Updated: Oct 24
Devon County Council has announced a major U-turn on its plan to exclude taxis from low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Heavitree and Whipton. The council said it had listened to the concerns of taxi operators and passengers, and decided to allow taxis to use the road closures that were installed as part of the Active Streets scheme.
The scheme, which aims to reduce traffic and encourage walking and cycling, was launched in August 2023 as part of a six-month trial period. However, the council faced criticism from taxi drivers, who claimed that the road closures had increased their journey times, fares and emissions, and put vulnerable passengers at risk.
According to Devon Live, the council said it had met with representatives of the taxi trade in September 2023 and agreed to review the impact of the LTNs on their business and customers. The council also said it had received feedback from residents, schools and businesses in the affected areas, and recognised that some adjustments were needed to improve the scheme.
As a result, the council has decided to issue permits to all licensed taxis in Exeter, allowing them to access the LTNs through the road closures.
However, the U-turn means that the council will have to restart a new six-month statutory consultation period over the introduction of the LTNs, which will delay any permanent decisions on the scheme until April 2024 at the earliest.
What are ‘LTNs’ and why are they so controversial
Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are schemes where motor vehicle traffic in residential streets is greatly reduced. This is done by minimising the amount of traffic that comes from vehicles using the streets to get to another destination. This is often referred to as ‘through-traffic’ or ‘rat-running’. LTNs are designed to make residential streets safer, quieter, and more pleasant for walking and cycling, as well as to improve air quality and public health.
LTNs are usually implemented by using physical barriers, such as bollards or planters, or cameras that enforce fines, to restrict access to certain streets for motor vehicles. However, residents, visitors, deliveries, and emergency services can still access every property by using longer alternative routes. LTNs do not ban cars or prevent people from driving, but they aim to discourage ‘unnecessary’ car trips and encourage active travel modes.
LTNs have been in London since the 1970s and more were introduced in spring 2020 as part of temporary measures to create more space for walking and cycling to allow people to travel safely during the pandemic.
However, LTNs have also been controversial and met with opposition from some motorists, businesses, and residents. Some of the common criticisms and concerns about LTNs are:
- They increase traffic and congestion on main roads and neighbouring areas, causing longer journey times and more pollution.
- They make it harder for people who need to drive, such as disabled people, elderly people, parents with young children, or people who work in essential services. They also reduce availability of taxis and increase the cost of taxi fares for those who rely on the service.
- They are unfair and undemocratic, as they favour certain groups of residents over others and do not reflect the views of the majority of the community.
- They have negative impacts on local businesses, as they reduce customer access and footfall.
- They affect emergency services response times, as they create delays and confusion for ambulance drivers.