Confusion, controversy and quiet chaos on the streets of Levenshulme
It’s just a couple of hours after the Prime Minister has addressed the nation on Monday evening, and there’s a quiet chaos emerging within the streets of Levenshulme. This isn’t in response to the newly-announced national lockdown but, in fact, due to new ‘modal filters’ being installed in the streets – an attempt by Manchester Council to ease road traffic in the area. The 14 plant filters were installed across Levenshulme on Monday (January 4) as part of a six month trial for an Active Neighbourhood project that’s been a long time in the works.
The plans for the project include improved road crossings, traffic calming measures to improve air quality and ‘strategically placed’ planters to be used as road filters. The planters mark the starting point for the trials but, just hours after their installation, they’ve caused confusion and controversy among some residents. It may seem trivial to be talking about plant boxes while the country is placed under a third national lockdown but it’s something that residents in the area, on either side of opinion, are incredibly passionate about.
The project has been in development since 2018 and getting to this point has featured more twists and turns than a M.
Night Shyamalan production. It is hoped that the trials could finally be the start of something positive to improve the area’s traffic woes but residents say that, to become a success, there’s a lot still needed to be done. “It’s a well-intended scheme,” one resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Manchester Evening News.
“I appreciate there’s a few bits that need to be ironed out but in order to prove that it will have a positive effect, it needs to be well executed – this feels like half a job.”
Filters for the Levenshulme Active Neighbourhood were installed on Monday (January 4) as part of a six month trial.
One of the main concerns among residents is that the planters have been installed without much instruction. While an announcement was made last month to indicate when they would be installed, residents say there are no signs or notices indicating they are now in use or how drivers should make adjustments to their journeys. “It’s good to see something finally happening,” resident Jeremy Hoad adds.
“I think a lot of people presumed that the project wasn’t going to happen because it’s been in the works for so long so I think they have been caught off guard. “After waiting so long for these planters to go up as filters, they’ve been put in and haven’t been done properly. Not only that but they could be potentially dangerous.”
Cars could also be seen attempting to bypass the filters
There are also safety fears as the planters do not have any high visibility on them, which makes it difficult to see them in the evening.
Manchester Council said it was taking residents’ feedback on board to ensure the trials helped to benefit the ‘health and well-being of the community’, and would now be looking at installing reflective signage and additional planters. But Jeremy says he believes the ever-changing nature of the project over the last few years has now ’caused friction’ within the community. “It’s quite frustrating really after waiting all this time,” he says.
“We shouldn’t be at a point where people are asking what is going on. To me, it only highlights the missed opportunities to engage with people. “There’s been two years where it could have been explained to people and it feels like the huge potential of the project has been blown by alienating and causing division within the community.”
What do you think of the scheme? Have your say below Just several hours after the installation of planters on Delamere Road, soil has already started pouring out onto the street.
As many might have predicted, some of the planters have been moved and knocked over. The same has happened on the nearby Manor Road. No one’s saying whether they were deliberate attempts from someone opposing the plans, but there are murmurs of a forklift truck being spotted in the area late at night.
Marc Geoffrey was one of a group of residents who were out until 1am in the morning tidying up the filters and moving them back. “There is clearly frustration from both people who are for and against the trial but there are some condoning acts of vandalism that I don’t think are very productive,” Marc says.
The filters on Delamere Road were knocked down within hours of being installed (Image: submitted)
“The filters were definitely moved by some kind of machinery. You cannot manually move them as we had to empty all of the soil out just to lift them back onto their feet.”
Marc says he remains optimistic about the trial but echoed that there is still a lot of confusion surrounding it. “As soon as they were installed, people were wondering what they were – there are no signs or labels around,” he says. “We really need for there to be high-visibility signs put on them to avoid the risks of accidents.”
Resident Nick Purcell says he too remains in favour of the scheme but adds he has been left ‘in shock’ at the first stage of the trials. He says he has already seen multiple cars driving around the filters and illegally onto pavements to bypass the diversions – which Manchester Council has since condemned as ‘unacceptable’. They have promised to look at installing additional planters.
An oven has appeared next to one of the filters in an apparent attempt to stop drivers from using the pavement to cut through
“Whilst it’s a relief to see the delayed scheme finally implemented it is with disbelief that this project has been so poorly handled,” Nick explains.
“The diagonal filter at Gordon Avenue and Delamere Road arrived yesterday and with just three minutes of observation there were five cars mounting the pavement to cross it. “With no road signage, no pavement bollards and not even any reflectivity, it beggars belief that Manchester City Council and our local Councillors could be so belligerent in their poor delivery of this scheme. “They have now poured fuel on the fire of an already controversial project and made it more likely to fail from day one due to their mismanagement.
“They have made it a greater risk for pedestrians and cyclists while also confusing and angering motorists and local residents.” Streets for People, a group in favour of the scheme, says the trial is a welcome answer to ‘overwhelming local support’ for measures to make it easier for people to get around on foot and by bike. While the group says it is glad to finally have ‘something on the ground after two years’, they acknowledge there are some issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
“We hope that the installation of the trial modal filters marks the beginning of a series of improvements over the next few months,” Tom Haines-Doran, Chair of Streets for People Levenshulme and Burnage, said. “However, it is apparent that the council is making some big mistakes. They have placed the filters in such a way that car drivers can go around them on the pavement, which is very dangerous.”
Tom says that, as the scheme is still in a trial phase, the problems can be addressed and believes the project can still be beneficial to the area. “Thankfully, all of these issues can be fixed during the trial, and the council have both the money and public backing to do so,” he adds. “We ask that the council act quickly to fix these problems, and create a trial which works for the majority of residents.”
The filters are designed to divert traffic, making the roads safer for people to travel on foot and bike.
Executive Member for the Environment, Planning and Transport, Councillor Angeliki Stogia, said: “We’ve installed new traffic filters at locations across Levenshulme, on a six-month trial basis, where consultation told us that the majority of local people who responded were in favour of this going ahead.
“Where people have reservations about the trial, we urge them to continue to raise these with us in a positive way. “It’s disappointing that a small number of planters were moved overnight and it’s really heartening to know that members of the community acted to clear up after the act of vandalism. “We’re also aware that in some locations, vehicles have illegally driven on the pavement to go around the filters.
This is unacceptable and dangerous. We’ll be looking at positioning additional planters where possible to deter this behaviour, while protecting essential access for people on bikes, pedestrians and people with disabilities. “In line with feedback from residents, we’ll also be adding reflective signage, to improve the filters’ visibility at night.
“This investment into Levenshulme has the potential to benefit the health and well-being of the community in the wake of the pandemic, by making streets safer for people as they go about their journeys.
“The point of the current trial is to find out what difference the measures make on the ground and to carry on listening to local residents and businesses, so that we can work together and make changes where necessary to get it right, before any permanent decisions are made.”
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