Old Town traffic improvements

How we improved traffic flow throughout Old Town.

The Old Town is the area bounded by East Street, North Street, West Street and the sea, which forms the historic heart of the city. It is most well-known for The Lanes, an intricate maze of twisting alleyways. Hundreds of thousands of people that walk through the area each year and its narrow streets were not designed for the volume of traffic currently using them.

This project focuses on improving the Old Town by reducing traffic while still allowing essential vehicle users to access the area.

  • East Street became pedestrianised on weekends on 30 May 2015
  • Ship Street between North Street and Duke Street is closed to traffic from 11am each day

East Street

As of 30 May 2015 East Street, has been pedestrianised on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 7pm. The aim is to create a more pleasant environment for the thousands of shoppers and others who walk through the street at weekends.

Are vehicles permitted in the pedestrianised section?

Between 11am and 7pm no motor vehicles are permitted in the pedestrianised section. Any motor vehicles remaining in the street will receive a penalty notice and will not be able to exit the area until 7pm. During these times the pedestrianisation restriction on Little East Street will be lifted to allow motor vehicles to exit the area. Cycling continues to be permitted at all times.​

Ship Street

In June 2014 the following restrictions were applied to 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 is being enforced with temporary barriers initially, which will be replaced long term by bollards.




In 2012, we found that a significant proportion of traffic in the Old Town was through traffic, with 40% of vehicles entering the Old Town via Ship Street leaving within five minutes. As a result, the area suffered from high levels of traffic forcing pedestrians to crowd onto narrow footways. The volume of traffic detracted from the character of the area, created noise, pollution and increased the potential for conflict between pedestrians and vehicles.


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 wanted 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 agreed to 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 were also be looked at again once the impact of other measures in the Old Town had been assessed. The 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.

Contact Us

Please contact the Transport Projects Team on transport.projects@brighton-hove.gov.uk.