A car-free city centre? Chamber of Commerce to steer the big debate

Posted On 21 Oct 2014 at 4:31 pm

Business would be better in Brighton if we took cars out of the city centre – that’s the issue being discussed at the Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce Big Debate.

The debate is due to take place at City College Brighton and Hove, in Pelham Street, Brighton, from 6pm to 8pm tomorrow evening (Wednesday 22 October).

It is taking place as members of Brighton and Hove City Council await proposals to pedestrianise East Street at weekends after turning down a complete closure of the entire street to traffic.

The debate is to be chaired by media trainer and journalist Steve Bustin with four speakers making the case for and against a car-free centre of Brighton.

The speakers are Palace Pier general manager Anne Martin, solicitor Martin Williams, from the law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter, Chris Todd, from Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, and Anthony Probert, the Brighton region manager of sustainability charity BioRegional.

The chamber said: “Do we need cars to drive business in Brighton or are they setting our city on the road to ruin?

Martin Williams

Martin Williams

“Since the introduction of the 20mph speed limit in the city centre and some residential streets, the issue of driving in Brighton has become more of a talking point than ever.

“But how does it affect our businesses?

“In 2012, the Campaign for Better Transport named Brighton and Hove the least car-dependent city in the UK outside London.

“According to figures from the 2011 census, only 37.2 per cent of Brighton and Hove residents drive to work, compared with 60.8 per cent of people in the south east.

“But is our apparent willingness to walk, cycle or hop on a bus instead of drive a help or a hindrance to our commercial ambitions?

“Whether you think banning cars would step on the accelerator or slam on the brakes for your business, whether you think our transport system is as good as it can get or miles behind where it should be, we’ll be considering any aspect of this topic that matters to you.

“Does Brighton’s perceived lack of ‘car-friendly’ infrastructure deter tourists, meaning that businesses lose out?

“What about difficulties with goods vehicle access and deliveries, or staff parking spaces and costs?

“Or are these issues a small price to pay for making the city more attractive to businesses and new residents alike by striving both to lower pollution levels and cut the number of road accidents?

“With the advent of the London congestion charge, cycle to work incentives, ‘Boris Bike’-style schemes in towns and cities across the country, reduced speed limits in many city centres and residential areas, and controlled parking zones, the way we travel in the UK is changing.

“But are we changing too quickly, or do those changes not go far enough?

“Is there a need to completely transform our mind-set when it comes to transport? And if so, is Brighton at the front of the queue, or just along for the ride?

“And what does the future hold: low-emission zones effectively banning older petrol and diesel vehicles, a wholesale changeover to electric cars, banning cars completely from certain areas at certain times?

“What about the development of so-called ‘citizen-based travel’ through apps such as Uber, or even driverless vehicles?

“Make sure you’re at our Big Debate – however you get there.”

The event is free and open to Chamber of Commerce members and non-members alike. To reserve a seat, click here.


  1. Phil Reay Reply

    if it has slipped the idiot council’s mind, there is a huge difference between workers travelling to work and ordinary people coming to Brighton to shop or for tourism purposes. Workers come in for 8 hrs at a time and parking charges as they are, they can’t afford them. They also don’t come in with prams, children and other paraphernalia so half the time buses would be a no no especially if shopping bags start to come into the equation. Tourists come from further away so you expect them to catch a bus? Now you’re being totally idiotic.
    Brighton council seems to have forgotten or has not realised that it is better to get a little of something that to get nothing of a lot and by cutting parking spaces and charging too much for what ones anyone can find, is driving people away. They are going to turn Brighton into a ghost town where it won’t be necessary to bring cars into so they will be getting their way by the back door and simple economics.

  2. No-More-Greens Reply

    They just keep going right out of there way to annoy ordinary people.

  3. Mike n Reply

    I had a meeting in brighton today but changed it to outside of town so we could park easily. This meant that the meeting / dinner took place outside of brighton. Now I know I’m not the only one who avoids brighton like this so I wonder how much business is lost from Central brighton this way. Add to that business rates are on the rise and many businesses are earning less. it will not be long before Churchill square ends up the way it was 20 years ago. If you don’t go that far back it was worse than London road is now.

  4. Maddee Reply

    Not to mention the less able – including the elderly – with or without carers ones – who can’t ride a bicycle or hop on a bus or even get into disabled accessible taxis.

  5. Cheryl Reply

    Brighton council hates cars. End of. Their parking ‘service’ told me yesterday they are systematically ticketing cars parked on the wide pavements in Elm Grove because they are the other side of double yellow lines, as my daughter found to her cost recently. These residents have been parking there for donkey’s years and cause no harm. Why can’t the council leave them
    Alone? Thank God we got out.

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