Following the city’s recent climate citizens’ assembly, a focus group exercise involving 50 random residents, The Argus reported that Brighton and Hove’s Green and Labour groups have spoken of working together in a cross-party alliance to implement its key proposal of a car-free city before voters get the chance to go to the polls in 2023 to elect a new council.

Leaving aside the issue of whether a car-free city centre is the right policy for the city or whether a citizens’ assembly of 50 randomly-selected residents is the best way to go about making decisions for Brighton and Hove, this raises two immediate questions.

Is this current Green-Labour administration competent enough to deliver a sweeping transport policy in Brighton and Hove in the next two years?

And should this new policy be implemented before voters themselves are able to have their say at the next local council elections?

On the first question, there is plenty of very recent evidence to suggest that leaving such a big transport policy in the hands of this Green-Labour council will not end well.

Since the start of the pandemic, Labour and the Greens have been busy implementing a raft of “temporary” transport measures in Brighton and Hove including road closures, temporary cycle lanes and other travel measures.

But these temporary measures have had discriminatory, financial, environmental and now also potentially legal consequences for our city.

The A259 temporary cycle lane introduced along the seafront literally brought the city to a gridlock in the summer and had to be abandoned at a cost to the taxpayer.

As The Argus reported, emergency vehicles were videoed battling to get through the traffic and the frustration of residents reached a peak with the traffic afecting small businesses, disabled people and the city’s own bus service and taxi providers.

The closure of Madeira Drive, while enjoyed by many, created discrimination for disabled people, who had access restricted to the seafront and then had to ask permission to gain access to disabled toilets. Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere (Badge) has alleged that when bidding to get government funding, the council incorrectly stated in its application that it had consulted with disabled people and might have breached equalities law.

The Madeira Drive closure also cost the council £800,000 in lost parking revenue which is normally used to subsidise affordable transport, creating a budget issue. Then there is the Old Shoreham Road temporary cycle lane which has taken two lanes out of a four-lane key arterial road, gridlocking parts of Hove and Portslade and prompting reports of congestion and increased pollution.

All of these measures now face potential legal challenges following a High Court decision in London last week after a complaint was brought forward by the taxi industry about measures implemented there

As our Conservative transport spokesman Cllr Lee Wares has said, the High Court ruling appears to bear striking similarities with Brighton and Hove and it is also noteworthy that the judge criticised the lack of attention to equalities.

These problems all stem from decisions made by Labour and the Greens in the last 12 months but if you look further back still you see a pattern. The decision to ban cars from North Street many years ago and create a bus lane ended up creating more pollution not less, with the Clock Tower recording the third highest polluted street in England in a country-wide survey. And we have yet to see the full impact of the narrowing of roads as part of the Greens’ Valley Gardens.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that every time Labour and the Greens meddle with the city’s transport system it results in more pollution, discriminatory outcomes and financial pain for the city.

Of course, any car-free city proposal should be properly considered and put to voters at the next election, not railroaded through before there is any chance to respond.

As Cllr Wares said to Labour and Green councillors at the recent environment, transport and sustainability committee meeting: “I really hope that you win the support of citizens to get this done rather than dictate to them how things are going to be. First, public transport would have to be better and exemptions granted for blue badge holders, delivery drivers and trades such as builders, plumbers and electricians etc and that creating an ultra-low emission zone would, in effect, mean that the council was bringing in a congestion charge.”