A six month statutory public consultation on the Heavitree & Whipton Active Streets trial is about to restart, three months after it began in August, extending the period during which residents and organisations can submit feedback on the scheme until May next year.
The consultation restart follows Devon County Council’s decision to allow taxis to use both the bus gates that have been installed in the scheme trial area. Taxis will also now be allowed to pass through the bus gates that were installed in Wonford Road in 2020.
A new Experimental Traffic Regulation Order for the scheme will be advertised from tomorrow and come into force on 9 November. The extension to the public consultation that it will trigger will not be reflected in the overall scheme trial length, which will remain eighteen months unless the county council decides to end it early.
Previous consultation responses will be included in the county council’s deliberations over whether to make the scheme permanent. The scheme is intended to reduce motor vehicle through traffic and increase walking and cycling in the trial area, in which around 17,000 people live.
Alterations to the three modal filters that have been installed in the area and the temporary waiting restrictions that have been introduced on Ladysmith Road are not currently planned.
It says that the consultation prompted more than 4,000 responses in its first eleven weeks and that a total of 1,650 people attended four public exhibitions held to promote the scheme in July and September.
The report says both opposition to and support for the scheme was expressed by September event attendees. The July events were held before the trial began so feedback from these events has not been included in the consultation, although the county council noted strong opposition at both.
The county council says that data gathered in the first two months of the scheme trial shows varying traffic increases at the five trial area boundary road locations it is monitoring.
While the change on Honiton Road is negligible, the number of vehicles per day on Hill Barton Road has risen 11% to 16,945 – an increase of 1,707 vehicles per day.
At the same time walking and cycling has increased at all but one of the six locations that are being monitored inside the trial area. The fall occurred on Roseland Crescent, a cul-de-sac that leads to Heavitree Pleasure Ground.
Changes in both also range from negligible to as much as a 41% increase in cycling on Park Road. This equates to an increase of 37 cycles per day from a pre-trial level of 90 cycles per day.
Ladysmith Road saw the largest walking increase. 106 additional pedestrians increased the count to 531 pedestrians per day, a rise of 25%.
Air quality monitoring will also form part of the trial. New sensors will be installed in four locations on the Heavitree Road corridor in the next few weeks which will provide more refined real-time data than the existing sensors, which are limited to providing monthly averages.
Four new sensors will also be installed inside the scheme trial area.
So many members of the public sought to attend Monday’s meeting that around fifteen of the 50 or so who tried to get in had to watch through the doors from the corridor.
Seven speakers, of whom three are Conservative city councillors, made vehement and sometimes strongly-worded arguments, six of them against the scheme.
One inflammatory speech warned of a “day of reckoning” coming the way of obstinate committee members in the form of an “electoral firestorm”.
Each of the six prompted loud applause, cheers and banging from many members of the public. Silence followed the single speaker in favour, a senior climate scientist who said he was speaking on behalf of a large group of residents.
Various committee members then had their say, most adding little. County council officers confirmed that the next scheme trial update, due in January, would include air quality data from the new sensors as well as more feedback derived from consultation responses and other data.
They also said they would assess whether the scheme trial was having wider impacts on the city’s roads and emphasised the limits of the data they had so far collected.
Comments on the scheme can be submitted via Devon County Council’s website or on a paper copy of the consultation form that can be requested by phoning 0345 155 1004, emailing [email protected] or writing to Devon County Council Transport Planning at Room 120, County Hall, Exeter EX2 4QD.
Written consultation responses can also be submitted by post.