Hundreds of emails sent to the council by traders and residents concerned over controversial plans to re-open Gardner Street to traffic have effectively been dismissed because of a technicality – leading to accusations the Labour council is failing to listen to a range of views.
Over 400 objections were sent to the local council by traders and others raising concerns over the impact Labour’s proposals to re-open the street to traffic could have on the area.
Many traders are convinced their concerns have not been given significant attention after council documents released ahead of the meeting suggested over 400 objections opposing the plans had been discounted from the decision-making process.
The council report notes 549 responses were received relating to the proposals, including hundreds sent via an online petition launched by traders in the North Laine. The petition raised a host of objections, including requests to work more closely with all residents and traders in the area, that re-opening the road to traffic would make the area less safe for pedestrians, increase air and noise pollution, reduce accessibility for wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs, and make it a far less attractive destination for shoppers.
However, the council report has advised the committee that, while the objections were noted, because leaflets containing a QR code helping people provide the feedback didn’t also include a link to the council’s consultation page “those responding to the comments were therefore not given all the information required to make an informed decision.”
Councillors will vote on the proposals at the next Transport & Sustainability Committee, due to take place next Tuesday, with Labour councillors almost certain to approve them.
Councillor Ellen McLeay, who represents West Hill and North Laine for the Green Party, said all comments have a right to be heard. She said:
“From speaking to residents and traders in the North Laine it’s clear people want to see a solution that both supports independent businesses, the safety of pedestrians and that puts accessibility at its heart.
“It’s clear that finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs is by no means straightforward. But dismissing more than 400 objections on the grounds of a vague technicality is not the way to do it. Labour were elected on a promise to listen but instead huge numbers of people are now saying they feel locked out of the democratic decision-making process.
“We recognise this is a complex local issue so it is important that everyone is given the chance to express their opinions and feel they have been taken on board before any decision is made. For more than 400 comments to be discounted on what is a questionable technicality and with no flexibility gives the impression Labour does not want to hear alternative views.
“I fully support everyone’s right to be involved in the council’s democratic process. We hope the committee will not only revisit the objections in more detail, but also allow traders the opportunity to feel heard by the council on Tuesday.”