Exeter drivers still banned from driving through LTN bus gates - despite scheme's axe

Vast confusion has been caused following the decision to scrap Exeter's hugely controversial low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial scheme in Heavitree and Whipton in terms of the immediate impact on drivers and future changes. On Monday, June 3, members of Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee (HATOC), agreed to axe the scheme.

It was agreed to suspend some of the regulations stopping traffic getting through parts of the city straight away, while other restrictions will stay in place until the school summer holidays. Currently, no changes have been made to the roadblocks.

Today, Devon County Council (DCC) has confirmed to DevonLive that although the decision has been made to remove the LTN scheme, it is still active. Therefore, it remains an offence for anyone to drive through the bus gates unless they are exempt under the Experimental Traffic Regulation Orders (ETROs) which is still in place.

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DCC has warned it will 'continue enforcement activity' until the ETRO is revoked. A date for when it will end has not been confirmed.

When the scheme formally ends, the bus gate and signs in Whipton Lane will be removed 'as soon as practicable', whereas the one in Ladysmith Road will remain in place until after the end of the school summer term.

Roads blocked by bollards, such as in Hamlin Lane, will also have them removed 'as soon as practicable'. Planters at the roadblocks could 'potentially' be reused as traffic calming measures with the aim of reducing speed.

Road blockages in Hamlin Lane, Heavitree
Road blockages in Hamlin Lane, Heavitree -Credit:DevonLive

Here are the responses from DCC in full:

Are people now permitted to drive through the bus gates?

No. The experimental traffic orders still apply until they are revoked and the signs and bollards are removed by Devon County Council, which will be done as soon as practicable.

What will happen to the bus gate in Whipton Lane?

The committee agreed that the bus gate and signs for Whipton Lane will be removed as soon as practicable. Some of the planters may remain in place to act as traffic calming measures. Designs for this are being prepared and a safety audit is being carried out which is expected to take a couple of weeks.

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

What will happen to the bus gate on Ladysmith Road?

The committee agreed that the bus gate and signs on Ladysmith Road will remain in place until after the school summer term has ended. The county council will see if it is possible for planters to be used in this area as a traffic calming measure.

When will the bollards be removed in the other areas of the LTN trial? Will the planters remain or be taken away?

The committee agreed that trial measures for Hamlin Lane, Whipton Lane and Vaughan Road should be removed as soon as practicable but Ladysmith Road/ Park Road and St Marks Avenue will remain in place until the school summer term has finished.

Planters in Homefield Road and Chard Road will remain in place as they have been approved formally at previous committee meetings.

How much will it cost to remove the LTN scheme?

The cost is currently unknown and will depend on the work involved in updating signs and the potential reuse of planters as traffic calming measures.

What will happen to those drivers who have received letters from driving through the bus gates while the trial was active? Will those matters still be pursued?

Devon and Cornwall Police has issued notices of intended prosecution for offences linked to the contraventions of the signage at the two bus gates. These offences will stand, and it is a further offence to fail to respond to the notice and provide the required information. Working alongside Devon County Council, the police will continue enforcement activity until the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order is revoked.

The ambulance stopped by the roadblock in Hamlin Lane
An ambulance stopped by the roadblock in Hamlin Lane pictured in August 2023 -Credit:Submitted pic

The Active Streets Heavitree and Whipton Trial Scheme 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 was 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.

Campaigners against the scheme said it had led to more pollution, divided communities, increased traffic and had caused a detrimental impact on some residents and businesses. Supporters of the LTN said it was needed to increase numbers of people walking and cycling in the area.

The trial was originally scheduled to run for six months. However, following the amendment of the ETRO 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.

It revealed significant opposition against it, with 81 per cent of respondents opposed to the scheme and only 19 per cent in support. In a report written by Meg Booth, director of Climate Change, Environment and Transport, it stated the scheme had 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'.

DCC will now prepare a further report looking at any of the positive impacts of the scheme and officers will meet with focus groups to look at measures to reduce the use of roads as rat runs.