3 August 2021
This summer we have seen cycle routes and people-friendly traffic free zones removed from Southampton's streets. This is being done with little consultation with those who actually used and benefited from them. Conservative government ministers have warned that 'Councils which rip out cycle lanes or low-traffic neighbourhoods before giving them a chance to work or without evidence they are failing could lose future central government funding.
Southampton City Council's Conservative administration has done exactly what its own national government says not to do; listen mainly to those who make the most noise, without giving the schemes time to work effectively. There has not been proper consultation and these regressive moves fail to help the 30% of Southampton's residents who do not own a car (not to mention a large proportion who do but would rather not use them for short journeys).
The active travel zones were funded during the pandemic by the government's 'Active Travel Fund'. This gave safer space on our roads during the pandemic and gave people more options when avoiding public transport, as well as improving the daily lives of pedestrians, cyclists and all of us who breathe the city's polluted air.
This all comes at a time when some of the UK's major cities and those in Europe are making ambitious changes to their city centres, greening them to provide better connected, more enjoyable and healthy space for people and wildlife, encouraging active travel, making roads safer and supporting outdoor hospitality to boost culture and vibrancy. Look at what has been achieved in the Netherlands, for instance. Southampton is now going the wrong way which will lead to more traffic, more pollution and a worsening city environment for us all to live in.
As Katherine Barbour, Green Party candidate for Portswood, said "Southampton is being left behind in terms of having a city centre to be proud of where residents and visitors alike can enjoy a safer, healthier and more pleasant experience. We are now witnessing a council administration not only out of touch with how to improve our city, but also with its national party. Those who care need to take the advice of Allegra Stratton, the Prime Minister's COP26 Spokesperson, when she recently said that people can join the Green Party if they want to save the planet!"