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Protests over Heavitree roadblocks

Wednesday, 18 October 2023 15:08

By Guy Henderson, local democracy reporter

LTN protesters outside Exeter Guildhall (image courtesy: Guy Henderson)

Angry residents make their voices heard

Noisy protesters outside Exeter’s historic Guildhall left city councillors in no doubt that feelings are still running high over roadblocks stopping traffic getting through Heavitree.

The roads have been blocked since August in a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) trial designed to cut down on pollution and make the streets safer for pedestrians.

Supporters say it makes for cleaner residential streets, but protesters say it is just sending the traffic elsewhere, causing congestion and pollution and making journeys around the city longer.

A group waving ‘Stop The Block’ placards greeted members arriving for full council, and their chants and whistles could be heard inside as the meeting began.

The protesters quizzed councillors during a public session at the start of the meeting.

There were concerns over air quality on routes being used by drivers finding their way around the LTN including East Wonford Hill, which is now the most polluted street in the city.

Cllr Bob Foale (Labour, Alphington) said the narrow hill had always had high levels of pollution caused by slow-moving traffic but campaigner Ian Frankum said: “Any wilful decision that increases traffic and pollution on this road, jeopardising the health of those on it, is at best foolhardy and at worst negligent.”

Neil Martin said traffic on boundary roads around the outside of the LTN was soaring, and asked: “Who should the Exeter public hold responsible?”

Cllr Foale said that members of the Devon County Council highways and traffic orders committee had made the decision based on the best available information supplied to them at the time.

Cllr Carol Bennett (Green, Heavitree) said: “The main aim is to reduce rat runs, making the place safer and more attractive for residents. It’s about trying to change people’s mode of transport and thinking, which is obviously difficult. Change takes time.”

Cllr Bennett urged people to make their feelings about the LTN known in the current online consultation.

She went on: “I have heard from lots of people with concerns about the air pollution on arterial roads, but I’ve had lots and lots of positive feedback from people who are saying it’s much safer and it’s more attractive.

“It is changing people’s way of moving around Heavitree.”

But speaking outside the meeting, Mr Frankum said: “There have been a lot of problems.

“We have heard from care workers who can’t get to all their customers and are sitting in traffic, idling. Instead of seeing seven clients a day they are down to four or five.

“Postal workers have been unable to finish their routes. The scheme is hugely unpopular.”

He said consultation before the scheme began had been inadequate.

“We just need our councillors to see some sense,” he said. “They say they are listening, but we want to see some action to show that they really are.”

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