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How are we going to decarbonise Exeter’s streets?

  • by JW

“Another week passes and more divided views are vocalised over the changes in residential streets in Exeter.” [Devon Live]


How are we going to ‘decarbonise’ our transport? is a question which most people are taking seriously – even those protesting against the current proposals for Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods in Exeter:

“Apologies for the radio silence to date, but the Heavitree Traders Association felt it was important to fact find and discuss before giving a formal response to what we believe to be the recent farcical LTN situation. We met last week and are fully supportive of a low emission ethos to benefit our collective environment, however, feel that the current design is impractical and detrimental to the Heavitree Community as a whole, especially following the recent ramifications of Covid and the cost of living crisis. We truly believe this is now an obstacle too far that will stifle trade and has the potential to destroy what we fondly refer to as ‘The gateway to Exeter'”

Demonstrations were held today outside County Hall – following on from a group of  residents claiming a proper consultation was not conducted by the County Council:

In autumn 2021, Devon County Council conducted a phase two online consultation looking at different options to make residential roads in Heavitree and Whipton quieter and safer, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists… However, a group of campaigning residents called Heavitree Advocates claim that local residents and businesses have not been properly consulted before the trial and no ‘clear plan’ of what the scheme will look like or its impact has been shared.

The trial traffic scheme was approved by the relevant committee – with a dedicated website asking for feedback – which details what the council considers to have been considerable consultation to date.

However, there is clearly opposition to the scheme – from the Heavitree Traders Association quoted above and the Heavitree Community Network to a new Stop The Block campaign. Indeed, such are the feelings against the new system, that bollards and cameras have been vandalised.

There is a public social media platform to discuss Exeter’s Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods – Heavitree and Exeter Community United – where most posting comments are against the schemes, although there is open debate of the issues and the situation as felt by those using the roads.

Looking at the support for the trial scheme, when the LTN was introduced, there were two counter petitions from both the Heavitree Advocates and the Support Active Streets Heavitree and Whipton Trial Scheme.

Clearly the Exeter Cycling Campaign are supportive – and other voices are being heard through the local media – with claims that the controversial Exeter traffic changes are needed and “the grown-ups in the room know it”:

Another week passes and more divided views are vocalised over the changes in residential streets in Exeter. The Heavitree and Whipton Active Street trial scheme was given the go-ahead by Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee and aims to create a safer and more attractive environment for people walking, wheeling and cycling – but views both for and against are increasingly polarised.

The changes, which have been in place for nearly a month now as part of a trial, have seen bus gates installed on Whipton Lane and Ladysmith Road. Physical filters, such as bollards and planters, have been installed on Vaughan Road, Hamlin Lane and St Marks Avenue which prevent the passage of all vehicles.

This week a Hamlin Gardens resident reported seeing an ambulance with blue flashing lights coming down from Polsloe Bridge into Hamlin Lane. The resident said the ambulance had to stop at the blockade and run into Hamlin Gardens with oxygen and equipment to a patient at the other end of the road.

Last week, in letters to our sister print title the Express and Echo, Cllr Anne Jobson, leader of the Conservative Group on Exeter City Council, said the scheme was causing anger and dismay among many Exeter residents. She said it was not too late to remove the planters and bollards and go back to the drawing board. Cllr, Alison Sheridan; Conservative member for the St Loye’s ward, asked how preying upon ordinary local families, children, the elderly, the vulnerable and the disabled made things fairer?

Now in this week’s edition, supporters of the changes have hit back. One writes how the letter from Cllr Sheridan misses the point of the scheme, while another writes that the grown-ups in the room know that change is needed to make the streets safer.

Read the full letters below…

And here’s a Reddit thread generally supportive of the scheme – with a comparison to the controversy in Oxford:

I used to live in Exeter, and I now live in Oxford and we’ve had LTNs for about a year now. It is absolutely hilarious watching the same nonsense surrounding them unfold in Exeter as we have had here.

The same thing will happen there as it did here, mostly people will accept them and find them to be good for where they live (some adaptations will be needed – hence the trial), and a loud mostly unhinged minority will cause problems by vandalising them (causing a waste of money and delays to emergency services), blame their business failures on them and suddenly care about ambulance response times and disabled access despite never having been interested in them before and only then as an excuse to try and stop the LTNs.

Oxford was even subject to the completely mad far-right nut-jobs such as Katie Hopkins and Right Said Fred amplifying the noise across to America followed with a big march through town by the same types as Anti-5G and Anti-Vaxers and then swiftly followed by the 15 minute city lockdown conspiracy people.

It’ll be a year of noise, people will get used to them and life will move on.

Indeed, whilst there have been national reports about conspiracy theorists infiltrating the UK’s low-traffic protests, taking advantage of people’s concerns, it was reported last month that a far-right group has “tried to inflame the traffic debate” in Exeter itself. Although certainly not all national groups questioning LTNs are of this ilk.

Ultimately, ‘ordinary people’ have to see the benefits of responding to climate change – and not be the ones who bear the brunt.