A councillor raised fears that shoppers were put off coming to Brighton after thousands of drivers received fines for driving “through bus gates” – or into bus lanes.
Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth asked Brighton and Hove City Council’s Green leader Phélim Mac Cafferty about the issue.
Councillor Nemeth asked how the council leader could justify 100,000 fines for residents and visitors over the past year when people should be “shopping local”.
The high number of breaches as drivers entered the bus lanes emerged at a council meeting last month, with more than 9,600 fines issued in October and a similar number in August.
Councillor Nemeth said that other councils had eased parking restrictions over the Christmas period to support local trade.
At a council meeting last Thursday (16 December) he also shared comments that he had received from visitors who were fined after driving through the new bus gates in Valley Gardens.
Councillor Nemeth said: “Visitors have been in touch with me about this topic. One resident from Heathfield said he ‘will be staying away from Brighton and Hove in the future’.
“Another from Canterbury said, ‘I most certainly will ensure I never visit Brighton again and will advise my friends and associates do the same.’
“Will the leader of the council commit to fixing these faulty junctions as a matter of urgency?”
Councillor Mac Cafferty said that an oral report would go before a meeting of the council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting next month.
And he questioned whether fines had hit trade as he said that data showed that, before the government’s response to the omicron variant of covid-19, trade was buoyant in Brighton’s shops.
Sales in shops in Churchill Square were reported to be at the same level as they were in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic.
Brighton and Hove also had fewer empty shops than the national average, he said, with a retail vacancy rate of 9.18 per cent compared with 14.5 per cent nationally.
Councillor Mac Cafferty said that a recent report had found that the local economy was growing by 7.5 per cent.
He said: “There is an awful lot of evidence saying that we’re doing quite well. I would argue with you that many of the businesses you’ve just referred to have weathered the storm of the three lockdowns.
“Some have closed but, this time, with omicron and cases rising, in the words of one of our business representatives, trade has fallen off a cliff.
“We have huge concerns for small businesses without recourse to any government grants, access to further schemes of self-employment grants and so on.
“The last-minute measures on omicron have handed the enforcement of mask-wearing on to the already exhausted retail and service industry workers.
“You might be familiar with the figure from the UK hospitality body that’s forecasted that takings are going to be down a whopping 40 per cent.
“My challenge back to you is we need government assistance in terms of what is happening to the economy, not just here but all around the country.”
The Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee is due to meet at 4pm on Tuesday 18 January. The meeting is scheduled to be webcast on the council’s website.