Did Exeter Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions cost Labour its Heavitree seat?

Motorists and residents in areas of Exeter ruled by Low Traffic Neighbourhood restrictions, banning vehicles from multiple streets, are believed to have taken their frustration out on the ballot box, resulting in Labour losing a seat.

The shadow of Exeter’s controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood project loomed large over the city council elections, writes local democracy reporter Guy Henderson.

Traffic has been restricted in a number of places through Heavitree and Whipton, with supporters saying it will improve safety and cut pollution, but opponents saying it has just made matters worse by moving traffic issues elsewhere.

While Labour held on to the city council and increased its majority by one, the anti-LTN protest made itself felt.

In Heavitree itself, Independent candidate Lucy Haigh seized the Labour seat and pledged to make the protesters’ voices heard.

She said: “People probably voted for me because they are frustrated about the LTN in Heavitree and Whipton Barton, and its effects on other areas of Exeter, and the fact that they have not been given a voice to express their concerns.

“That’s why I stood – to give them that opportunity.

“I’m going to take the opportunity to sit down with different departments and I’m going to challenge some of the decisions.

“I will be taking their voice to the corridors of Exeter City Council.”

And Conservative group leader Cllr Anne Jobson (St Loyes) said her opposition to the LTN scheme, and the government’s recent announcement which said none should be introduced without the full consent of local people, had helped her campaign in St Loyes.

She went on: “We have very much fought this election on local issues – the LTN, the lack of bins in parks, the lack of weeds being cleared up – it was a very, very focused campaign we fought as Conservatives.

“We have consistently pointed out that there was not a proper consultation into the LTN. You can’t call a consultation during Covid a proper consultation.

“It was brought in without adequate data, without adequate consultation. That message is shown not just with Lucy Haigh winning in Heavitree and me getting a safe majority in St Loyes, but in some of the other votes the Independents have got as well.

“If there is one message to politicians is that if you want to do something, you must go and talk to the residents.”

Green Party group leader Diana Moore (St Davids) said she was delighted to have seen the party take the Newtown and St Leonards ward from Labour.

She said: “People can see that we have hard-working councillors who are talking to their communities and listening to what people have to say.

“It has been a pleasure to be part of this election campaign. Elections are always hard work, but it is really important that people go out and vote – to engage with the people who wish to represent them.

“Thank you to everyone who has voted.”

But council leader Phil Bialyk, whose Exwick victory for Labour was the first to be announced, said the party’s triumph had been down to ‘hard work’. And, he said, it had been down to a party looking at the bigger picture, not just single issues like the LTN.

He added: “I like to think people understand what we are trying to do here in Exeter on behalf of the residents.

“We are the political adults in the room. We cover the whole city. We are not just about one issue. We have to look towards Exeter’s future.”

Exeter election 2024 results: Labour keeps control of the city