Council puts off decision on whether to bar disabled drivers from Brighton shopping street

Gardner Street in Brighton

A decision on whether to close a busy shopping street to traffic seven days a week has been delayed after concerns were raised about access for people with disabilities.

Councillors were due to discuss closing Gardner Street, in Brighton, to all traffic except cyclists from 11am to 7pm seven days a week at a meeting last night (Tuesday 20 September).

But at Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting at Brighton Town Hall, the chair, Green councillor Amy Heley, said that the item had been withdrawn.

Any debate and the decision were deferred until the next meeting of the committee in November.

Papers submitted to councillors before the meeting said that 190 comments had been received about the proposals to allow only pedestrians and cyclists to use the street. Of those, 115 were in support of the plan and 75 were objections.

Two disability groups objected to the changes – Possability People and Brighton Access for Disabled Groups Everywhere (BADGE).

And Possability People’s chief officer Geraldine Des Moulins had been due to tell councillors why the proposal was a safeguarding risk that “disproportionately disadvantages disabled people”.

Last year both groups met the council’s consultants Mott MacDonald to share concerns about the “sprawl” of café furniture and clothing rails into disabled parking bays in Gardner Street.

They want disabled parking bays kept clear for those who need them while the council wants to move them to neighbouring Regent Street, creating seven bays there.

After the meeting, Councillor Heley said: “The creation of healthier low-traffic and pedestrianised communities was Brighton and Hove Citizens Assembly’s priority recommendation.

“Given the positive impact that would have on our climate, air quality and residents’ wellbeing, we are committed to pursuing this pledge.

“However, we know that some residents with disabilities were concerned about the impact on accessibility.

“I asked officers to review the report which I now hope will now come to the committee in November.”

Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said: “A lot of residents want to see this to its conclusion – and the meeting in November looks to be quite busy. It made more sense to have it now rather than later.

“For the administration, this is a sensitive issue. And they need more time to address access for the disabled.”

Gardner Street is currently closed to traffic at weekends only for the same hours as proposed in the new traffic order – 11am to 7pm.

During the first lockdown, the street in the North Laine was closed to traffic for the same hours seven days a week.

But the closure was not made permanent after Mott MacDonald recommended reopening the road to improve disabled access.

The council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee is next due to meet on Tuesday 15 November.

  1. Nathan Adler Reply

    Withdrawn because the Greens knew the Tories and Labour would not support this until the disabled community is properly consulted with rather than railroaded. Listening to Cllr Heley this might not even make the November meeting – its politically damaging for the Greens and Officers who tried to sneak this through on a TRO rather than full and meaningful consultation which even their only independent commissioned report recommended this and a full audit of the spaces. Shame on them all.

  2. Pippa Hodge Reply

    The headline says it all. This TRO would do just that – bar disabled people who rely on their car or wheelchair accessible vehicle as their way to be able to get out and about to this vibrant area, or from/to their homes, work etc – this is a dangerous precedent which If permitted would become a blueprint for other areas of the city centre. Any scheme that is introduced under the guise of active travel or commercial regeneration MUST be inclusive for all disabled people. Any Councillor who votes for a scheme that is creating inhospitable and inaccessible areas would be accountable for colluding to breach the Equalities Act. Ignorance is not an excuse. Why is it SO HARD to work in a genuinely consultative manner? Why do disabled people and stakeholders have to work SO HARD constantly reminding Council Officers and indeed some Councillors about reasonable adjustments and the Equalities Act – and the fact that this is supposedly a city that calls itself inclusive? There’s a long way to go, and the Accessible City Strategy (ironically launched last week) will need to be more than words on paper to stop these kinds of ill considered and marginalising schemes from being pushed through with minimal 3 week inaccessible ‘consultations’. Stop treating disabled people like an inconvenience who can be moved out of the way and start treating them with more respect.

  3. Brighton Resident Reply

    Everything Pippa Hodge said is spot on. This proposal, and the way that it was pushed through contrary to equality law, was nothing less than obscene. I hope this is the end of the Council behaving like this. It’s getting embarrassing to live here.

  4. Hovelassies Reply

    I hope that one day the Greens are going to realise that not everyone is able bodied and start respecting disabled and elderly needs.

  5. Phoebe Barrera Reply

    Why are able-bodied cyclists allowed access? Why not make this a pedestrian-only precinct?

  6. R Reply

    It would be very achievable to both reduce traffic and retain disability access. For example by using camera number plate systems such as those used in bus lanes and the London congestion charge zone. Any unauthorised vehicles would be automatically fined.

  7. BAHTAG Reply

    Pippa Hodge asks above: why is it SO HARD?

    The short answer is that it appears to be ill-will by a group of Council officers, who seem to hate citzens and their elected representatives (Councillors) in equal measure (and whom some observers have come to call The Saboteurs!).

    This dire situation became so apparent by the end of 4 years of Conservative (minority) power (with the benefit of hindsight the 3 years under Cllr Mary Mears being the least-worst of any Administration since our Unitary Authority started in 1997!) that at the election count in 2011 the victorious Greens were given multiple warnings not to let themselves become puppets of the Council’s officers!

    However history tells us that Jason Kitcat’s Administration came to dance so much to the tune of the Town Hall officers, with crass stupidities such as unsecured lending to the financially-unviable i360 and the financially-disastrous transfer of some 499 council houses to an investment arm of Banco Santander (a financial and housing scandal which hopefully will soon be uncovered by whichever brave Councillor recognises that: The truth will out!) that angry Green back-benchers attempted a coup to de-throne Cllr Kitcat!

    Somewhat ironically, given the current context of untouchable Council officers willingly giving the Greens ‘Enough rope to hang themselves’ ahead of the 2023 elections, that previous internal Green uprising was apparently lead by one Cllr Phelim MacCaferty – today’s Green.Council Leader!

    However the Gardner St debacle seems to have identified some potentially useful points, such as:

    1. No wheeled traffic, powered or otherwise, in Gardner St on Fri, Sat, Sun, between 10am – 30 mins after sunset except for;

    2. Blue Badge holders + taxis bringing or collecting a disabled passenger, to be granted entry during closure hours – by an intercom link to the Council’s central car-park control room, for an electric bollard or similar to be lowered by remote control?

    3. And add unlimited stay Blue Badge spaces to Regent St (Gardner St bays to be 3hrs max during restricted hours?), AND Jubilee St one-way to be reversed to be south-bound (to facilitate access to Regent St + other benefits to local traffic circulation etc?).

    Hopefully common-sense, and a much greater respect in our City for the multiple needs of those with a disability, will now prevail?

  8. Ruby Reply

    The Citizens Assembly was mentioned above as guidance to this issue – and this states there needs to be exceptions for people that need vehicles, such as disabled people/Blue Badge holders. Cars are an essential mobility aid. With the way Blue Badge holders are being disregarded concerning Gardner Street and other places in central Brighton – I don’t think the council (and other groups) even begin to realise how cars are vital to our health, freedom and wellbeing. It is unethical to exclude us.
    The way all this is being talked about doesn’t even mention what is lost to individual mobility-disabled people/any disabled or elderly person that needs vehicles – and then what is lost to all of Brighton and Hove’s community. The whole community suffers if disabled people aren’t allowed to be there. Or are you saying you don’t want us in the middle of Brighton? Councils are supposed to engage, but they were really happy to initially try to push this through. The council instead should be letting all residents know that some people will always need cars in all places – I feel like an unwanted person because to get anywhere I have to get in a car/taxi.
    Pedestrianised areas didn’t work for a lot of people in the 70’s, for mobility disabled people they were just exclusion zones. Don’t let the same continue to happen in Brighton – it’s just horrible to not let us be here and part of everything.

  9. Alice Reply

    Its very good this newspaper is bringing to light the issues that the council are trying to gloss over. we need conversation and smart solutions so everyone can be included in society. Not just abled bodied people.

  10. Blue Sky Reply

    What’s the bike doing in a Blue Badge Space, it doesn’t look like a weekend, else the road would be packed more with tables and chairs.

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