Decision day for Exeter's controversial LTN scheme

Today is D-Day for Exeter's controversial low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in Heavitree and Whipton. Councillors will decide whether to scrap - or continue - the scheme which has divided the city.

The Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC), which is made up of Devon County and Exeter City councillors, meets today from 10.30am at County Hall. And the recommendation from officers is that the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders associated with Ladysmith Road/ParkRoad, St Marks Avenue, Hamlin Lane, Whipton Lane and Vaughan Road are suspended as soon as is practicable.

The report to the meeting says that a significant majority of consultation form responses indicated opposition to each of the scheme components. Overall, 82% of responses were opposed to the various scheme elements, with only 18% in support.

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Of the scheme elements, the Ladysmith Road/Park Road bus gate (and waiting restrictions) and St Marks Avenue traffic filter was the most supported - but only by 22% of people, whilst the Vaughan Road traffic filter was the least supported, with only 16% in favour.

The report written by Meg Booth, director of Climate Change, Environment and Transport, states the Active Streets Heavitree and Whipton Trial Scheme has significantly negatively impacted the lives of disabled people, those with health issues and even pupils and a local special school who were said to have been subjected to 'additional distress and pain'.

Ms Booth said in the report: "After considering the comments from local residents and partners the analysis has demonstrated that some members of the community have found the trial beneficial and this has had a positive impact, particularly for those who are able to walk and wheel but, a disproportionately higher number of the community have voiced that the trial has had a detrimental effect.

"The committee will now need to balance the opposing and wide-ranging views of the local community along with the evidence collected and reach a decision on continuation of the trial."

Bus gate on Ladysmith Road, Exeter -Credit:DevonLive
Bus gate on Ladysmith Road, Exeter -Credit:DevonLive

The report concludes: "The Active Streets scheme in Heavitree and Whipton has been trialled for over 9 months, with the Statutory Consultation period having completed on 8 May 2024. The results of that show a significant level of opposition to the trial.

"Monitoring data compared to pre-trial statistics shows significant increases in traffic volumes on the boundary roads, particularly on the north-south roads (Polsloe Road and Hill Barton Road), whilst vehicle speeds on the boundary roads have reduced. There have also been some increases in delays experienced by buses on the boundary roads, particularly on Pinhoe Road. Air quality data does not show any exceedances of hourly limits for nitrogen dioxide on key boundary roads, with monitoring of air quality ongoing.

"There are some positives to consider such as an increase in levels of walking and cycling and reduced traffic volumes within the trial area. However, given the adverse impacts that have been identified for those people with protected characteristics and in consideration of the Equality Act 2010 Public Sector Equality Duty the recommendation is to suspend the trial. The committee is also asked to approve the financial increase to £250,000 to accommodate additional activities associated with the trial scheme."

The trial began on August 3, 2023, with three barriers and two bus gates installed in Heavitree and Whipton, along with changes to parking restrictions on Ladysmith Road. Its aim has been to remove through traffic from Heavitree and Whipton’s key residential areas to create a safer and more attractive environment for people walking, wheeling and cycling.

The trial was originally scheduled to run for six months. However, following the amendment of the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) to exempt taxis and private hire vehicles from the bus gate restrictions after significant concerns were raised, the consultation was extended to finish on May 8.

The three recommendations the committee is being asked to consider is:

  • The Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders associated with Ladysmith Road/ParkRoad, St Marks Avenue, Hamlin Lane, Whipton Lane and Vaughan Road are suspended as soon as is practicable

  • A report is taken to the July Committee meeting with a detailed analysis of the feedback that has been received through the consultation

  • The committee approves budget increase to £250,000 from the Active TravelEngland, Capability and Ambition Fund to accommodate additional activities associated with the trial scheme

Ms Booth has previously recommended the trial be halted. In January, she published a success measuring report for HATOC which stated only two out of 10 indicators were performing well.

While some councillors called for an end to the scheme, others raised concerns that the data was too limited to make the 'massive' decision. HATOC concluded that more information was needed and allowed the trial to continue.