THE council is being urged to shut more streets to traffic after the popularity of a car ban in a seafront road.

Madeira Drive in Brighton has been closed to cars since March to give residents more exercise space during the UK lockdown.

A poll taken by The Argus found that 60 per cent of readers were in favour of making the change permanent with the area being described as “delightful” now it is devoid of drivers. Some have even urged Brighton and Hove City Council to go further in its pursuit of a carbon neutral city by 2030.

Green Councillor Amy Heley said that “more roads have to follow” amid ongoing discussions on the future of Madeira Drive.

The Argus:

The Preston Park representative said: “Closing Madeira Drive was a fantastic first step, but as we ease out of lockdown, we have now repeated time and time again that the council must continue to open up roads for active travel.

“The Government’s own guidance now calls on every council to do more to ensure social distancing and promote pedestrian and cycling access – and we are urging the council to fast-track transport improvements.

“However, it is a shame that it’s taken a global pandemic for those in power to realise the necessity of providing the infrastructure needed to allow a shift towards walking and cycling in Brighton and Hove.”

Cllr Heley, whose proposal for a car-free city centre scheme in January is currently being explored, said Madeira Drive had shown this shift was possible. But she said it was “crucial” that more roads followed suit.

Cllr Heley highlighted the benefits this could bring for air quality, road safety and wellbeing and social distancing, but also stressed that “any proposals take into account residents and traders who need access to their local streets”.

The Argus:

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has also thrown her support behind pedestrianising streets in the city.

She said: "We have lived with toxic air pollution in Brighton for far too long.  North Street is one of the ten most polluted streets in the country.

"Now we know what it’s like to have city streets with air that’s safe to breathe, and we can’t throw this away. Parts of Brighton have been transformed and have shown us what our city could be like. 

"The Government’s ludicrous £27 billion budget for new roads needs to be re-thought, with money allocated instead to make streets safe for walking, cycling, shopping and play."

The Argus:

But some businesses in Madeira Drive have argued that the road was not yet ready for a permanent car ban, saying that "changes would have to be made in the area before this became a viable option".

Katie Mintram, director of Yellowave Beach Sports Venue, said the move could damage businesses in the vicinity if it were to happen now.

She has written an open letter to Brighton and Hove City Council urging them to reopen Madeira Drive when possible.

She said: “As born and bred ‘Brightonians’ we too have enjoyed the space with our young family. The Government is now asking for businesses such as ours to attempt to reopen where they can, to resume some level of normality and kick-start the economy.

“Yellowave Beach Sports Venue is the only beach volleyball centre of its kind in the UK with a large outdoor sand area available for sport and fitness.

The Argus:

“We, along with the other businesses along Madeira Drive, are all in danger of closing down if, in the near future, the road is not opened to visitors and customers, when it is ‘Covid-safe’ to do so.”

The campaign has drawn support from Tina Hayes of The Concorde 2, Joe McNulty from Sea Lane and Craig Derbyshire from Jumble Rumble Golf and Cafe.

Katie said: “We, and other businesses along Madeira Drive, are already under immense financial pressure due to terrible winter weather followed by the huge impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on our businesses.

“We are already hard to access with Madeira Drive Terraces crumbling, access points cut off, the Madeira lift out of use and now the Volks Railway closed.

"Our customers don’t all have bikes, there is zero public transport along Madeira Drive and many people, including families with young children and the disabled, use us from across the city and within the Sussex area. Some simply cannot access us if they cannot drive to us.”

The Argus:

Katie said if Madeira Drive was developed into "an easy-to-access, pedestrian area with safe and accessible ways to get down from Marine Parade with open markets, good public transport, lighting and a nice place to promenade" the she would ""welcome" the move to ban cars from the seafront road.

Brighton and Hove City Council’s chairwoman of the authority’s environment, transport and sustainability committee, Cllr Anne Pissaridou, said that, following the popularity of the car ban in Madeira Drive, it would be “considered as part of our longer term local transport plan”.

She said: "We’re working towards being a carbon neutral city by 2030 and cleaner air, healthier lifestyles and less congestion on our city roads are all integral to achieving this.

The Argus:

"Short term transport measures brought in to support more walking and cycling during the covid crisis have been popular with many residents and any expansion of these schemes will be considered as part of our longer term local transport plan.

“We’re also working to bring forward permanent schemes already agreed, such as the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan and proposals for a car free city centre."

Other new measures which could be introduced include pop-up cycle lanes, widening footways, particularly outside shops and transport hubs, increasing the length of some bus lanes and prioritising walking and cycling junctions across the city.

The Argus:

Councild leader Cllr Nancy Platts, who is also the chairwoman of the policy and resources committee, said: "We have seen huge changes to the way people are travelling around our city. 

"There are more people walking and cycling and we’ve seen a 60 per cent reduction in traffic on some of our key routes.”

"We’ve already taken significant steps to keep the city moving and promote active travel and I’ve been pleased by the positive response we’ve had to creating a new cycle lane on Old Shoreham Road and freeing up space for walking and cycling on Madeira Drive.

“But we need to do much more to support the city’s recovery.  Making these changes to our transport network will enable more of us to walk, cycle and use public transport. 

"In the short term this will help with physical distancing, but this will also have significant health and environmental benefits in the long term."

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