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Parties attempt to score political points over low-traffic scheme

A Labour candidate in Nether Edge is calling for a Green-led active travel scheme to be delayed – despite extensive consultation

City centre panorama
Rachel Rae Photography

Two political parties have become embroiled in a row over a trial traffic-reduction scheme in a Sheffield suburb ahead of local elections on 5 May.

The legal powers required for the new Nether Edge Active Neighbourhood (a form of Low-Traffic Neighbourhood, or LTN) came into force on Monday.

This will see point closures temporarily installed on Archer Lane and Union Road, with the aim of reducing through-traffic in the neighbourhood while promoting walking and cycling.

But the night before the legal order was due to go live, Labour council candidate in the area Nighat Basharat published an open letter to Green cabinet member for transport Douglas Johnson calling on the introduction of the trial LTN to be delayed by a week.

This is despite the fact that the project has been approved by the Labour-Green Co-operative Executive, which Labour is the majority member of.

Respondents to Basharat's letter also pointed out that the LTN proposal was extensively consulted on last year, and the Council received 332 responses at the time.

Responding to the letter on Twitter, Cllr Johnson suggested that the experimental traffic order to create the LTN would go live as planned on 25 April.

Nether Edge and Sharrow Labour Party then posted in a local Facebook group claiming that they'd been informed by council officers of a "last minute decision" to delay the project by several weeks.

This received a mostly negative reaction from members of 'Only in Nether Edge', with many accusing the local Labour party of cynical campaigning by raising objections a week before the election."

Absolutely shameless," wrote one commenter. "Anyone think this open letter would be being sent if there weren't an election on the doorstep?"

A minority of members were supportive of the letter, arguing that the proposals would displace congestion onto other nearby roads, with some threatening direct action against the scheme.

“The scheme isn’t being paused as Labour campaigners have suggested,” Cllr Johnson told Now Then.

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"The experimental Traffic Regulation Order came into force, as planned, on 25 April. The next step depends on the contractor’s availability to do all the steps necessary to set up the physical changes and these should start next week, commencing 2 May.”

Johnson said that there would be further consultation as part of the experimental order, and that comments from residents will help create a better scheme while there is funding available to make improvements.“

The best way to help people focus on the planned changes is to have a trial so people can see for themselves how a reduction in traffic will work,” he said. “The aim is to create a safer and quieter environment for local residents and businesses to enjoy.”

The Department for Transport have recently threatened to reduce funding for councils who do not take active travel seriously.

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