Historic street could be handed back to its ‘20,000 pedestrians’

A scheme to pedestrianise an historic Brighton shopping street could soon go ahead after the council met a government inspector’s calls for a safe alternative route for vehicles.

East Street is one of the oldest in Brighton, leading from the Royal Pavilion to the seafront.  It is one of the busiest pedestrian routes in the city with up to 20,000 people walking it per day in peak times.  Yet it has narrow pavements and is dominated by vehicles, according to a new council report. 

Traders have long been campaigning to remove cars to create a more pleasant atmosphere for local and visiting shoppers.

In October 2012, the city council approved a plan to remove traffic from three key locations in the Old Town, including East Street.  However at a subsequent public inquiry a government inspector said the effects of the scheme on Little East Street should be looked at in more detail.    

Traders there voiced concerns about the impact of passing traffic on the ambience – particularly for people eating or drinking outside.  They also cited congestion, delivery problems and safety of pedestrians.  

As a result the council has amended the scheme, with features like speed humps and safety railings.  To ease deliveries, a new loading bay and passing points will be created.  An independent safety audit has since said the plan is now categorised as ‘low risk’.  It concluded pedestrians would be safe because of low vehicle speeds involved – typically 12mph at the north end and 5mph at the seafront end.  Analysis has concluded that even the very largest vehicles could move safely though the street.

On congestion, a council report says there would be roughly one extra vehicle a minute through the area between 11am and 7pm and no increase outside those times.  Lorries would be banned from the entire Old Town area between 11am and midnight.

Public consultation has involved sending out thousands of information packs, eliciting over 500 responses.  Adverts have been placed in local papers and officials have also held one-to-one meetings with traders to address concerns.

Deputy council leader and lead member for transport Cllr Ian Davey said: “There is clearly a slight detrimental effect on a small number of premises in Little East Street - but a very large positive impact on a greater number in East Street.  So it’s logical to press ahead, to bring the greatest benefits to the greatest numbers. 

“However, I’m really hopeful that Little East Street will eventually gain some new benefits as the Old Town area becomes more vibrant - in the same way the North Laine gained so much from pedestrianisation.”

If a final go-ahead is given by councillors, it is expected East Street will be pedestrianised by the end of November, with no access for vehicles between 11am and 7pm daily.  The report to the environment, transport and sustainability committee on October 7 is here on the council’s website among the agenda papers..

Under the Old Town plan, Ship Street has already been closed to vehicles at the junction with North Street.