20MPH zones could be introduced across Brighton and Hove as early as next year to try to reduce road accidents.

Brighton and Hove City Council said speed limit reduction was a “high priority” and is planning to look at where they can force drivers to slow down after the Government announced it would cut restrictions on the use of 20mph limits.

Green councillors are to meet with council officials to draw up proposals for which areas should be looked at first.

Ian Davey, the council’s cabinet member for transport, said he did not want a blanket 20mph limit across the city but that whole areas, rather than individual streets, would be affected.

He suggested the first to be looked at would be the city centre.

Residents in other parts of Brighton and Hove would then be consulted on whether they want their area to be a 20mph zone.

Coun Davey said: “People across the city are calling for the streets where they live to be made safer.

“The most effective way to do this is to reduce the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph on residential streets.

“We could just go in somewhere and make it 20mph but I don’t think that’s the way to do it.

“It needs to be done with cooperation with local communities.

“It needs to be planned and done properly.

“Demand from communities for safer streets is overwhelming.

“There is no way we can respond only with a piecemeal approach.

“We need to do it strategically.”

Accident figures for the city reveal 194 pedestrians, including 87 children, were hurt in road crashes in 2009, the latest statistics available.

There are campaigns for 20mph schemes to be set up in Worthing and Lewes as well as Brighton and Hove.

Last week Transport Minister and Lewes MP Norman Baker announced changes which will allow local authorities to introduce 20mph signs more easily.

Councils will be able to paint speed limits on road surfaces rather than installing more expensive signs.

They would not need to install speed humps in such areas, could introduce variable limits around schools and would not need to get Government permission for further 20mph zones.

Mr Baker said: “They should be able to do so without spending time and money satisfying unnecessary Whitehall diktats.

"These changes will reduce costs for councils wanting to use 20 mph schemes, allowing them to act faster in response to the needs of their local residents while still ensuring that drivers know what speed they should drive at.”

Speed campaigners welcomed the news.

Rod King, founder and campaign director for 20’s Plenty for Us, said: “These new changes reflect the success and popularity of this move towards a safer and more pleasant street environment for us all.”

Cyclist Joe Newbigin, 25, from Brighton, said: “The idea of imposing a 20mph speed limit would be widely welcomed among cyclists.

“The Green council is much more favourable to influencing laws.”

Last year a council report recommended introducing traffic lights designed to switch to red when a driver goes over 20mph.

It also recommended targeting 20mph limits at roads with schools, playgrounds or nursing homes rather than a blanket speed limit.

Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said priority should be given to residential areas close to main roads that are used as rat-runs.

However she warned that signs alone would not deter some drivers from speeding – and that policing the zones could be difficult.

Brighton and Hove Bus Company has also warned widespread restrictions could a city-wide limit would affect timetables and ticket prices.

Geoffrey Theobald, Conservative group leader, said: “We welcome anything which allows local authorities to make more decisions themselves.

“To have a blanket 20mph zone would not be accepted by the vast majority of people in this city.”