PLANS to run a seven month trial reducing the pedestrian-only hours in a high street in an attempt to increase business have been approved.

The decision by Brighton and Hove City Council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee yesterday comes after residents and traders in George Street, Hove, joined forces to try and save the shopping street from becoming a ghost town.

A Facebook group was formed called Save George Street and a public consultation launched to address concerns over a lack of footfall and parking limitations.

The petition called for the street to be open to motorists from 3pm all year round.

The trial, which will allow access to cars from 4pm, will begin on April 1 next year.

David Ishola, owner of a tattoo and barber shop in the street, said: “You have a lot of people relying on shopping in the street, including elderly people and those with disabilities.

“It is the community as a whole that wants these changes, not just us traders. We can now move forward with the other long-term plans we have for George Street.”

Nearly 1,300 took part in the public consultation, with 74.1 per cent voting for the street to be a pedestrian-only zone between 10am and 3pm all year round.

The street currently has two seasonal time shifts per year, opening to motorists at 6pm from April 1 to October 31 and at 4pm between November 1 to March 31.

Traders in George Street have said business has also been affected by nearby Tesco removing free parking access.

Clare Moonan, councillor for Central Hove ward, said: “This proposal is about a compromise that I think on balance will ensure that George Street is kept viable for the benefit of the whole community.

“The removal of the two hours free parking by Tesco has had a huge effect on trade, with businesses reporting from a 10 per cent to 32 per cent drop in takings.

“I have spoken personally to many traders who have confirmed this impact. If shops start to fold it will be a slippery slope into total decline.”

Green councillors and businesses including Bricycles and Brighton and Hove Buses have spoken out against the scheme, claiming it will undermine public safety, increase bus times, worsen air quality and threaten the community culture.

Green Cllr Pete West, said: “This is an absolute disgrace. It is reckless.

“The council report says ‘users of the road were clearly against’ any change to opening hours for cars.

“The council’s own road safety manager has made it clear that the proposals could increase the number of collisions and injuries.”