Fresh trial of road blocks banning motorists from parts of Exeter to last for up to 18 months

More road blocks banning cars from parts of Exeter in a council trial lasting up to 18 months has begun despite 100s of objections to the latest city low traffic neighbourhood scheme.

A controversial trial of road changes in Heavitree and Whipton, which aims to improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, is underway, writes local democracy reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

A number of bollards and planters – or what the council calls ‘modal filters’ – together with gates to allow buses through are being installed to block off some roads to reduce through-traffic and boost cycling and walking.

Residents will still be able to drive to and from their homes, but may need to use alternative routes to get around the restrictions.

Exeter

Heavitree active streets illustration.
Image: Devon County Council.

The trial will be for up to 18 months, as part of a temporary arrangement agreed by Exeter’s highways and traffic orders committee in June, while the first six months will be a statutory consultation period for feedback from residents and organisations.

Devon County Council claims the scheme will “improve public health and wellbeing,” but many local residents are concerned about increased journey times and how much traffic will be pushed onto main roads nearby.

It has been developed following two phases of consultation with local people and businesses, as well as further engagement with local councillors and other key stakeholders.

The council says two recent engagement exercises were attended by over 900 people, with further events planned for September. However, it has decided not to conduct a new public consultation on the trial, despite more than 1,000 people calling for one.

Instead, residents are now being invited to give feedback on the changes over the next six months. The council says their views “will be considered when the time comes to decide whether the scheme should be permanent.”

Bus gates will be placed on Ladysmith Road, at the Park Road roundabout, and on Whipton Lane between Whiteway Drive and Georges Close.

They will allow buses, emergency vehicles and, when required, local authority vehicles such as waste collection lorries, to pass, while banning other vehicles.

Meanwhile, the ‘modal filters’ will go on St Marks Avenue, on the slip road between Ladysmith Road Roundabout and main section of St Marks Avenue; on Hamlin Lane, between Wykes Road and Hamlin Gardens; and on Vaughan Road, between Whipton Lane and Vaughan Rise.

A council spokesperson said: “We would like to thank everyone who attended our information events, and for their questions and feedback.

“We recognise the concerns made by some residents, and that’s why we will be trialling it for six months to see how it works in practice.

“More than 2,000 vehicles travel along many of these residential streets each day, deterring people from cycling or walking.  With this trial, we want to make a safer, cleaner less congested environment for people to walk and cycle.

“No decision will be made regarding any permanent changes until all feedback from the consultation has been considered.”

Local councillor Su Aves (Labour, St Sidwells and St James) added: “As councillors we want to make the whole area a safer and less congested environment for everyone, especially in the rush hours and during school drop off and pick up times, which is very stressful for so many.

“The hope is that overall there will be fewer journeys by vehicle, even though some individual journeys will be longer. This will mean a reduced volume of harmful vehicle emissions overall. This will encourage more people to walk and encourage those who are not confident at cycling to try it.

“Please take part in the consultation and share your experiences of this scheme so that we can make decisions as to what is best for the community overall.”

The trial comes days after prime minister Rishi Sunak ordered a review of low-traffic neighbourhoods, telling the Sunday Telegraph: “The vast majority of people in the country use their cars to get around and are dependent on cars.

“I just want to make sure people know that I’m on their side in supporting them to use their cars to do all the things that matter to them.”

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