9 January 2014

Business boost expected from car-free historic streets

Pavement café tables, better shopping and fewer accidents are a step closer under a scheme for car-free streets in Brighton’s historic heart.

The council is set to approve measures which would exclude vehicles most of the day from key parts of the old town – the area surrounding the Town Hall.  It follows a public inquiry concluded in the autumn when a government inspector approved most proposed changes.

The aim is to cut unnecessary traffic and improve the area for pedestrians and businesses.  

Main changes would be:

Traffic prohibited from East Street between 11am and 7pm each day. The inspector said the move would help businesses and improve road safety.  However it was felt impacts of diverting traffic into Little East Street should be investigated more. So excluding cars from East Street would be implemented once a sound scheme for Little East Street was ready. Plans are being designed and would be subject to public consultation.

A section of Ship Street between Duke Street and North Street would be closed to general traffic. There would be ‘access only’ for a few hours in the morning.  It would be one-way from the south instead of the north, barring access from North Street.  

Traffic would be excluded from a section of Prince Albert Street between Ship Street and Black Lion Street. Measures will be designed to allow loading for the nearby Friends Meeting House and access to a solicitors’ car park.  Before proceeding, the council wants to assess the effects of closing Ship Street.

The inspector said such changes would make for better shopping and improve the environment for pedestrians, with features like café tables on pavements.

HGVs will be banned from the area after 11am, from February or March, with the exact date to be arranged.  The government inspector agreed they are unsuited to the area, with its narrow historic streets. They blocked views of shop fronts from potential customers and forced traffic onto pavements, compromising safety.

Chair of the environment committee Cllr Pete West said:  “This will be a huge benefit for the shops and restaurants in this area, encouraging people to linger and browse around in a much more peaceful and pleasant environment.

“It will effectively extend The Lanes southwards bringing that historic but buzzing atmosphere to another group of streets.

“Everywhere we’ve had pedestrianisation or car-free hours has brought improvement – from the North Laine to George Street in Hove. I’m certain the same will happen here.”

A proposed restriction stopping cars from using tiny Brill’s Lane behind The Mariner pub at the bottom of East Street has been dropped. The inspector felt there would be little impact on traffic nuisance but some loss of residents’ parking and loading space.

A report recommending councillors to approve the measures goes before the environment committee on January 14.

First works are expected to start in Ship Street, with improvements there completed in March.  Dates for other changes are yet to be confirmed.

Car access to the area would be maintained by two road 'loops' off the seafront.  Cars would be allowed up Middle Street and down Ship Street, plus up Black Lion Street and down Little East Street behind the Town Hall.