A seafront road that was chosen by a Brighton & Hove newspaper to portray empty parking spaces has turned out to be packed with parked cars.
On Friday (May 19), the Argus printed two photos intended to show that Brighton’s major seafront parking zone on Madeira Drive was empty of cars. Copyright means we can’t publish the Argus photos but they’re on the Argus website.
However, some new photos, taken by us the following day, to match the Argus pics angle-for-angle, tell a very different story.
Why did the Argus start at 9.45am on a Thursday morning, in the middle of a school term and one of the coldest, most miserable Mays for years? Even on good days, Madeira Drive is deserted at that time. That’s why the driving schools use it: the place is empty.
So we snapped the seafront the day after the Argus article, at a time when visitors do traditionally come. And come they did.
The sun was out but it wasn’t that warm, and was clouding over as we photographed. The Argus’ own printed forecast for the day was “Cloudy becoming rainy”.
Yet what did we see? Well, certainly not a shortage of parked cars.
The place was full, whether we looked on Madeira Drive or Marine Parade above, with cars cruising up and down, searching for spaces and u-turning at Black Rock for another go.
When a space was vacated, it was filled within seconds and usually cars had to queue for the empty spaces.
This was happening all the way along Madeira Drive and above, on Marine Parade.
And if the Argus had found empty spaces at Wednesday lunchtime, using a careful camera angle, we didn’t find the same thing a few hours later the same afternoon, when our taxi tried to pull up near the Terraces Bar and Grill on Marine Parade but found the parking packed.
A sad thing about using a few carefully timed photographs to make things seem worse than they really are is the potential damage done to the city. The Brighton & Hove Green administration, Brighton & Hove City Council and The Argus all want the same thing: a city of improving quality and economic prosperity.
But to bombard readers, day in and day out, with a negative message about the city’s attraction to visitors, and to manipulate content to prove that point, does nothing to help the city’s economy or the traders who rely on visitors and tourism.
To take photos of empty spaces at a time when they can be expected to be empty, and then to present them as proof of general emptiness, damages the city and insults the paper’s readers.
In fact, there is much evidence that visitors to the city are up.
Early reports from April’s Easter weekend shows visitor numbers up, and in May, the Argus itself reported that visitors to the Pavilion and museums were up by a whopping 17%. The Brighton Festival is having a record-breaking year, city centre restaurants were full over the weekend and on Saturday the seafront was remarkably busy, despite a poor forecast and it not yet being high season.
And, incidentally, even under the new parking scheme, half a day’s parking right by the pier (if you could get it) was £6. Fish, chips and diet coke for two in the same place was £13.30.
So we call on the Argus, please, to stop its negative campaigning: stop trying to run down our city and its hard-working businesses. Instead, why not work with the Greens, the Council and the tourist bodies to promote the great things Brighton & Hove offers?
Meanwhile, please, when it comes to “Park the charges” it’s time to copy Madeira Drive last weekend and Pack It In.