Proposals from the Labour Council to reduce the pedestrian-only hours of George Street in Hove have caused outcry from local residents, organisations, businesses and Green Councillors.
Vehicle access to the street is currently restricted until 6pm, allowing for greater pedestrian access, outdoor seating and community space. A Council consultation of residents and traders in 2015 concluded there was no need for more vehicle access to George Street, citing major concerns over the increased probability of road accidents and injuries.
A report to next Tuesday’s meeting of Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee (October 10) will recommend reducing pedestrian access to accommodate the change in free parking at the nearby Tesco superstore. Councillors have been sent an unofficial survey by the Labour and Conservative ward councillors for Central Hove, Cllr Moonan and Cllr Wealls, which appears to suggest that the area would benefit from added traffic. However local organisations and businesses including Bricycles and Brighton and Hove Buses have spoken out against the proposals, with a public petition calling for the pedestrian area to remain open until 6pm gathering hundreds of signatures in a matter of hours.
Green Councillors reject the proposals, arguing that Labour and the Conservatives have colluded to override professional advice detailing that the plans will undermine public safety, worsen air quality and threaten the community culture of George Street. A public demonstration is planned for the meeting.
Councillor Pete West, member of Environment, Transport and Culture committee, commented:
“The Council report says ‘users of the road were clearly against’ any change to opening hours for cars. The Council’s own Road Safety Manager has made it clear that the proposals could increase the number of collisions and injuries, yet the Labour Council appear determined to override this professional advice. I am baffled as to how on the one hand, this Labour Council claims to care about air pollution and encouraging cycling and walking, yet on the other hand, wants to plough more cars through a pedestrian zone.
“Unofficial surveys carried by Councillors are no basis for a decision. I have no idea whether Cllrs Moonan and Wealls took the time to inform local residents and businesses of the consequences of changed hours, such as the increased risk of collisions, removal of outdoor seating, or of cars using the area as a shortcut. This Labour-Tory collusion to get more cars onto George Street will do nothing to address the very real problems of falling trade. The Council could support traders with a BID (business improvement district) to strengthen the identity and attractions of George Street, similar to initiatives on East Street and New Road – instead of blatantly disregarding pedestrian safety and public opinion.”
Becky Reynolds from local cycling organisation Bricycles, added:
“I am surprised to see that George Street’s traffic free hours are being challenged again so soon after the last consultation in September 2015.There is an assumption that more traffic brings more trade, but research shows that cyclists and pedestrians spend more money than car drivers and that traders often underestimate the contribution of people walking or cycling to the shops. At the moment, people can enjoy a relaxed “café tables” atmosphere in George Street. This would end if traffic were allowed in at 4pm.
“It appears that only an informal and unpublished survey has been carried out about parking and traders views. Whilst very sympathetic to any difficulties experienced by businesses, the report which accompanies this issue does not give any solid basis for increasing traffic hours in George Street.”
The petition to preserve the pedestrian hours of George Street is available to view here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-george-st-traffic-free-until-6pm-in-the-summer-months