Lib Dems: City centre road closures are blighting neighbourhoods
- Credit: St Albans Council / Archant
Road closures are outsourcing traffic and pollution from the city centre to surrounding residential neighbourhoods, councillors have complained.
In a public meeting last week, Lib Dem Helen Campbell said residents were being “badly affected” and were worried about air quality.
Cllr Campbell said she could not understand why she had been excluded from a decision-making board, which will meet behind closed doors in the coming weeks to decide whether to substantially prolong the closures.
“I wish I were a member of the board,” she said. “I can’t explain why I’m not a member of the board. I wasn’t asked.”
Herts county council is now reconsidering who should be involved in the decision-making process.
County Hall closed the roads last year to enable social distancing.
Some local councillors have since asked to maintain the closures, to facilitate markets and al fresco dining.
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Denise Parsons, from the St Albans Business Improvement District (BID), told a council meeting last week that most businesses in the closed streets supported the scheme.
Tim Boatswain, from the St Albans Civic Society, said he believed the closures were improving air quality in the city centre.
“This relates to pollution and of course it relates to climate change and it relates to how green we want our city to be,” he said.
“Pedestrianisation does offer us an opportunity. So it could be seen as partly a silver lining out of the terrible pandemic.
“I think many of us will have noticed how, with pedestrianisation, it is a much safer and less polluted area than it was previously.”
But Cllr Campbell said that whilst the air might feel cleaner in the city centre, her constituents felt the pollution was simply being displaced.
“I do represent the residents of St Albans North on the county council,” she said.
“A lot of those residents are very, very badly affected by the changes that we currently have in place in the High Street and George Street.
“We cannot forget the concerns and the impact on the residents who are affected by the traffic that has moved – the displaced traffic. They are affected and they are very concerned about it.”
Cllr Campbell said air quality was “one of their main concerns... in addition to the inevitable congestion which we already see.”
Also at last week’s City Neighbourhoods Committee meeting was Cameron Lavin, of the Whitecroft and Meadowcroft Residents’ Association.
He said it was “mad” to keep the High Street closed “when you’ve got no alternative routes”.
“There are only two routes east-west in St Albans and when you shut one, all the traffic goes down the other,” he said.
“So it’s all going down Catherine Street... I think we need to be considerate over how we are going to deal with that traffic and not just say it’s something we are going to have to live with.”
Their comments echoed concerns raised a week earlier, in an Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, by independent councillor Roma Mills.
“People who live in the area I represent, around Folly Lane, can’t understand why the impact on them and on the enjoyment of their road – a residential road – is just not being taken into account in this decision,” said Cllr Mills.
“I know that those people are really suffering. People in Folly Lane are saying to me, ‘We are only a small number of people and it seems our needs, the traffic management of our road, is being sacrificed because other people can speak more loudly than we can’.”
Lib Dem council leader Chris White said last week that he too had received complaints.
“In terms of displacement, I’m in the unenviable position of having residents and residents’ associations who are strongly – very strongly – in favour and also residents and residents’ associations who are very strongly at least sceptical, if not against,” he said.
He added: “There does need to be something done for Carlisle Avenue, Waverley Road and all those other places, including places in the Clarence ward, which feel that they are suffering displacement.”
Herts County Council said its initial board had been formed of councillors "whose divisions were impacted by the measures".
However, it told the Herts Ad: "We are currently reconsidering which councillors form the core membership of the board."
It said a wider group of councillors would also be allowed to "inform the board's decision".
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