I have been contacted by a number of residents who are angry about what they see as the Labour Council’s latest assault on the motorist. This week, without any consultation with city residents the council will be restricting traffic to one lane in both directions from Bitterne into town including Northam Bridge. This comes on top of the recent narrowing of the Avenue and Bursledon Road.
The council claims their changes to the road layout is, ‘in line with the Government’s recommendations for encouraging safe and active travel as we come out of lockdown.’ This is not the case. The Government’s instructions are clear. Do not use public transport unless you have to and then you must wear a face covering while doing so. It’s not for me to explain the council’s reasons for restricting access into the city, that is for them, but these measures do nothing to help the city’s economic recovery, they hinder it.
Councils are democratically elected to carry out their political programme and that must be respected. But never has this Labour Council put proposals to prevent or restrict access of motor vehicles into the city centre to the people. And this is not the first time they have attempted it. Last year they tried to implement their awful congestion charging scheme but the proposals had to be withdrawn due to a huge public backlash.
We all want cleaner air. Taking out lanes and narrowing others does not achieve that. Instead it makes it worse. Idling traffic is a significant cause of pollution and by implementing these changes the council will be damaging the health of residents not improving it. We need to encourage people to use cleaner, greener transport, for example electric vehicles where possible. Of course, public transport is positive where practical but we should also be encouraging commuters to use e-bicycles and e-scooters (when they become legal) to deal with Southampton’s surrounding hills. You can’t force people out of their cars without an alternative and currently that doesn’t exist.
Most importantly you need to take the people with you. That is the beauty of a democracy. You can’t choose the bits of democracy that suit you. You can’t ignore the people when the people don’t agree with you. You need to put your programme to the people and have it endorsed. If the council think they have the support of the voters let them stand on that platform. Let them tell the voters they want to restrict residents’ movements or charge them to enter the city. If they agree the public will support it.
If you want to object to these proposals you can do so by sending an email to: The Highways Legal Team email@example.com
I would be happy to hear from you if you are opposed or in favour. Feel free to copy me in on your response to the council.