City chiefs ignore ongoing pleas to scrap Exeter low traffic trial and focus on following the data

More time has been given to a ‘controversial’ traffic trial in Exeter where motorists have been banned from driving on multiple residential roads.

Exeter’s controversial active streets traffic scheme has survived attempts to get it scrapped, writes local democracy reporter Guy Henderson.

A report to the Devon County Council committee which set up the trial in Heavitree and Whipton suggested it could be axed because it was not meeting its targets.

Exeter

The map of the low traffic areas outlined for Heavitree.
Image: DCC.

While thousands of people signed petitions against it, members of the Highways and Traffic Orders Committee gave it a reprieve and said they needed more information before making a final decision.

The report said the scheme is only performing well in two out of its 10 target measures, with better conditions for walkers and cyclists inside the trial area.

Exeter has a controversial traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

Exeter has a controversial traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

But while traffic had increased on some boundary roads and some journeys by car and bus are taking longer, the results so far are inconclusive on other measures.

The trial is designed to cut pollution and make the streets safer, and supporters say local families enjoy the quieter streets. Opponents say traffic is just being driven onto other roads around the area, and emergency services are being delayed.

Another area hit by the low traffic scheme. Images: Guy Henderson

Another area in Heavitree hit by the low traffic scheme. Photo: Guy Henderson.

Councillors were divided on whether to scrap the scheme or let it run its course. Cllr Alison Sheridan (Con, St Loyes) said: “This trial must end now. The people have done everything within their power to say no to it.

“It’s time to let common sense prevail.”

Cllr Andrew Leadbetter (Con, Topsham) said the scheme had ‘taken a sledgehammer to crack a nut’ and added: “We need to go back to the drawing board. Thousands of people are against it and it is ruining people’s lives.

“We said we would follow the data.”

road blocks

Some of the new road blocks in Exeter.
Photo: George Poundlander.

But other Councillors said the trial, which has been running since August, had not yet produced enough data. They were also concerned about a recommendation to leave the decision on ‘suspending’ the trial to council officers.

“Why are we having to make this massive decision for our community based on just two days’ worth of vehicle data?” asked Cllr Tracy Adams (Lab, Pinhoe and Mincinglake). “I also feel that taking away our democratic right to vote on it is wrong.

“This is not serving our residents properly.”

Exeter

Vandals target Exeter’s roadblocks in Heavitree.
Photo: George Poundlander.

Cllr Carol Whitton (Lab, St Davids and Haven Banks) urged members to wait for more data before deciding on the future of the trial. She said she had received more than 100 emails from people in the trial area calling for the scheme to continue.

“These are people who like it,” she said. “People who feel it is improving their lives and the lives of their families.

“It is certainly not the case that there is a universal view of people who live in the area that it is ruining everybody’s lives.”

protest

Protesters hit out at the new low traffic neighbourhood road blocks in Exeter in 2023, outside County Hall.
Photos: Guy Henderson/LDR.

Cllr Josie Parkhouse (Lab, Pennsylvania) said handing control to officers would be ‘unprecedented’.

“Whether you are pro or anti this scheme, it is a dangerous precedent,” she said. “We are here for a reason.

“And I don’t know why we are being asked to make this decision prematurely, without the data, and to delegate that decision to officers.

“This is a trial, and prematurely pulling it is counter to democracy.”

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