With 13 shopfronts empty and in degrees of disrepair Brighton's "restaurant street" has become one of the biggest victims of the recession.

Beleaguered traders in Preston Street have now begged Brighton and Hove City Council to do something to drag them out of a spiralling decline.

For decades the road has been a "go to" destination for hungry visitors leaving the seafront and major hotels but now the remaining owners fear their collective appeal is being diminished.

Angelo Martinoli, owner of Casalingo restaurant and chairman of Preston Street Traders' association, said: "There's nothing right in this place anymore. We used to a restaurant street and now things are disappearing every day."

He said people traditionally came to the road for the choice of restaurants, ranging from English and Italian cuisine to Indian, Chinese and even Lebanese.

Now the options are reducing and being replaced with boarded up shopfronts.

Mr Martinoli said: "The council aren't doing anything to help us and we really need them now."

Two petitions calling for help were submitted to the council last week. Each contained the signatures of all 56 traders on the street.

The first urged the council to take some action, ideally by transforming the road by making it a shared space, like New Road in the city centre, where pedestrians have priority over cars.

The second called for discounted evening rates to be introduced in the nearby Regency Square car park to encourage trade. Drivers are currently charged £2.40 an hour to park there.

Mr Martinoli said: "I think we have one of the most expensive car parks in England. Most of the time the car park is empty. They have agreed to cut charges elsewhere to help other businesses so why can't they help us."

The petitions were presented on behalf of the traders by local councillor Jason Kitcat.

Coun Kitcat said: "It's really important to have a look at Preston Street, especially because the i360 viewing tower is still due to be built at the end of the road. We have to think about the image of our city we want to give to the thousands of visitors who will be going to that area."

He pointed out that now the council had taken back control of the car park from operators NCP it was able to alter the rate.

He said: "That car park is only ever busy on sunny weekends. There is no reason not to drop charges in the evenings, it would make more money."

The traders have been making small efforts to spruce up the area themselves, including getting picture boards installed on the front of one eyesore empty shopfront.

Coun Kitcat said part of the problem for the traders was the changing use of premises in the road, which they felt was changing the character of the area.

Some former restaurants have become food stores, with the recent opening of two Chinese supermarkets sparking rumours the road will become the city's Chinatown.

More of concern has been the growing number of bars and resulting rowdiness.

Sussex Police acknowledge they have been required to deal with occasional incidents of disorderliness but maintain Preston Street is not seen as a problem area for them.

Sergeant James Bowes, head of the Regency area neighbourhood policing team, said: "We don't have much crime there, the biggest issue is dealing with cars parking illegally on the pavement or on yellow lines."

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, the council's cabinet member for transport and environment, was away on holiday yesterday and unable to give his views on the situation.

A council spokeswoman said: "This council is committed to helping local businesses during the recession and the proposals will be considered by councillors at the next available opportunity.”