Open Letter Explainer

Here we present an in-depth look at the council’s latest response to our open letter and an explainer.

To read our open letter see below:

To see the council’s response in full, click below

” To date the trial has been in operation for 6 months for the 14 filters. We have kept a page open on the City Council website for comments on each filter and monitored it during the trial period. We will now analyse the results and make recommendations to either make them permanent, modify or remove each filter. However in the meantime the filters will remain in situ as the experimental order can cover up to an 18 month period. “

The council is misunderstanding the function of our active neighbourhood by looking at individual filters themselves as the point of action, rather than the networks of linked streets mutliple filters create. This is the level at which decisions should be made. Trying to have a referendum on each individual filter rather than a zone-by-zone plan is what resulted in problems for this phase of the trial. It’s like having a referendum on each wheel of a car. If you get rid of one wheel we shouldn’t be surprised that the whole thing doesn’t drive, and the solution is to replace the wheel, not remove the other three! It has also caused problems where some streets have become new cut throughs due to “leaky” no through traffic zones, such as Audley Road.

The council are also selling the scheme short by saying “make permanent”, “modify” or “remove” are the only three options, many of the filters are not working as well as they could be because other filters were not added. For example, Manor Road would have been more beneficial had the second filter been employed by Barlow Road, and the current filter placed at the junction of Manor Road and Mount Road (see our suggestions page for more info).

There is also no clear desire to discuss the whole scheme as a joined up plan, improving main roads and filtered side streets must both be addressed if we are to fully protect our residents.

Moreover, the council have not provided any clear timelines for the next steps, residents should have more information than “the trial may stay in for 18 months”

” The trial was for the 14 interventions and it would not have been possible to have installed new crossings on boundary roads as a trial. Highways Service are currently looking at new (permanent) crossings and traffic calming measures as part of the overall scheme but couldn’t have delivered this in January 2021 as a trial. “

We disagree with the council on being unable to include crossings in the trial. The plans for the Heaton Chapel Active Neighbourhood trial involves a controlled pedestrian crossing, and temporary crossings are used at roadworks constantly in our area, so we see nothing stopping them from doing the same in a trial.

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The same goes for traffic calming measures, 20mph zones and other interventions. See our suggestions page here for our thoughts on what more could be done!

“At this stage of the scheme MCC are not looking to deliver the original scheme (25 model [sic] filters) as it was felt that there wasn’t enough support within the local community. “

It is unclear how the council expect people to know whether an intervention will have been popular when they do allow us to experience the interventions ourselves and offer no clear leadership/engagement on why it is being done. Gauging support was supposed to be the point of a trial. Consultation evidence given showed that paused fiters were popular, as explained on the council’s consultation site. The council actually stated that many of the paused filters WERE popular, and that a 2/3 majority support the overall scheme.

” While there has been support from the community for filters there has also been concerns raised over impacts on adjacent roads and concern that parts of the community are not benefiting from the filters and want to see additional measures on these roads, including Matthews Lane and Broom Lane, which are also being considered alongside the trial filter locations to improve crossing of the A6.”

The council has so far presented no evidence on these negative impacts cited as reasons for removal. We hope that data collection such as Manchester-I will be cited this time around in decisions made, as more data is collected. It also means any new or improved areas of the active neighbourhood added in the future can have solid before and after data collected.

In the absence of local evidence, the correct methodology should be to look to nearby/similar schemes in other areas and extrapolate that data on traffic in the North West, traffic in London, and safety to our own area. There is plenty of data showing how low-traffic neighbourhoods or active neighbourhoods can reduce traffic on both filtered and unfiltered roads.

There would also need to be a proposed “mechanism of action” by the councillors, where they explain how the currently imposed filters could increase traffic, as in some cases problem junctions and small roads that backed up with traffic have been filtered, which could easily have had a knock-on positive effect on larger roads.

Moreover, current data from Manchester-I up to the 12th of July shows that there has been no increase in the number of cars seen on boundary roads as things began to open up again. If the filters were causing issues wouldn’t we have expected this to rise as more people began to commute and businesses repoened, particularly with public transport being less used? These questions need answers.

Broom Lane traffic count by week April – July 2021
Cromwell Grove traffic count by week April – July 2021
Matthew’s Lane traffic count by week April – July 2021

As always, we argue that if people are uncomfortable with the number of cars driving short distances the blame lies with the people driving the polluting vehicles, not with the layout of the streets they make the decision to pollute.

Finally. The council seems to be stating that benefits of no through traffic zones only apply to the people living on the streets, despite also stating that these zones make it easier for people to walk and cycle through them, surely this also benefits people who live outside of these zones, and even outside of Levenshulme? It is again viewing the interventions as an obstruction, rather than a step to secure the safety of our most vulnerable street users, and presents a car-centric view.

“Highways are also taking with Burnage Members about measures within their ward following consultation responses and discussions with TfGM.”

We look forward to hearing what the measures are for Burnage and would expect them soon, seeing as this aspect of the project has been delayed multiple times. It seems unreasonable residents of Burnage have not had an opportunity to experience these interventions in a trial period as Levenshulme has. Are we going to hear similar statements later in the year about how some suggestions were “unpopular” without residents ever being able to experience them and make a decision?

Permanent air quality, traffic volume and speed monitoring stations have been provided within the areas to monitor the impacts of the various measures proposed to be implemented, alongside road casualty data.

We welcome the use of data monitoring to capture the impact of various measures. Due to the permanence of these monitors suggested, this would allow for the impact of any “modified” or “removed” measures to be captured.

A lot has been mentioned regarding data being used to justify potential removal of filters, but we must urge the council not to bias themselves towards the unsustainable status quo of increasing vehicle traffic and pollution. If the removal of ANY measures showed no positive impact, or indeed a negative impact, despite the fact we know it does make some streets safer and less polluted, we would expect the council to immediately take action and reinstate those filters. If they do not, they can expect a strong response from residents who’s welfare they’ve put at risk.

We agree that a public meeting (online) is necessary and a possibility but at this moment in time we cannot inform the public what is next until we have developed the scheme further and have outline designs that are approved by both local members and TfGM and are within budget to enable Highways to present for comment. Therefore, we may look to do this in the near future.

We are grateful the council have acknowledged the urgent need for an online public meeting as we have been calling for. However, we would like to know an approximate timescale for the announced changes and updates, seeing as the only date mentioned in this response is the 18 month limit for the ETO.

” It is worth noting that School Streets is a separate project to the Highways “Levenshulme Burnage Active Neighbourhood” project, but we appreciate the importance of both. School streets requires extensive consultation and requires schools’ resources and given Covid-19, this has impacted on the initiative. The broader initiative is being developed and lessons learned from the Alma Park trial can help inform this initiative.”

School streets were included in the original plans for the Levenshulme and Burnage low-traffic neighbourhood, as can be evidenced by maps shown early in the design process.

Further to this, any divide discussed is purely on the council’s end, as school streets and the active neighbourhood will naturally interact for the residents willing to make these trips by active means. Being listed as different projects means nothing to us, we just end up with more dangerous journeys.

TfGM also has funding available to pursue school streets trials. They should not be putting the burden of keeping children safe on the parents and teachers at the schools!