A move to ban cars from the centre of Brighton edged closer yesterday (Tuesday 19 January).
Councillors asked officials to draw up more detailed plans for a car-free city centre – renamed a “liveable city centre”.
And they asked for detailed options for an “ultra-low emission zone” covering a wider area – possibly the whole of Brighton and Hove inside the A27.
The car ban would come first – possibly as soon as 2023 when the next Brighton and Hove City Council elections are due to be held.
Bringing in an “ultra-low emission zone” would take a few years longer.
Cars could be barred from an area stretching along the seafront between the B2122 Montpelier Road in the west and Lower Rock Gardens in the east. And it could go as far north as the Seven Dials and Preston Circus.
Labour councillor Gill Williams was concerned that people might be unable to drive along the seafront and Edward Street to reach the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
She said that not everyone went to the A&E (Accident and Emergency) Department by ambulance or taxi.
Officials are expected to consider patients’ needs as they draw up more detailed plans.
Conservative councillor Lee Wares said that creating an ultra-low emission zone would, in effect, mean that the council was brining in a congestion charge.
Councillor Wares said: “I sincerely hope that at some point in the process there is a true and proper consultation with the city.
“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.
“I know we keep hearing about how other cities have done it. What I never see is a direct comparison as to how those cities do it and the way we can do the same.
“We need the same things in place to allow it to happen. We are a million miles away from getting this done.”
He said that, 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.
He was concerned that his political rivals, having discussed the recommendations from the local climate assembly, were talking about a car-free Brighton as though it was already happening.
Councillor Wares and his fellow Conservative, Councillor Vanessa Brown, abstained as the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee voted to move forward with the car-free and ultra-low emissions schemes.
A report to the committee said that the benefits included
- Carbon reduction
- Better health and air quality
- An enhanced public realm and place-making
- Fairer access for all, especially disabled people
- A boost for tourism
- Stronger “connectivity” for people on foot, bike or bus
- Safer streets
The council’s head of transport strategy and projects, Andrew Renault, said that an ultra-low emission zone could include most of the built up area.
Charges could be “scalable” depending on the level of emissions, with residents exempt in the early days.
Green councillor Jamie Lloyd said that measures could include extending the Brighton bike share scheme and bringing in electric bikes. And he wanted cheaper bus travel but the council was unable to set fares.
Councillor Lloyd said: “In every other city that’s done this, the local economy has benefited, especially small local businesses – the ones we should be supporting.
“This is a positive step, let’s get on with it.”
Fellow Green councillor Steve Davis said that he had spoken with many tradespeople concerned about the effects of the centre of Brighton becoming car-free.
He said: “Of course traders will not be included. I hear ‘how will I get ladders in there and stuff like that?’
“I reply saying, ‘Have you been to Amsterdam? Did you get electrocuted in the bar or were the toilets overflowing? No.’
“The traders will get there – and we need to help them in our recovery.”
Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said that he supported a car-free centre and the prospect of “local mobility hubs”.
These would include electric and cargo bikes in neighbourhoods across the city, available to residents.
He said: “The effects of such a transportation change to our city would be incredible.
“There would be fewer deaths or serious injuries from traffic accidents, respiratory and coronary diseases every year would be reduced, reduced depression and social isolation – and an increase in independent traders and a more vibrant local economy.
“We would no longer have toxic illegal air, carbon emissions from transport would be practically zero and everyone would be able to get around where they live regardless of how rich or poor they are.”
Councillor Wilkinson said that he was pleased that the committee would receive further reports in future setting out the business case for the schemes and preparing for wider public consultation.