On Thursday night a lobby that was held ahead of a meeting of Leicester City councillors — that was organised by campaigners from Enough is Enough Leicester (which included myself) — succeeded in forcing the city council to delay their planned vote on a proposed 70 per cent increase in energy bills for 2,500 council tenants. However, despite this success our Labour-run City Council is still ploughing ahead with several other ventures that are riding roughshod over the concerns of local communities.
One such problematic venture is a government funded initiative that aims to close selected residential roads across the city. And a lack of consultation with affected residents about these changes is, as you might expect, causing widespread discontent. This can be seen in the case of the “experimental” road closure that was recently imposed upon the residents of Evington — an issue which I have already written about here: “Leicester Labour councillors send astonishing letter to Evington residents who are protesting against ongoing road closures” (June 25), and here “The Davenport Road closure saga deepens” (September 1).
But road closures continue to be opposed in other parts of the city too, and at last night’s full council meeting, Labour Party councillor Sue Waddington spoke on behalf of local residents in Fosse ward who are opposing a similar so-called traffic calming scheme that was imposed in their neighbourhood last year. This imposition was first reported on in the Leicester Mercury in an article titled “Six month road closure to stop rat-running drivers in Leicester” (November 16, 2021) which noted:
“The road will be closed for the next six months between its junctions with Brading Road and Courtenay Road to prevent through-traffic. Temporary barriers will be installed initially, but the council say these will be replaced by “more attractive” removable planters in the coming weeks.”
Ever since then, opposition to this road closure has been ongoing, and on April 27 the Mercury ran another article titled “Residents ‘dead set’ against experimental closure of Buckminster Road in Leicester.” In this report, the newspaper quoted Paul Reid, 36, who lives in Fineshade Avenue, as saying:
“It’s a daft idea which will just push the rat-runners onto residential streets nearby. There has been no consultation on this with people who actually live in the area. The council’s just come along and said ‘We are doing this and you have to lump it for six months.’ Nobody actually believes that they are not going to make it permanent in the end anyway. It feels like they have already made up their minds even though a lot of people are dead set against it.”
With the road still blocked, local concerns have not simply evaporated. And at the council meeting last night, Councillor Waddington, addressing her questions to the deputy city mayor for environment and transport, councillor Adam Clarke, asked:
“Could the deputy mayor arrange for the reopening of Buckminster Road at the junction with Anstey Lane to take place as soon as possible in view of the following. Firstly, this was an experimental closure introduced 12 months ago without prior consultation with residents; secondly, there have been many complaints from residents about the impact on their surrounding streets, which are much narrower than Buckminster Road, including an increase of traffic by 81% on Colwell Road, and a large number of objections from residents from other nearby residential streets including those on the Minster Grange Estate about the increased volume of traffic, excessive speed levels, and parking problems, which were the unintended but serious consequences of the Buckminster Road closure; and thirdly, the proposed changes to traffic movement at the five-ways junction, which will restrict traffic using that junction from turning into Buckminster Road from certain directions which should result in less traffic travelling along Buckminster Road.”
Deputy mayor councillor Adam Clarke replied making it clear that the road would not be reopened. Instead he insisted that the experimental closure “has proven effective”; although he did say that planning officers had met with residents on Colwell Road and aim to take a decision on their concerns in the New Year. In reply, councillor Waddington asked:
“Perhaps councillor Clarke will give us the figures in relation to the number of objections that have been received for the closure of this road as to the numbers who have written to say they approve of it.”
Clarke then responded with a very strange response which implied that the council didn’t care much for listening to the concerns of residents when he said:
“I am more than happy to provide those but as we all know on consultations, you get far more people objecting than you do showing support during consultations. That’s how consultations generally work.”
Councillor Waddington didn’t query this anti-democratic sounding non-response, but still raised further important issues when she stated:
“I understand that if objections are not withdrawn, then a public inquiry has to be held within 18 months of the experimental closure of Buckminster Road. When and where will be public inquiry into the experimental closure of Buckminster Road be held to determine if the closure will be permanent or brought to an end, and what form will it take? What role can residents who object to this closure play and how can they be heard?
Clarke’s answer was simply to note that such a forthcoming inquiry would be heard and organised by the planning inspectorate. So, watch this space for future developments…