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Update on London Road planters

by Richard Samuel on 20 March, 2018

As we all know the planters in their current positions were installed as part of the London Road regeneration scheme in 2014. Extensive public consultation took place with a wide range of local people. I understand a highway safety audit was conducted and I have been told that this raised no actionable concerns on highway safety grounds. However today 4 years on it seems another audit has been conducted that tells a different story and identifies four planters as being sited in positions that obscure the sight lines of vehicles entering the London Road. These are at the bottom of Snow Hill, and at the entrances to Weymouth St and Bedford St. I have not seen either audit yet but will be asking to see them as soon as possible. It surely cannot be the case that something that was considered safe in 2014 is now considered unsafe. I have seen no evidence of accidents to date at these junctions but that information may exist.

The Council’s current intention is to remove these planters which is why the trees have been removed. What will happen to them after removal is not known. Plans prepared by the Council say that the planters are to be scrapped. This is pretty shocking news. The design of the planters was the subject of extensive consultation and I understand that their location is specific to the wording that appears on them. If however the planters are removed – and I understand they cost the council around five thousand pounds each – then it would be an appalling waste of money for an ¬†organisation that claims it has no money. It won’t stop there either as the bases are concrete and will need to be broken up and the pavement relaid to create a level surface.

So who was told what and when. I knew in August that the council intended to review the safety aspects. I could not challenge that decision as highway safety out-trumps anything ward councillors might have to say. However I did insist that the plans were shared with the London Road and Snow Hill Partnership which happened and that a community information session take place, which also took place. This was October. The trail then goes cold for me until I saw that the trees had been removed last week. I received no formal correspondence from the council about these planters despite the fact that I was having a continual dialogue on the changes to the cycle lane. I have now seen plans that had been produced during that period which are indeed clear about the council’s plans for the planters. It seems that someone just “forgot’ to share them with the ward councillors.

I have spoken to Mark Shelford, the Cabinet Member responsible for transport about the current position and asked that we review the current position urgently. I have also asked that if the worst happens and the planters are moved then at the very least they must be reused. He has indicated support for the latter but has not yet committed to the former request.

I think it must be the local community that speaks next on this subject and lets the council know its views. You can do this by petition, by letter to Cllr Shelford, and by approaching the media. I do not know what the other ward councillor, Fiona Darey, feels about this state of affairs, she has not said anything so far.

Finally I feel that this whole episode could easily have been avoided with better thought to involving ward councillors and the local community they represent. This is particularly so in this instance where so much effort was put in by Lisa Brett and local people. It would be such a shame to discard that legacy.


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