More than 400 objections to proposals to allow traffic in a newly pedestrianised street are being discounted because they weren’t made through official channels.
Traders in Gardner Street put up posters with a QR code which, when scanned by a smartphone, created a draft email to Brighton and Hove City Council objecting to allowing traffic in the road again.
The shopping street was pedestrianised everyday from 11am to 5pm in November last year, with Green councillors voting in favour, Tories against and Labour abstaining.
However, Labour pledged to partially reopen the street to cars after lobbying by disability groups on behalf of resident Ann Ingle, who said the move meant she could not leave her house during these hours.
Ms Ingle, who has lived in Gardner Street for 15 years, told Brighton and Hove News she needs cars to be able to pull up outside her flat in the middle of the street as her condition means she can’t use a wheelchair.
The latest proposal, which will reduce the hours of pedestrianisation to Fridays to Sundays, is set to be approved on Tuesday by the transport and sustainability committee, which now has a Labour majority.
The report says 61.9% of people who responded to a consultation on these changes were in favour – but says of the 549 comments, 402 were being discounted.
All these said they objected to the reintroduction of motor vehicles from Monday to Sunday, giving the same reasons including reduced safety, reduced wheelchair access, increased pollution and impact on trading.
The report said: “These comments have been noted and are highlighted to the committee, but the information provided to the public is considered to be incorrect.
“The advertised QR code did not provide a link to the council’s consultation … Those responding to the comments were therefore not given all the information required to make an informed decision.”
Green councillor Ellen McLeay, who represents West Hill and North Laine, said: “From speaking to residents and traders in the North Laine it’s clear people want to see a solution that both supports independent businesses, the safety of pedestrians and that puts accessibility at its heart.
“It’s clear that finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs is by no means straightforward. But dismissing more than 400 objections on the grounds of a vague technicality is not the way to do it.
“We recognise this is a complex local issue so it is important that everyone is given the chance to express their opinions and feel they have been taken on board before any decision is made.
“For more than 400 comments to be discounted on what is a questionable technicality and with no flexibility gives the impression Labour does not want to hear alternative views.”
One of the traders whose comments are included in the report, who said he has been trading in Gardner Street since 2005, said: “One of the great things this year has been seeing the ease with which wheelchairs and buggies have been able to get through the North Laine, and how many more we have seen.
“There is something very Orwellian about the equalities officer telling us that the needs of one disabled resident is so much more important than everyone else’s disabilities, not to mention the 60 businesses, hundreds of staff and the rest of the city
“I would like to reach out to our neighbour opposite. We have always been very close to her, we still feel close to her, although recently she has distanced herself from us.
“She is still a friend, and I will never let anyone say anything bad about her, I care so much about her, but this situation clearly needs compromise. That compromise needs to be two way.”
Another says: “I feel it is abhorrent for business to be prioritised over the welfare and access of disabled individuals. I am also aware that there is a disabled resident trapped in their own home – this needs to end. There is no moral justification for this.”
Councillor Trevor Muten said: Councillor Trevor Muten said: “I remain shocked at the Green administration’s decision to entirely close Gardner Street to traffic, which wholly undermined the freedom of a disabled resident, who has been left stuck in their home for months.
“I’m disturbed that instead of apologising to the resident concerned and working with us, traders and residents to find a rational solution to this issue, the Greens are whipping up opposition to a reasonable compromise. Why does the Green Party show such disdain for disabled residents?
“The Labour administration are pleased to be proposing a workable compromise to ensure the vibrancy of this busy street in the heart of the North Laine is maintained, while also ensuring fair access for residents.
“The proposal will ensure that the street continues to be pedestrianised between 11am and 7pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and Bank Holidays.”