Southend rat run planter scheme “15-minute cities by stealth”

Southend’s rat runs could be blocked off to traffic with plant pots it has emerged.

The introduction of 20mph speed limits and speed bumps to slow traffic has proved unpopular but planters could be used to prevent motorists going straight through problem roads.

Schools streets where barriers go up at the start and end of the school day, quiet roads which direct cyclists away from busy roads and pedestrianised areas like that proposed for Hamlet Court Road, are all part of the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes being trialled in other parts of the country.

Similar to 15-minute cities, where people have everything they need to live and work within a 15-minute walk, the aim is to encourage more walking and cycling and to improve air quality.

Steven Wakefield, councillor for highways, transport and parking, said: “I’ve seen plans to block roads off with planters if it’s a rat run. We’re just looking into proposals for that. It’s a different way of looking at people speeding down side roads.

“You can come in from either end but you close the road half way, which means it’s not a rat run anymore. You could use planters to achieve that.”

Cllr Wakefield added: “Like the way some people perceive 15-minute areas, people listen to it without knowing what it means. They think it’s against their civil liberties because they want to get from A to B and they want to go further than 15 minutes and they are prevented from doing that.

“It’s not preventing people from getting to where they want but it’s making an area safer.”

Asked how many Low Traffic Neighbourhoods the city could have, Cllr Wakefield said: “They will probably do a trial area first and see how that gets on and if successful we will move them on to other areas as when they are needed. There would be a formal consultation. They won’t just put one in against people’s will.”

However, Tony Cox, leader of the Conservative Group, said: “It’s the thin end of the wedge. It’s a slippery slope to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and 15-minute cities and it’s all done by stealth.

“The school streets are part of it. They are already closing roads off. It’s all part of the drip feed.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter