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Car ban divides The Lanes
Hundreds of vehicles a day still travel along the narrow streets of The Lanes, Brighton.
Brighton and Hove City Council passed plans last year to limit access to motorists, saying it will reduce pollution, improve road safety, boost business and make it more attractive to hundreds of thousands of people who visit the area every year.
But after nearly 70 people, including taxi drivers, residents and businesses, officially opposed the plans, the go-ahead will unusually depend on a public inquiry planned for May.
Some opposition councillors have suggested the local authority look again at the plans rather than pay for the costly independent panel.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said: “While we are committed to following necessary due process, I’m disappointed by the delay and extra expense that will be incurred as result of these objections.
“The vast majority of the public supported these proposals in the consultation process; the plans are similar to restrictions seen in historic city centres around the world.
“Given the support for the proposals from the public and traders we had hoped to have them in place by this summer season.
“We hope to have the inquiry process start as soon as possible but the money spent on it could have been better spent improving the area.”
The old town area is bordered by West Street, North Street, East Street and Kings Road.
The proposals, which were advertised in December, called for a section of Ship Street to be pedestrianised between Duke Street and North Street from 11am each day.
East Street would also be shut to vehicles from between 11am and 7pm daily.
It also advertised closing Prince Albert Street permanently to traffic between Middle Street and Bartholomews.
A number of parking and loading bays will also be removed.
Ristorante Donatello’s owner Sue Addis, from The Brighton Lanes Traders Group, said most traders in the area are objecting to the plans.
She said: “Pedestrianisation would be fantastic if it was done in the right way.
“But they are only planning to put up signs and bollards.
“We would rather see something over three or five years which would see these transformed into beautiful areas, not a piecemeal approach like this.
“New Road is now fantastic and a scheme should be based on that.”
Most local traders who were keen to support pedestrianisation pointed to New Road, where a shared scheme allows cars to pass through and pedestrians to stroll freely.
Guy Pearce, who works in Prince Albert Street, does not think pedestrianising the stretch of road will have any effect on local businesses.
He said: “But I think it’s a nice idea. I would like it if I was walking down here.
“It’s more visually pleasing and is likely to attract more people to the area.”
'Unsafe for cars'
James Woodward, who runs No Walls gallery in Prince Albert Street, said: “I think it’s a good idea as long as they do it properly.
“It’s already almost treated as if it is pedestrianised anyway, which can be unsafe for cars driving down.
“North Laine’s pedestrianised areas never quite seem to have been done properly and there are still vans and taxis using it.”
All businesses were concerned about how their deliveries would work with the new pedestrianised times.
The news has upset some shop owners in the stretch of Prince Albert Street between Black Lion Street and East Street, which will not be pedestrianised.
Siobhan Di Rienzo, from The Lollipop Shoppe, said: “I’m worried that we’re going to end up with more [traffic] difficulties, which is already a massive problem.
“I have had massive rows with the council about deliveries.
“Lorries come down here and pull up on the pavement, leaving no room for people pushing prams or anyone else to get through.
“Pedestrianising would get rid of that problem and also make it a great space to hold markets.”
Tom Newham, from wine shop Twenty One, opposite, said: “Lorries are a big problem because they park and obstruct three or four shops at a time for up to an hour.
“So I’m in favour of completely pedestrianising it.”
Of the 68 objections, 62 were from the taxi trade.
In response to the traffic orders, Mick Hildreth, of the GMB union, said he had “serious concerns” that elderly and disabled passengers will not be able to reach their destinations.
Push up fares
Mr Hildreth added he also felt it would increase pollution and push up fares due to extra distances that needed to be covered.
He said: “The GMB objected to the Old Town redevelopments as the closure of the roads included in the traffic order will have an adverse effect on taxi drivers, forcing them to drive customers further on already saturated roads. This will result in higher fares for their passengers.
“Dropping customers in North Street at the entrances to The Lanes will also cause traffic chaos.
“The GMB do not wish to cost the council tax-paying residents of Brighton and Hove £25,000 for a public inquiry and suggest that the Green administration negotiate with the GMB and other objectors to reach a settlement that does not cost the council tax payer any money as they must have been aware this would happen.”
Instead of trying to resolve the issue, the local authority’s transport committee is set to approve the public inquiry at its meeting today (January 15).
Labour councillor Gill Mitchell said: “We’re going to ask the council to look again at the plans.
“Local businesses need their loading bays close to their premises and we cannot justify the expenditure on the public inquiry.”
A council spokeswoman said anyone with an interest has the right to make their case at the inquiry.
Jason Bright from LoveFit Cafe
“The concerns we have are about access, which is inadequate for deliveries.
“These proposals would see quite a lot of parking space taken away as well.
“The whole area is quite good for tourism – tourists like to come into The Lanes, but the locals don’t as much.
“So we are against anything which will make it more difficult for those localpeople to pop into The Lanes.
“I would be for it if it was like New Road, which is amazing, and it would do something to pull people in.
“But it’s going to be a botch because they don’t have the same amount of money to put into it.
“They should do some saving for two or three years and do this properly.
“It needs to be something that makes the place more attractive, not just bollards blocking off roads.”
Peter O’Brien from Simply The Best
“Pedestrianising the area will be good for cafe culture but hurt retail trade.
“People who have families or big things to carry need to have easy access to their cars.
“It’s terrible now with parking charges. People don’t want to be ripped off – whether they can afford it or not is secondary.
“Getting rid of more of the on-street parking spaces will only exacerbate the problem.”
Jo Bowker from The Whiskey Shop
“I’m always up for pedestrianisation generally.
“It gets congested around this corner with big lorries making deliveries through the day.
“I think it does encourage people to take their time a little bit more when they are in a pedestrian area.
“New Road has worked really well because drivers don’t feel it’s their right of way and they drive more carefully and the pedestrians can walk around more freely.
“Dual spaces are really good because people respect it.”
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