Hundreds of residents made their way to the Town Hall today, Monday, to protest against proposals to make a raft of changes to the town’s roads – including the introduction of a new bus gate.
Warrington Borough Council revealed its controversial Central 6 Streets Plan earlier this month, affecting routes in the Orford and Westy areas.
One of the most drastic changes will see the introduction of a bus gate on Hallfields Road – making it access-only and allowing only public transport, taxis and bicycles to move to and from O’Leary Street.
More than 4,000 residents have signed a petition against the plans.
And a peaceful demonstration by those against the proposals took place before the meeting of the council’s cabinet at the Town Hall today. The council also accepted the petition from the group.
Warrington Residents Opposition Group to Central 6 Street Plan founder Rachael Harper said it is clear that the council has been ‘ignoring us as individuals’.
A letter has been sent to the council calling for, as a minimum, a six-month delay so a ‘proper’ public consultation can be carried out.
“I think we need to do more of this so the council learn to appreciate that we as people will not allow things to be pushed through without our consent,” said Rachael.
“We’re here to have our say and get people heard.
“It’s about everybody – this is going to have major impacts across Warrington.”
The group wants the council to delay the implementation of the Central 6 street plans, until there has been a wider public consultation and more assessments done on traffic, parking and businesses in the relevant areas that will be affected.
Council leader Cllr Russ Bowden said: “Our proposals to introduce experimental low traffic neighbourhoods in the Orford and Westy areas of Warrington are aimed at reducing through-traffic and improving conditions for people living in the area, pedestrians and cyclists.
“The residential streets in these areas have been identified as areas where there is higher-than-normal use by motorists as shortcuts (known as ‘rat running’), causing environmental and road safety issues for local people.
“Our consultation with more than 2,500 in the central wards of Warrington, as part of the development of our Central 6 Regeneration Masterplan saw concerns being raised around high traffic levels, road safety, air pollution and the quality of streets within these areas.
“While the introduction of these measures may mean an initial period of some disruption to motorists due to changes in routing and travel habits, we believe this will be outweighed – once traffic patterns settle down – by the huge environmental and health benefits for the local community.
“We know that the proposals for the low traffic neighbourhood schemes have raised concerns from residents and our communities and we will continue to listen to all feedback.
“It’s important to note that these schemes will be introduced on a trial basis. During the trial period, we will be providing local people with lots of opportunities to provide feedback. We will take all views on board which, alongside extensive data collection, will be used to monitor the impact and identify issues.”
Furthermore, the town’s Conservatives, the Opposition group on the council, will put forward a motion on the Orford and Westy low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) schemes at the full council meeting next week.
The motion, which is to be proposed by Cllr Mark Jervis and seconded by Cllr Nigel Balding, says it now seems clear that the council’s political leadership have underestimated the level of opposition by residents.
It adds: “More needs to be done to increase engagement with local residents to better explain the fuller implications of the schemes prior to implementation. This improved engagement should lead to greater public acceptance thereby increasing the prospects for success of the trials.”
The motion calls for a range of matters, including a call for the council to halt the implementation of both LTN trials ‘forthwith pending improved public engagement by the council on full the implications of both schemes’.
It also calls for associated LTN signage to be covered up as soon as reasonably practical and for the bus gate on Hallfields Road to be be deactivated, with no FPNs to be issued for the time being.