Councillor Denise Craghill, councillor in Guildhall Ward said this at the Executive meeting that decided to make the low traffic neighbourhood in the Groves permenant.
“I’d like to welcome the recommendation to make this Low Traffic Neighbourhood permanent as officers have set out. This scheme arose out of a housing regeneration initiative which began well before Covid and from a housing perspective it will help to greatly improve the quality of life for people in the Groves – as set out in the draft Groves Community Plan which is part of these papers.
I think its really important to remember what the traffic situation was in the Groves without the current closure points in place. At peak times and for large parts of the day this was constant lines of queuing through traffic on Lowther Street, Penley’s Grove Street and Townend Street, often stretching the whole length of the streets. At these times the sheer volume of traffic on the narrow roads sometimes reduced traffic to a standstill, whilst the uncertainty of whether or not a vehicle using the route as a cut through would suddenly speed up where it could, made it very difficult for less confident or less mobile residents trying to cross those roads. At the same time, the pollution and the traffic noise was constant. At other times there was less traffic but still a steady stream with drivers cutting through often speeding up whenever they could, making crossing even more difficult.
In my view this simply isn’t appropriate or fair on a residential neighbourhood – a neighbourhood which – as the paper says – has a very strong sense of community and identity but also includes some of York’s most vulnerable residents. One of the most frequent responses to questionnaires or surveys about what will improve life in the Groves has always been a request for more community activities. The continuation of the quieter streets that encourage walking and cycling also supports greater sociability and the right environment to build on the many community initiatives outlined in the paper. As the paper says reopening the Groves narrow streets to through traffic would have a very negative impact on the progress we are making via the Groves Community Plan.
Of course, I appreciate that not everyone is happy with this change – though many residents have gone out of way to tell me what a huge positive change it has made to their lives. It is true that reducing the dominance of vehicle traffic in our streets and neighbourhoods is never going to be an easy change to make but we have to start somewhere. Inevitably, at least at first, most (though not all) traffic that can’t go one way will go another way and we will have to monitor and respond to that. But as officers have said, in transport terms this is entirely consistent with our sustainable transport policies and the sort of changes we do need to make to tackle climate change.
In the Groves itself, I very much welcome the commitment in the paper to get those awful concrete blocks replaced with bollards as quickly as possible – always the intention of course – and to make the signage improvements that are needed – as well as making the further small changes that may be required to respond to specific localised issues.
Taking all that into account I’m very happy to support the recommendations.