Brighton embarks on journey to a car-free future

Councillors steered Brighton a step closer to being car-free in the centre at a meeting this afternoon (Tuesday 21 January).

They voted unanimously for an official report on how to create a car-free city centre within three years.

A Green motion, backed by the ruling Labour group and the Conservatives, called on Brighton and Hove City Council to follow the example of others such as York.

Councillor Amy Heley proposed the motion requesting a report to explore “the feasibility and costs of developing a car-free city centre by 2023”.

The Green councillor’s motion also called for the report to “detail costs and practicalities (and) rules for exemptions for those with accessibility needs and some trades vehicles for example”.

She urged the council to use an “ultra-low emission zone for private vehicles in the city centre (to) act as a transition to a car-free city centre”.

She mentioned the council’s proposed “city climate assembly” and, to applause from the public gallery, she said: “Brighton and Hove is a forward-thinking city and we need to follow the examples of other European and British cities.

“We need to work in parallel with the ‘city climate assembly’ as we want to hear from everyone in the city on this and find out the best way forward.”

Councillor Heley said that nitrogen dioxide (NO2) was at dangerous levels in the centre of Brighton and that 54 people died prematurely each year as a result.

She added: “We need bold and ambitious policies to achieve the council aim of becoming carbon-neutral in 2030. We need to look into transport use. This is a matter of life or death.”

Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that it was essential that the council made an informed decision and considered the economic impact as this would be critical to the city’s wellbeing.

He said that cities in the vanguard such as York, Bristol and Edinburgh had complete circular park and ride schemes. These allowed visitors and residents to leave their vehicles before going into the city centre.

Councillor Wares said: “This is an opportunity to re-examine everything that we have done. We need to be honest with ourselves and look at all forms of transport and how we are doing things.”

He spoke about parking charges and fines saying that they currently covered the cost of concessionary bus fares and subsidised bus routes.

He added: “If we want our citizens to work with us, we have to convince them we are making sensible decisions.”

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson also spoke during the debate at Hove Town Hall where campaigners had demonstrated outside before the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee met.

Councillor Wilkinson said that there were seven million deaths a year attributed to air pollution – and many more millions people were killed in car accidents.

He said: “While standing in the middle of Brighton’s North Street during the ‘School Climate Emergency’ last year and also in London, with Extinction Rebellion’s protests, the air noticeably cleaner, the area quieter, I was struck by the enormity of the challenge ahead of us.

“We need to create a transport system that is zero-carbon in only a few years.

Councillor Amy Heley

“The daily reality is still toxic traffic fumes, unjustifiable road deaths and high levels of transport carbon emissions – up to one third of all emissions in many places.”

He said that Copenhagen and Amsterdam were known for their cycling culture and that Curitiba in Brazil had an amazing bus transit system.

He added: “Imagine if public transport was working properly and diesel and petrol cars were banned in urban areas.

“The UK going from a car-owning nation, with about 40 million cars, to around a million – in just five years. We could get those cars recycled and out of our city centres.”

A report is due to come to the same committee on Tuesday 5 May.

  1. Valerie Reply

    No point being car-free & relying only in public transport. Pavements drop kerb crossings need to become safe for pedestrians, especially those with infants in slings or pushchairs, the elderly & disabled in chairs & scooters.

    Last year Cllr Mary Mears needed surgery & a long period without use if one arm after a pavement tripped her up.

    In November a dangerous drop kerb crossing flipped over the power chair I was belted into – fracturing my pelvis. Nearly 3 months on I am unable to walk or go out. The A & E consultant said he saw a lot of accidents like mine “and some people die”.

    As with the NHS news today it seems it is more cost effective to pay out for lawsuits than to make the service safe.

    And s,o sadly one has to think twice about ditching cars. Is the alternative of life on scooters, in chairs, on bikes or as a pedestrian safe enough? Right now in Brighton & Hove – no; pavements & too many drop kerbs are lethal trip hazards.

    And its not about tree roots!

    • Emma Oariface Reply

      Blimey- you were lucky… a similar thing happened to a lady in Nottingham recently but the fall fractured her back, subsequently leaving her incontinent and not very nice for the ambulance people when they turned up to deal with it

  2. Vanessa Minns Reply

    This sounds an admirable goal. However what provisions will be made for elderly/disabled folk who can no longer use buses ( too difficult to get to bus stops or to get on and off buses) if indeed there will be any buses.
    I have recently been allowed a disabled parking badge which has transformed my life. Will I be condemned to stay at home alone again ?

  3. Nigel Furness Reply

    Absolutely right, Valerie, as per usual! The one thing that this current crop of Green Councillors is good for is playing the the role of the POT calling the kettle black when it comes to cars; ie in blaming cars for all our ills when it is their own wholly unnecessary traffic “management” schemes, such as Brighton Station, North Street and silly cycle lanes which are barely used (old Shoreham Road, Grand Avenue/The Drive for example), and now their crowning glory, VALLEY GARDENS which are causing soaring rates of polution through idling engines as a result of thei ARTIFICIALLY ENGINEERED GRIDLOCK. Slow moving and stationary vehicles cause MILES MORE POLLUTION.–FACT NOT FICTION!

    • Valerie Reply

      My point was not about traffic management and control of that is the Labour Admin’s job!

      If I had a car I would not have suffered the catastrophic injury which has left me crippled & in intolerable cinstant pain. Is a pollution hitspot worse than that?

      Banning cars is inly 50% of the job – like clapping with one hand.

    • Dan Reply

      I use the silly cycle lanes on Old Shoreham Road and Grand Ave all the time, and love them. Can’t wait for the new cycle lanes to be open in Valley Gardens.

      A car free city will do wonders for my (and other cyclists’ and pedestrians’) lungs.

  4. S Mehra Reply

    If you don’t want cars to cause pollution make more cheaper parking so you are not going round and round looking for parking especially in the summer holiday. You will kill business with your idea.
    Make buses a lot cheaper.
    I have just had knee surgery and would stop me enjoying the town centre.
    Disappointed with the whole new road system in the town,

  5. Richard Goodliff Reply

    Tourism and the money this brings will die, retail will die, what will replace all the funds the make from Parking due to empty car parks, disabled people effected. Brighton cannot go car free until the decade old argument of a decent park and ride is sorted. Without that and a knee jerk kick out cars will kill Brighton stone dead. These stupid people we keep voting in to represent us cause these stupid decisions. Valley Gardens waste of money and creating more pollution. If the bus company is subsidised by the council revenue from parking how are going to continue that when there are no cars in the centre of town, this will lead to higher bus fares, which are already amongst the highest in the country. Seems to me the idiots are running the asylum. Maybe we should kick them all out and start again with people that have the future prosperity of our city in mind rather than personal political agendas that are destined to ruin Brighton for generations to come.

    • Robin Hislop Reply

      Or perhaps central Brighton will become a less car-choked and polluted space, and a more pleasant place to walk? Maybe our democratically elected leaders actually have our well-being in mind! I’m already enjoying the improved pavements when I walk into work.

  6. Peter Challis Reply

    Doubt it – I thought councillors were elected to represent the constituents by meeting the needs of residents and businesses and encouraging lucrative visitors.

    Based upon recent announcements they seem to think being elected gives then the power to start implementing any hair-brained activist schemes they want without caring about the economic effects and without verifying that the basis for the changes is actually valid.

  7. Benji Reply

    Fine if they exclude residents who live within the proposed zone and actually NEED a car to get to work, visit relatives, do shopping etc etc.

    It’s all good if you are loaded and can afford a low emission, or zero emission electric car, I can’t and likely never will until they are ten or fifteen years old and cheap as chips!

    They also cannot stop deliveries or traders working inside this zone without crippling the local economy.

    Just stick to keeping out visitors cars and provide a decent reliable park and ride somewhere otherwise Brighton is completely screwed!

  8. Prof Hector Bouloffs Reply

    Councillors live in cloud cuckoo land

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