Patcham. The Council's latest scheme involves Ditchling Road.
Perhaps I should explain that there are three main routes into the city centre. From the west, traffic uses the bypass and Dyke Road; from the north, London Road; and from the east, Lewes Road. That, at any rate, has been the usual practice since the bypass was built some 20 or 30 years ago. Until the Council "improved" the Lewes Road and, as a result, caused gridlock. Now a lot of drivers prefer to take a slightly longer route, travelling up Coldean Lane and then into the city by Ditchling Road. It just so happens that, from the bypass a tongue of the South Downs National Park stretches southwards some way into the city, with Ditchling Road running through it for about a mile. The northern stretch of this road has fields on both sides, then a stretch of unfenced grassland, including part of the field known as 39 Acres where many people walk their dogs, then a golf course on one side. This part of the road is subject to the national speed limit, ie 60mph. The Council's idea is to put cattle grids at each end, allow free grazing of cattle and sheep, reduce the width of the road, reduce the speed limit to 40mph, remove road markings, install a gravel-surfaced cycle/pedestrian track, bus stops, picnic areas and pedestrian crossings. The aim? To improve access to the National Park. All they will succeed in doing (if the scheme goes ahead) is to make the road more dangerous (free-roaming sheep and cattle on a major route into the city?) and reduce the number of people who use this valuable amenity.
Granted, the Council has asked for public consultation by means of a survey on their web site. There were 5 questions. Four of those questions were designed to elicit favourable responses, the fifth was a space for further comments. Then there were a raft of questions about "equality". No doubt, the comments will be ignored and the favourable responses will be a substantial majority in favour of the proposal.
Cynical of me? I call it realism.
The heart of old Brighton is an area bounded by East Street, North Street, West Street and King's Road (the seafront). There used to be a South Street but that was washed away in a storm hundreds of years ago. (And no, Skip, I don't remember it!) This area is known as the Lanes because so many of the streets are just that. This is Meeting House Lane.