Save Madeira Drive
The Vintage Motor Cycle Club (VMCC) is raising funds to support a legal challenge of the closure of Madeira Drive and to establish a fund to support similar cases in the future.
We seek a solution acceptable to the users of cars, motorbikes, scooters, horses, horse-drawn vehicles and mobility scooters, businesses, residents who have been unfairly excluded from using Maderia Drive.
Our Motoring Heritage
In the 19th century, a big, stone-faced and flat-topped embankment was built to protect Brighton from the sea. Later, shops, cafes and a raised walkway were added to what had become “Madeira Drive”. In 1896, Brighton was the destination for “The Emancipation Run” from London, as drivers of the early cars celebrated the change in the law allowing them to travel at up to 14mph: what is popularly known as the London to Brighton Run continues to this day. In 1905, a local hotel-owner persuaded the Council to resurface Madeira Drive with tarmac so that it could be used for motorsport events. The National Speed Trials have continued ever since - the oldest motorsport event in the UK. The motorcycle element of the trials is organised by the VMCC Sprint Section: https://www.vmccsprint.co.uk.
More than that, this straight and level 1500-metre length of road above the beach has for decades been a place of pilgrimage for motorcyclists, and the destination of runs for all sorts of classic vehicles from commercial vehicles to Minis. And for the Mods, the scooter lads and lasses, Brighton, and particularly Madeira Drive, is the place to go.
Plenty of room for everyone
Brighton and Hove City Council now propose to do away with all of this. A small but vocal minority, which has the Council’s ear, has campaigned for some years for Madeira Drive to be made into an exercise area for walkers and cyclists. But they don’t want to share. We sympathise with making areas for pedestrians and cyclists, and the vast majority of people are quite happy to share Madeira Drive with others, whatever their means of travel. There’s no need for Madeira Drive to be used as a through-route for traffic, or for large-scale car parking. But, the VMCC argues, it is perfectly possible for Madeira Drive to remain a destination for vehicle club runs, to have a motorcycle and scooter parking area for independent riders, and - for one day a year, to continue to be the venue of the 115-year-old Speed Trials. Madeira Drive is a large space, and there’s plenty of room for everyone.
The VMCC says that the Council has not acted fairly, or in accordance with the law. A Temporary closure was initially imposed on 20th April 2020, using Covid-19 as the excuse, to convert the road to an exercise space during the acute phase of lockdown. Brighton and Hove City Council chose not to reopen Madeira Drive when lockdown restrictions were relaxed, despite indicating that they would do so in their notices for the initial emergency closure.
The Council made a temporary order on the 6th May 2020 to close Madeira Drive for 18 months. The same Covid-19 reasoning is relied upon for the order, but the Council regards the closure as an experiment and decided on the 23rd June to continue the closure on that basis.
After 115 years, the annual Speed Trials would be scrapped on a political whim. There has been no consultation with the organisers of events that have been using Madeira Drive for many years, and no consultation with local businesses that trade with visiting motorcyclists and clubs.
The VMCC argues that Brighton and Hove City Council are using COVID-19 as an excuse to progress an agenda that acts against public access and which does not take into account all sectors of society. The Council's documentation reveals that the closure is for the purposes of "experiment". The actions of the Council suggest that the intention is to permanently ban motor vehicles and convert the road into a cycle track.
There are current e-petitions in place, both to remove the closure and to extend it. At the time of writing, 12,000 people have participated, and this has been helpful in demonstrating that four times as many want the road to open than want it shut. There is no obligation for the council to act on this petition and building on this work, we feel a stronger challenge is needed.
The risks of challenge
Although we believe we have a strong case, there is are risks.
Legal costs may outstrip the fund’s ability to raise money and we would have to withdraw.
A win may be partial, retaining use by some but not others.
If we win, the Council may put on further orders, requiring subsequent rounds of funding in the future.
The current closure
The current closure bans use of the road by cars, motorbikes, scooters, horses, horse-drawn vehicles and mobility scooters. Businesses, residents, and user groups were unfairly not consulted ahead of the latest 18-month closure, despite its duration extending beyond what most would consider being justifiable by the lockdown.
How you can help
The VMCC, together with the Trail Riders Fellowship, has commenced the pre-action stage of seeking a judicial review of Brighton and Hove City Council's closure of Madeira Drive.
You can help by making a financial contribution towards legal fees to challenge the decision and find a solution acceptable to the users of cars, motorbikes, scooters, horses, horse-drawn vehicles and mobility scooters, businesses, residents of Maderia Drive.