Calls for ‘nightmare’ Exeter low-traffic experiment to be paused

Campaigners fighting a controversial traffic experiment in Exeter have urged the councillors who created it to go back to the drawing board amid claims it has become a ‘nightmare.’ 

“It’s like a bubble under wallpaper,” said St Loyes representative Councillor Peter Holland. “A problem solved in one area manifests itself in another.”

Now Devon County Council’s Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC) has met to consider a progress report on the trial scheme in Heavitree and Whipton, writes Local Democracy Reporter Guy Henderson.

Cars are banned from some streets in a pilot designed to cut pollution and improve road safety, but protesters say it just moves traffic elsewhere and causes massive disruption.

Cllr Holland said he has spoken to more than 100 people about the trial, and all but a handful are against it.

“The figures speak for themselves,” he said. “I am asking for the scheme to be paused for a full and thorough assessment. At a stroke this committee has alienated a large section of the Exeter community.”

Exeter has a controversial traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

Exeter has a controversial traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

Exeter has a controversial traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

HATOC – a committee made up of county and city councillors, first started consulting on the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme several years ago.

But since the 18-month trial was introduced in the summer, there have been angry protests.

Chanting campaigners waving ‘Stop the Block’ placards greeted councillors arriving for the meeting on Monday 30 October, and a number of them were invited to speak.

Campaigner Ian Frankum said holding the meeting on the eve of Halloween was appropriate because the scheme was a ‘nightmare’.

Cllr Holland called for the trial to be suspended. He said: “This committee has strived to exert control over individual freedoms. This is not a sincere effort to reduce pollution.”

But climate scientist Professor Richard Betts spoke on behalf of residents in favour of the scheme, saying: “Action to reduce traffic levels is crucial to our wellbeing, making the environment healthier and tackling climate change.

“There is not enough space in our city for all travel to be in individual cars. The key question is how overall traffic can be reduced, and this is testing out one method.

“If streets are made safer for cycling and walking, more people choose those options.”

Mr Betts said the scheme needed to run for the full trial period of 18 months to gather all the data, but Cllr Alison Sheridan, who represents St Loyes, demanded the results of the council’s consultation so far.

The consultation is still in progress and no results have been published yet.

“We are actively and knowingly going against the people we serve,” said Cllr Sheridan. “What does that say about democracy in our city?”

The controversial traffic scheme in Exeter. Image: Guy Henderson

The controversial traffic scheme in Exeter. Image: Guy Henderson

Cllr Anne Jobson, also a ward member for St Loyes, said the Conservatives had carried out their own survey, with around 1,300 of 6,000 households responding.

More than 85 per cent of responders said the trial was not working, she said.

And, she added: “Let’s have no more delay. Pause this scheme and sit down properly with the local community to find a practical solution.”

But Cllr Tracy Adams, who represents Pinhoe and Mincinglake, called for calm.

She said: “This is a trial and we are listening to all voices. There are lots of positive stories as well as people not being positive about it.

“There are no easy solutions to this. We have to think about how, as a city, we are going to deal with traffic, making it easier for people to move around our city, not just by car.

“We have got to start thinking differently about our congested city.”

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