Old Town traffic improvement proposals

The Old Town is the area bounded by East Street, North Street, West Street and the sea, which forms the historic core of Brighton.

We want to improve the Old Town for the hundreds of thousands of people that walk through the area each year. Its narrow streets were not designed for the volume of  traffic currently using them. We would like to look at ways of reducing traffic, while still allowing essential vehicle users to access the area.

The Old Town then and now

Originally the heart of the old fishing town Brighthelmstone, the area has been developed since the 13th Century and the current street pattern remains as it was then. The Old Town is most well-known for The Lanes, an intricate maze of twisting alleyways.

The Old Town today is the thriving, economic heart of the city. It is one of the major destinations in the city for tourists and locals alike, offering a mix of history and heritage, shops and restaurants. The area retains its busy, bustling feel throughout the year and in the summer the Old Town becomes even more popular as tourist numbers swell, filling its many bars, cafes and restaurants.  For many tourists and residents, walking around The Lanes is one of Brighton's highlights.

Current transport issues within the Old Town

Currently a significant proportion of traffic in the Old Town is through traffic, with 40% of vehicles entering the Old Town via Ship Street leaving within five minutes.

Many people need to access the Old Town using motorised vehicles.  As a result, the area now suffers from high levels of traffic. This volume of traffic is unsuitable for the Old Town as it detracts from the character of the area by dominating road space, creating noise and pollution and increasing the potential for conflict between pedestrians and vehicles. In parts of the Old Town, traffic dominates the area forcing pedestrians to crowd onto narrow footways. On a typical Saturday, an average of 200 vehicles an hour drive into the Old Town, compared with 600 pedestrians entering using East Street alone.

The challenge faced is to meet the needs of these road users whilst also reducing overall levels of traffic for the benefit of pedestrians in the area. Examples of those whose needs must be considered are:

  • Residents with private parking spaces
  • Vehicles servicing businesses
  • People using on-street parking for residents, blue-badge holders, shoppers
  • Taxis
  • Emergency services


A consultation exercise was carried out in June 2012. The main results were:

  • 66% were in favour of a traffic reduction scheme.
  • Amongst businesses 50% favoured a traffic improvement scheme and 50% wanted no change.
  • Amongst residents of the Old Town, 55% wanted a new scheme.
  • In general, people would like vehicular access (for those with legitimate reason to enter the area) to be permitted at all times. If there were to be a timed restriction, the most popular times to ban cars were during the middle of the day.

The Proposals

Following consultation, the council proposed to implement the following measures:

  • East Street to be closed to traffic between 11am and 7pm each day.
  • The section of Ship Street between North Street and Duke Street to be closed to traffic from 11am each day.
  • The section of Prince Albert Street between Ship Street and Black Lion Street to be permanently closed to traffic.
  • Access to Boyce's Street limited only to those vehicles accessing property on the street.

Public Inquiry

The proposals were the subject of a public inquiry in July 2013, following objections to some of the proposed traffic orders.

After hearing evidence from council officers, residents, businesses, and pedestrian charities, the Inspector supported the proposals to close the northern-most section of Ship Street.  He agreed with council officers that closing the stretch of road will dramatically reduce the amount of traffic in the area - a key objective of the project.

The inspector also supported the proposal for an HGV ban after 11am. This was put forward by many local businesses who told the council that HGVs ruined the character of the area.

The Inspector agreed that proposals to close the middle part of East Street to all traffic between 11am and 7pm each day would help pedestrians and businesses however he highlighted some potential safety issues concerning redirected traffic on Little East Street.  Officers will look again at Little East Street to determine an alternative design for the road that will resolve these issues.  Plans to close a section of Prince Albert Street will also be looked at again once the impact of other measures in the Old Town have been assessed.

A proposal to close Boyce’s Street to through traffic, supported by businesses, residents and Middle Street School, was agreed before the public inquiry and will go ahead as planned.

View a copy of the Inspector’s report.

Ship Street Implementation

From Monday 30th June the following new restrictions will apply to the section of Ship Street between North street and Duke Street:

  • The one-way flow will be reversed so that vehicles may only travel northbound.
  • The road will be closed to all vehicles before 8am and after 11am each day, i.e. vehicles will only be permitted in the road between 8am and 11am each day.
  • The road will be subject to an access only restriction, meaning only vehicles accessing a building on the road will be permitted on the road.

 The restriction will be enforced with temporary barriers initially, which will be replaced long term by bollards.

East Street / Little East Street

Revised Traffic Orders for the East Street and Little East Street elements of the scheme will be consulted on between 20th August 2014 and 10th September 2014.

For further details you can view the East Street and Little East Street Traffic Orders here. 

An independent Road Safety Assessment of the Little East Street scheme was carried out and can be viewed here (PDF 181k).

If you have any queries or would like to discuss the above please contact Tom.Campbell@brighton-hove.gov.uk.