It was shocking that Brighton & Hove had a Tory council for such a long time but, alongside our MP Caroline Lucas, Bill Randall is turning Brighton a vibrant shade of Green. We asked the new leader of the council about some of the Broken Brighton issues.
Brighton & Hove now has a Green MP and a Green council. Did you ever thing this was possible?
We thought we would do enough to at least be in a coalition this year. We did better than expected but it’s been hard work over a long time. And we think we caught a bit of the spirit of the city. Generally we’re a young party – I’m rather older than most of the people, both on the council and in the party – and we have a lot of people in our group who are interested in the music scene.
If live music is important to Brighton what can the council do to support and protect it?
First of all I think you need a range of venues, from the Brighton Centre right down to The Greys in my own ward where Jason of Jason & The Scorchers is playing this month. I’m certainly going – a bit of punkabilly, I’m rather fond of that. The other thing about venues is where they are. So there was the problem of The Freebutt, which I think was in the wrong place. I think the people running the venue’s intentions were good but it was impossible to square that circle. The Greys is right in Hanover but it’s not quite as loud. You do have to think of the greater good of the community around it. But certainly we encourage live music.
But the Freebutt was a live venue long before the flats went up. Is what’s already there taken into account when planning permission is given?That is an issue, yes, but you have to make judgements. We also have a housing crisis in the city. And that Phoenix Brewery site was a big opportunity to provide some housing for people on limited incomes.
One of the things that’s most interesting about the new Green council’s policies has been the encouragement of protesting.
It’s not an encouragement, it’s a recognition that people have the right to protest, the right to peaceful protest. We’re acknowledging that and accommodating it where we need to. I can say too that the local police are, generally, very good on this. For instance there was the protest camp on the Steine. We were urged by some people to immediately call in bailiffs and throw the people off. But we negotiated with them and gave them a timescale and they went. There was no unpleasantness.
Can anything be done about The Mound being a waste ground in the middle of town for 25 years? Or is it none of the council’s business?As a general principle, if land or buildings stay empty we should always try and find a temporary use for them. And there have been lots of good examples of that happening. We should always try and do it by agreement. I don’t know a lot about that particular space – I’ve read about it but it’s not in my ward so I haven’t actually dealt with it directly. I was more involved with the Lewes Road one which was hugely successful.
What about the relentless march of the supermarkets?The gradual take over by large chains is something we don’t approve of. Brighton’s offer – what makes it different – is its small shops. We can’t stop supermarkets opening. We can refuse licensing for alcohol. Sainsbury’s just unsuccessfully appealed against a decision that they’d lost so the North Street Sainsbury hasn’t got an off licence. We can stop them in the North Laine because that’s a conservation area and you can’t knock several small shops together into one, which is a protection in itself.
WORDS AND PHOTO BY JAMES KENDALL