Wirral councillors respond to government’s controversial ‘Plan for Drivers’

A Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) is an area in which modal filters (such as bollards) and traffic calming measures are deployed to reduce motorised through traffic in residential areas.

LTNs are nothing new – there are numerous, decades-old LTNs across Wirral.

In fact many housing estates are de-facto LTNs. Take the 1970s estates in Spital. There is one through road for travelling through Spital from Bebington to Bromborough. However, if a motorist were to turn off Poulton Road into the estates they’d find themselves looping back to Poulton Road – there is no through access to anywhere else.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has this week published draft statutory guidance for councils on low traffic neighbourhoods, setting out that they must gain buy-in from local residents, businesses, and emergency services when considering implementing new LTN schemes.

The government claims that motorists are set to benefit from smoother journeys and reduced congestion, thanks to its “crackdown on anti-driver road schemes” whilst seemingly ignoring the fact that congestion is by definition, too many cars. The government’s ‘Plan for Drivers’ prioritises driving over every other form of transport and appears to fly in the face of advances in road safety in recent years by councils nationwide.

Last year, the government instructed the DfT to conduct a study on LTNs. Although the study’s publication is pending – with some suggesting that it has been suppressed – insights from the document were recently revealed by the Guardian.

Downing Street had anticipated that the study would strengthen its stance against LTNs. However, the findings predominantly support the opposite viewpoint with widespread support for LTNs, not only from those living in LTNs, but also those living in non-LTN areas.

Green Party Councillor for Bebington, Ed Lamb, told Birkenhead News, “Residents are desperate for safer roads, reduced traffic, and better conditions for walking, wheeling, cycling, and public transport.

“The analysis on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods highlights their positive impact and their popularity, so I look forward to seeing progress on this front right across Wirral in the months and years ahead.

“In the meantime, the government should focus on the bigger picture – funding local authorities properly and making national strategic decisions on transport in the era of climate change. There’s plenty to keep them busy without needing to worry about bollards.” 

This road in Port Sunlight has been closed off for many decades, creating an LTN and stopping drivers using the residential street as a rat run. Credit: GOOGLE

Labour Councillor for Bidston and St James in Birkenhead, Liz Grey, is Chair of the Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee and a UN Accredited Climate Change Teacher. She told Birkenhead News, “This is not saying anything new and was just one of a whole series of press releases over the weekend that read more like election campaigning than Government information.

“It is depressing to see the DfT use language and tone more familiar in tabloid journalism than Government press releases and I believe it is part of a doomed attempt to attract some votes in the local elections and perhaps distract attention away from the Government’s own report into LTNs which shows just how successful LTNs are and how popular they are, especially among people living in low traffic neighbourhoods, who feel the benefits of quieter, safer communities with less noise and cleaner air and where walking to school or local shops is safer and more pleasant.

“It is hardly a ‘crackdown’ as it is merely guidance and not new legislation. It doesn’t say anything new. A careful read [of the DfT press release] shows that all the previous guidance and legislation still applies and Councils are still encouraged to apply the hierarchy of road users as per the latest Highway Code and we are still encouraged to work towards increased active travel and safer road use.

“It is important to note that nowhere in the country is planning or implementing “blanket” 20mph roll out and so this really is meaningless empty rhetoric from a Government that has no mandate and no idea what people really want. They are reduced to hoping that we won’t notice they are promising to save us from policies that don’t exist.

“Wirral residents can take comfort from the fact that what is described as best practice in the roll out of 20mph is already happening here.”

Lead image: A decades-old modal filter in Bebington, helping to create a low traffic neighbourhood. Credit: GOOGLE

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This road in Tranmere has been blocked to prevent through traffic. Credit: GOOGLE