Brighton seafront road to remain closed despite 10,000-signature petition

The closure of Madeira Drive has hit traders, leaving them unable to pay their rent, decimated parking revenues and marginalised disabled people and their families.

The move has also thrown the future of much-loved historic events into doubt, put jobs and livelihoods at risk and made Brighton a less attractive destination.

But the road on Brighton seafront will not be reopening any time soon.

The criticisms were made at a special council meeting today (Thursday 13 August) as members of Brighton and Hove City Council debated rival petitions.

Those in favour of the closure of Madeira Drive to cars, vans and lorries said that it had effectively been a glorified car park until it was made safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

The Conservatives put forward a compromise solution – making the road one way to allow extra space for cycle lanes and disabled parking – but the proposal was rejected by Labour and the Greens.

The road closure was one of a number of “temporary” measures after the big drop in traffic during the coronavirus lockdown and was aimed at encouraging walking and cycling.

Trevor Archard, who runs a café in Madeira Drive, addressed the “virtual” meeting of the full council on behalf of fellow traders, the Brighton Tourism Alliance, the Palace Pier and Brighton Marina.

Mr Archard said that traders faced financial ruin and were unable to pay their rent.

And tourists, who chose to drive because train fares for a family were too expensive, would be put off visiting Brighton because they would not be able to find anywhere to park.

Those parking in Marine Parade, he said, would have to walk down 84 steep steps to reach Madeira Drive. This would be hard for families with young children and wheelchair users.

Mr Archard said: “The traders want to make it clear we are very keen to work with the council in the future to assist with their plans.

“Perhaps see fully pedestrianised areas of the road – but only when improvements have been put in place to make the road safe, accessible and attractive.”

Mods and rockers – once rivals on Brighton seafront – have been united in their latest battle … to reopen Madeira Drive to all.

In support of their campaign, Ollie Wilson, a scooter rider from Hove, and Laura King, of the Brighton and Hove Heritage Commission, presented a petition of more than 10,000 signatures.

Mr Wilson said: “We welcome the council’s decision last month to continue to allow official motoring events.

“However, the ongoing closure puts into doubt the unofficial August bank holiday weekender which attracts thousands of mods and has brought in millions of pounds to our city.”

Ms King said that a few people were trying to close the road as a “stepping stone” to making the centre of Brighton car-free without carrying out the legally required consultations.

She said: “The great width and length of Madeira Drive has been deemed suitable for exclusive use by cyclists and pedestrians.

“This is not inclusivity and many of them prefer to stick to the existing pathway and pavement.”

Laura King

Adult learning business boss Ian Ross presented a petition of almost 3,000 signatures in favour of keeping the road closed.

Mr Ross, from Kemp Town, said that just because cars and other vehicles had always used Madeira Drive, did not mean that it was a reason to keep it that way.

He said: “Is providing a glorified car park in Madeira Drive making the most of this historic gem in the crown jewels of our city?

“I would say not. We have a real opportunity to do something different with Madeira Drive rather than turning it back into a seafront car park with a return of vehicle emissions and pollution.”

Green councillor Pete West, who chairs the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee, said that the road was closed in response to government guidance.

The guidance was aimed at encouraging people to take daily exercise during lockdown and had proved popular.

Councillor Pete West

He said: “We are mindful that the pandemic is not yet over and, as cases of covid are rising again around the country, there is a very real possibility of further local lockdowns as we head into the autumn.

“It is perhaps therefore premature to be looking to end this emergency measure just yet.”

Independent councillor Bridget Fishleigh asked about disabled parking spaces, having had contact with a new organisation, Brighton Access for Disabled Groups (BADGE).

The group was formed in response to the Madeira Drive closure to campaign on issues faced by blue badge holders.

Councillor Fishleigh asked councillors how they would feel if they had to ask a marshal at the barrier by the Concorde 2 to use the toilet which was a 20-minute walk away.

She and another independent councillor, the former Conservative group leader Tony Janio, called for a proper environmental impact assessment but their move was lost.

Councillor Bridget Fishleigh

Conservative councillor Lee Wares said: “It is not right for blue badge holders to be packed off down to Black Rock.

“It is not right that our traders are abandoned. The council declares financial distress but is switching off millions in parking revenue.”

Councillor Wares said that Brighton and Hove should be welcoming to visitors and the council should do what it could to support the city.

Councillor Miller said that any long-term change should be made after proper consultation, not as a reaction to covid.

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said that the covid crisis would end but there was still a climate crisis.

He said that as a child he had played in a cobbled street which was then covered in asphalt, allowing cars to travel faster.

Councillor Gary Wilkinson

Councillor Wilkinson said: “It has been so refreshing to see children playing and cycling in Madeira Drive and people walking and cycling.

“The initiative to close Madeira Drive is a potential game-changer. Political courage is needed. It is about what we all do together.

“We must give people an option before we encourage them to take their own first step towards active travel.”

The new Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty said that he would speak to interest groups about the continued closure and potential reopening of Madeira Drive.

He said that in his first three weeks as leader of the new Green administration, he had met with several groups and organisations and would meet more in the coming weeks.

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that members of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee would review the covid-19 transport plan at its next meeting on Tuesday 29 September.

Phélim Mac Cafferty

He said: “We should accept that this is about a discussion, acknowledging that what is here may not be perfect now – it was an urgent decision made in the middle of a pandemic – and being prepared to flex and change.

“We especially need to make sure that any plan explicitly works to include our most marginalised communities, such as those with disabilities, and we meaningfully engage with traders, as much as those using Madeira Drive for outdoor exercise.”

Councillor Mac Cafferty said that at the moment the council did not know when the pandemic would end and how long space would be needed for socially distant exercise.

He added: “I think we all agree that no one thought this area worked brilliantly before. We need to acknowledge that a vision to futureproof Madeira Drive is what the city needs at this time.

“There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reinvigorate this prominent part of the city through a strategic masterplan.”

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    Blimey did Councilor Wilkinson grow up in the 40s with cobbled streets and the like. I actually found his speech highly disingenuous especially that disability access was improved, it’s not, it’s a disgrace and he should take the time to either read his emails or learn the truth. Many thanks to Cllr Fishleigh and Cllr Wares who do seem to understand.

  2. Wendy Ballard Reply

    So a 3,000 signed petion has beaten a 10,000 signed petion , I’m not sure that this is democracy. I have enjoyed many rides along Madeira drive on the back of a motor bike , and also in a car , I have also many walks along the pavement. Please reinstate Madeira drive as a road , pavement and cycle lane so that everyone can use it , and to enable the many motoring events to return.

  3. MYSELF Reply

    Greens take control and demonstrate just how important democracy is when competing with its own agendas.

    10k signatures against and 3k supporting well we’ll take the 3k that agrees with us. 3-1 is a perfectly acceptable price to pay for what we deem correct and ‘right’

    When the millions lost and the businesses collapse leading to more lost revenue it will of course be anyone’s fault but their own.

    • Jezz Reply

      Those 10k signatures were garnered by posting them to various motoring groups around the country! It was very dishonest and misleading! There are no interest groups to support the keeping Madeira Drive closed campaign.

      • John Reply

        We come to Brighton 2 or 3 times a year and stay for about 4 nights, we spend a fair amount of money locally and its .t daughters favorite place but I dont think we will anymore, Im disabled and being able to park so close to the pier was fantastic as its about as far as I can walk, I tried a few weeks ago and really really struggled to walk that far after spending 2 hours looking for somewhere to park, sorry kiddo but unless the road reopens we wont be going back.

      • Richard Reply

        Jazz, Thats fake news, Where is your evidence?. I think you’re the dishonest one.

      • Richard Reply

        Jazz, Thats fake news, Where is your evidence?. I think you’re the dishonest one with an agenda.

    • Roger Martin Reply

      Totally agree with you.
      This green council don’t want to listen to the people!! Just want to do what they want!!
      This city will have no businesses left soon,no parking revenue, so how is the city to survive.

  4. Jon Reply

    New Road is closed in the evening and the bars can spread out their tables into the street. When people get to the barrier at Marine Drive the road looks bleak and there’s no reason to walk down it. If the traders spread out into the road, maybe pay some buskers to play, get some street traders. put one of the bike rental stations further down. There’s so much they could do

    • Oskar Reply

      Well done. In sixteen years I’ve lived in Brighton I’ve been to Madeira Drive 50 times. 40 of these have happened during lockdown, with my son we cycle all the way to Saltdean and back. We’d buy ice-cream. Hundreds of others. Motorists still have a lot of roads to emit CO2 on and change the climate. Petitions are worth considering but they do not replace suffrage. Insisting the opposite is antidemocratic.

  5. Jezz Reply

    Except it hasn’t remained closed!?? They have reopened all but the terraced part, and even here motorbikes regularly get through. The other day, while out on my daily run, I was met by a couple of dozen mods on their scooters , who had spread out to fill the entire road, they reluctantly got out of my way at the last second, when it was obvious I wasn’t going to acquiesce. Other motorbikes are now frequently parked in the ‘closed’ section.

    It’s a complete mess, now that section of Madeira drive is all but deserted because there is nowhere for the pedestrians to go, without being either squeezed onto the tiny stretch of pavement past the Bison Bar, where the council arbitrarily decided to put the barrier, or in the section of road with two rows of parked cases!??? Who the hell thought that was a good idea? Right in front of Yellow Wave and the kids play area! There is also a Brighton Bikes station there for good measure! This is a ridiculous and dangerous bottleneck, all to add a couple of dozen parking spaces! And it’s not even clear that anyone is paying for parking anyway!? I have never seen anyone buying or displaying a parking ticket, or a traffic warden checking!? There are several traveller vehicles along there, so it’s pretty certain that it’s possible to park without paying! At the very least, the barrier should be at the bottom of the Slipway, so that all traffic is guided to the Black Rock area. Clear out the derelict ground there, and us that as a temporary car park, and fine anyone for parking on the access road!

    As for those 10k signatures, they were dishonestly garnered by appealing to various motor groups and publications around the country for support! Most of the signatures would have been signed by people that have never even been to Brighton, let alone live here!

  6. Smf412 Reply

    “Steps toward active travel”. Do ppl think disabled ppl actually choose not to be “active”? Why are the disabled spaces on the north side further away from the beach? Are disabled ppl not in need of loos then? Access for less “active” ppl can easily be accommodated if the council wd just be reasonable. Personally I would give anything to be able to travel actively, I don’t need the council’s encouragement and I don’t think the majority of ppl do.

  7. Paul J Williams Reply

    A shocking display of a tin pot dictatorship masquerading as a council.
    They literally DO NOT give a fig about citizens or the economy.
    It is all about hidden agendas.
    It is not Madeira Drive which needs ‘re-imagining’. Madeira Drive has always had a clear purpose and has always earned this city good money until now.
    It is this city council which needs ‘re-imagining’. No transparency, no accountability and no democracy.
    Vote of No Confidence in this dictatorship now.
    So Green they even voted against Cllr Fishleigh’s plea for an Environmental Impact Assessement re Madeira Drive, rather than its closure being decided on a whim.
    Cllr West claimed to be a businessmen himself, yet showed zero empathy or support for local traders.
    Continual reference was made to the losing petition of fewer than 4,000 signatures – many dishonestly garnered by abuse of the Labour party central email database and lobbying nationwide cycle groups, many of whom had probably never even heard of Madeira Drive and signed purely for anti-car reasons!
    At least the Reopen Madeira Drive petition had canvassed genuine user groups around the country as well as locally – people who know and love Madeira Drive and want it thriving and bringing in £millions again.

  8. John Reply

    These replies how why petitions get ignored, you have one person saying “As for those 10k signatures, they were dishonestly garnered by appealing to various motor groups and publications around the country for support!” and another saying “petition of fewer than 4,000 signatures – many dishonestly garnered by abuse of the Labour party central email database and lobbying nationwide cycle groups”

  9. Rolivan Reply

    I don’t if people realise but Cllr West has a Hearing problem.

    • Paul J Williams Reply

      Yes, Cllr West was certainly deaf to all reason with zero sympathy for the disabled or fellow business owners.

      • Valerie Phillips Reply

        Green and Labour Councillors were elected democratically. Petitions just represent certain interests.
        Cllrs are elected on policies – they have manifestos . The majority of citizens in Brighton and Hove voted for Green and Labour policies.They are implementing their policies. Hurray!!!!

        • Reggie Dale Reply

          Are you the socialist Valerie Philips who thought Jeremy Corbyn was wonderful? https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/08/jeremy-corbyns-brighton-rally-divides-town-what-about-polls

          It’s a shame that councillors are playing party politics and not realising they are accountable to the electorate and can’t just impose what they like by having “secret agreements” between Labour and Greens so that local councillors, residents, and local businesses are ignored.

          If only they considered what is best for the city as a whole in a competitive environment rather than pushing minority activist policies.

          Might help if Labour provided an effective opposition rather than just agreeing to everything the Greens suggest.

  10. Billy Reply

    I was on Madeira Drive last night (Thursday) and was shocked to see the place deserted at 8pm on a warm and dry August evening, with very few joggers or walkers and no obvious tourists.
    What will it be like in a month’s time once the weather starts to change?
    All the businesses had closed up early – except the Bison bar at Sealanes which has a great (Covid-safe) outdoor space but you either need to arrive there on a bike or with a long walk.
    If the road remains closed for the winter months then all the traders will just have to close down.
    The lack of people, parked cars, and the lack of through traffic in the evening already mean there has been increase in vandalism in the area.

    • Roger Reply

      Disappointed to say the least. I travel down every year to enjoy the bank holiday scooters. Too late to rebook anywhere for this year though it’s likely to be my last vist. Other places to go without green fascist policies.

  11. Tesla Reply

    When everyone is skint then they can sue the council for being undemocratic. Democracy has been written into law, but the councils policy seems to superceed law. Let the court battles begin and I shall enjoy reading that the council has given over democracy for a draconian hand in running the city when they have to pay millions in compensation.
    As for removing zone M , I hope the council refunds the permits they have defrauded the money from residents otherwise.

    Do not pay parking fines it goes to NSL not the council and that means all parking tickets are deemed unlawfully issued.

    Take the money from the council by refusing to pay business rates, fines, and council tax.

    Cant wait until mass action lawsuits are all over the news, corruption and undemocratic councils need to be removed by petition, if that doesn’t work then let’s have our own protests because I’m being discriminated against like all other vehicle owners.

    The council will certainly hurt if we stick together to ENFORCE democracy

  12. T. Brooks Reply

    I find it totally hypocritical of the Greens to simply disregard the 10,000 plus signature petition when they are themselves petitioning for Proportional Representation in Parliament. One person one vote. Only when you get the vote that tallies with your ideology eh? Just like the Brexit and Scottish Independance Referenda, Left wing extremists of this ilk simply cannot accept democracy. They are childlike dictators in waiting. Having previously been a Labour voter all my life, I have seen the error of the Left’s ways, drifting into Marxist authoritarianism, far worse than Thatcher’s Regime in the 80s and they will not get my vote again. Thankfully we don’t have PR for general elections, so these brainless Greens will remain on the sidelines natiònally. Brighton is a poorer, less vibrant place because of this shower of naifs pretending to know how to run the shop.

  13. Civil Disobedience Now Reply

    Daily photographs of Madeira Drive are being posted almost empty even in hot sunshine and at peak times.
    What are the council doing to monitor the claimed ‘success’ of this closure?
    Nothing.

    Covid being used as a big fat excuse for multiple sins against humanity and clowncil not slow to jump on this bandwagon.

    Time for the people to rise up and demand back what’s theirs.

  14. Victoria Reply

    I agree it needs thought and time for re-adjustment.

    But Madeira Drive is a real asset to the city – protected and sitting directly next to the beach as it does, and can serve a much better purpose than as car park and unofficial speed circuit for motorbikes.

    Of course organised activities such as the Classic Car Run can still be a part of it’s new life. and of course creating access for less able bodied individuals need to be considered. But there is an opportunity for this stretch to become a vibrant part of the city, Brighton’s version of Venice Beach if you like, and actually ultimately, one of the reasons people are drawn to Brighton, rather than simply a place to park.

  15. Paul Reply

    Why is the council allowed to break the law? There’s something the greens no doubt hate, which is called the Disability Discrimination Act,, which requires companies and organisations, such as the council, to make reasonable adjustments to help disabled. Closing access roads and mass removal of disabled parking bays, along with making access to toilet facilities impossible for the disabled, ARE NOT REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS AND AGAINST THE LAW.
    But of course the extreme left labour councillors and greens do not care about the Disabled and elderly. They are so obsessed with the emergency powers giving them the power to Mess up the city with brainless schemes like Madeira Drive and Old Shoreham Road, asking with other areas removing disabled spaces.
    As a disabled person just out of months of shielding, I’m shocked at how much councillors have changed without proper thought or consultation or thought about who is paying for this madness. Now I cannot access large parts is the city I love. Not everyone is a young fit cyclist.
    I never thought I’d have to vote Tory to stop the mass persecution of disabled by left wing politicians.

  16. Gavin Brewis Reply

    This is absolutely outrageous. How dare the council not listen to what people say. More businesses will close, which means more unemployment. It is also obvious that the council don’t care about the history of Brighton and Hove and how much money local businesses make when the Mods come down.

  17. roy pennington Reply

    bad decision by both green and labour councillors: disproportionate and against equality laws. they should hang, both their heads in shame and on the nearest lamp-post in Madeira Drove

  18. James Reply

    I walk along Madeira Drive every day and I do wonder how often some people who are complaining here actually go there. In the past few weeks it has been very busy during the day and in the evenings. The Bison Bar at Sea Lanes has been packed with long queues for the bar, the Adventure Golf is always busy and there are plenty of people walking or cycling. It takes just ten minutes to walk from the Palace Pier to Sea Lanes. Road access via Dukes Mound has always been maintained for essential vehicles and and deliveries and now the barrier has been moved to the lower level so some cars can park at the bottom and next to Black Rock station. There is a need for disabled parking and the lift needs to be back in use but for most people access is easy and the environment is now much improved. It was the right decision.

  19. Steven mole Reply

    I live in the laines and have loved having a long stretch on pedestrianised road to cycle and run down throughout lockdown. Please keep it shut. The pavements throughout the rest of the city are far to narrow to walk and social distance let alone run. Cars can still travel parallel to the road and people can park at the marina. Some disabled bays at the entrance and exit should be put in

  20. Billy Reply

    James. the mistake you are making here is the same one everyone makes – namely that you go there on a nice sunny and dry day when everyone else does.
    The mistake is to assume it’s like that all the time.
    As a seafront trader for many years I can tell you that the place is dead in colder weather and on wet days. It’s dead in all the winter months. It’s now so dead at night that there has been increased vandalism and some say they don’t feel safe walking home along there at night. The through traffic used to provide some sense of safety.
    In the off periods, it was cars and taxis and buses that brought the business to the local traders. Without cars, there is no passing trade for half the day and half the year.
    Many of the unique businesses there were also given their leases with nearby parking as part of the deal. Those businesses will probably now have to close up for the winter months.
    So everybody, including myself, likes the car free space in a selfish way – but this is not sustainable for an area already in serious decline and in need of new funding or income to get some maintenance done and if we are to avoid the Madeira Terraces following the way of the West Pier.
    The compromise would be to have the road open again for a restricted period of each day or for the ‘winter’ season of September to May.

    • James Reply

      Billy, I walk along Madeira Drive throughout the year. Yes, it is quieter in the winter months and always has been. My point is that many businesses at the western end are only a short walk from road access by the Pier and from Marine Parade. Those further along have road access again now. Before the closure there were no regular bus services along Madeira Drive and I very rarely saw any taxis or Ubers there. Cars have been replaced by cyclists and pedestrians so maybe you need to find a way to appeal to those? Every business in the country has been struggling this year, I understand that. I hope you find a way to thrive and I wish you well.

  21. roy pennington Reply

    “..but for most people access is easy and the environment is now much improved. It was the right decision.” WRONG = how to you measure improvement?

    • James Reply

      Its not up to me to measure the improvement Roy, I’m not a Councillor, just a nearby resident. As a former Councillor yourself you will know they have to consider all views carefully before making a decision. All I’m saying it is a much more pleasant environment for walking and for cycling and it has been very busy this summer.

  22. Phillip Hayes Reply

    The Marxist Green party have taken over Brighton and have 3 more years to kill tourism.Its already happening.What have we done to deserve this.?.There is no other city in the Uk foolish enough to vote in the naive and inexperienced Greens.
    Parking in Zone M is a nightmare.There are motorists who have paid for expensive permits driving round for hours trying to find a parking space.Phelim is the Green Councillor for this ward.Unfortunately he is not interested .The seafront cycle lanes and the Old Shoreham rd will see the end of Green party rule soon.The three ex labour Councillors now independants should have a byelection and get Labour to have a majority again.Unfortunately Boris will make no difference as he also hates motorists.

  23. Shaz Reply

    Labour and Greens seem to have it in for disabled people. I wasn’t affected by the Home to School Transport mess, which made me start to doubt their fine words, but parking in Madeira Drive was about the only way that I could easily get my elderly mum to the seafront, even though it’s very expensive. I don’t have a Blue Badge, I don’t think I qualify, but I might try again. There’s easily enough room there for cars and coaches, bikes and walkers. Lots of people are missing out, but disabled people are missing out more than most.

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