Our town is being killed off by dictator council – we're trapped in our homes and neighbours are turning on each other | The Sun

FURIOUS locals say they feel trapped in their homes and pitted against their neighbours after council chiefs blocked roads to prevent accidents – despite there not being a crash there in five years.

Residents living in a 'low traffic neighbourhood ' in Exeter, Devon say the scheme is also putting lives at risk by forcing emergency services to take longer routes and even forcing ambulance crews to race to emergencies on foot.

In one case firefighters are said to have used hydraulic cutting tools to remove a bollard blocking their route so they could reach an emergency.

The 18-month trial by Devon County Council has created uproar in the normally genteel Devon city, with traffic barriers and no entry signs vandalised with spray paint.

A wooden planter placed in the road has been daubed with “1984” – a reference to George Orwell’s famous novel about a totalitarian government oppressing its citizens.

Wheelchair user Teegan Creed, 61, who suffers from severe lung problems and anxiety, said the restrictions have had a disastrous effect on her health including making her journey to hospital three times as long.



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She said: “This has been really bad for both my physical and mental health.

“If it’s raining I can’t leave the house, I can’t afford to drive because of the extra fuel. 

“I am literally trapped in the house, I’m scared to leave in case I’m inhaling more fumes, we can’t go out for pleasure any more – we used to take the grandchildren to the park but we can’t get there any more because it’s just too far to travel in the car.

“The segregation is pitting communities against each other. You have the wall which separates Whipton from Heavitree, you have two completely different areas and Heavitree has access to hospitals, charity shops, everything, whereas Whipton has access to none of it.

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A nearby street has been blocked off by the measureCredit: FPS Images
A vandal has painted 1984 on one of the planters – a nod to George Orwell's novel about a totalitarian government oppressing its citizensCredit: FPS Images

“I’ve chatted to people online who feel suicidal because they are trapped by this scheme.”

Mrs Creed says the low traffic neighbourhood has also affected emergency services. She added: “Even though ambulances have equipment to unlock it there’s not always time.

"We’ve heard of an incident where they had to leave the ambulance at the barrier and run through with life saving equipment. They managed to get there in time but the patient later died in hospital, for all we know they might have survived if they had got there sooner.

“I’m absolutely petrified that if I have a serious flare up at home, is somebody going to get to me on time? They are shortening my life span because they may not be able to get me to hospital on time.”

I’ve chatted to people online who feel suicidal because they are trapped by this scheme

Husband Jason Creed, 51, who works as his wife’s carer, said: “I have walked around this road at 8.30pm and you feel very vulnerable because there’s nobody around and it feels like a ghost town.

“We’ve heard stories of the fire service not being able to get their unlocking equipment out in time so have got the machine out and cut through the bollard to get there in time.

“Even if they get there on time it’s still putting lives at risk.”

The bollards and closures are not enforced by CCTV but Devon County Council is asking residents to send them footage of people breaking the rules.

After the scheme launched protesters repeatedly removed the bollards, costing the council £215 each. 

By one of the vandalised bus gates, local resident Ian Frankum, 60, a retired Royal Mail manager, said residents felt frustrated and hadn’t been listened to.

He said: “It’s been catastrophic for the local communities. It’s divided the area with three blockages which has meant huge detours for people. 

“They have to go onto the arterial roads which have got much busier and more polluted. 

“In the consultation one of the claims made is it will reduce accidents but we did a freedom of information request which found that on the blocked roads there hasn’t been an accident in five years.

"While I understand it will reduce risk, the number of accidents won’t reduce because there weren’t any in the first place.

“I don’t condone any breaking of the law but the frustration has come about because people don’t feel listened to.

"Some people clearly get frustrated and take things into their own hands, which is something I don’t necessarily agree with, but we need to use everything within our powers within the community to hope the council listen to us and change their minds.”

Support worker Liz Spry, 68, added: “The other day I wanted to go to the doctors, I caught the bus but I had to wait an hour to get there and again in the afternoon I went into town and had to wait an hour.

"It’s no use cycling or saying 'take the bus' when the service isn’t there.

“There is a business up the road with a sign on his window appealing for trade because since the restrictions he isn’t getting any.

“We don’t feel listened to by the council – they have made up their minds and they don’t want to listen. They are making matters worse.”

Her husband David, 70, said: “Before the scheme started it was reasonably busy, but traffic was moving very freely with no problems or highly polluted areas.

"Now it’s probably a 20 or 30 minute delay going into town because of these diversions.

“We feel we are being dictated to by the council to do what they want, not what’s best for the local environment or residents.”

We feel we are being dictated to by the council to do what they want, not what’s best for the local environment or residents

Businesses say have also been made to suffer since the scheme was introduced.

Newsagent Peter Morgan said: “We’ve had a big drop in trade. I can’t put a percentage on it but you can see by the figures at the end of the week that there’s definitely less takings in the till because of the lack of transport coming past and footfalls.

“It’s a big concern and it’s not just us that’s suffering, it’s other businesses in the area too who have seen exactly the same thing. 

“Almost every customer who comes in the shop disagrees with it, even cyclists and pedestrians.

“This is affecting the elderly in particular who used to come in for a chat, but the interaction isn't there for them now. What some of them do is ring up the shop to chat.

“Over the 17 years I have been here we still have the same customers coming, but they are finding it more and more difficult.”

Protesters gathered in Exeter city centre last week to blast the scheme.

Supporters argue the scheme makes it safer for people to walk and cycle by cutting down on road traffic.

Following an outcry from locals, Devon County Council last week announced it would ease rules to allow taxis and minicabs through the restrictions.

Clive Hutchings, 52, who works in agricultural logistics, said: “It’s created an absolute nightmare to get anywhere.

"For my mum to get to her dentist she has to drive all the way round, she can’t walk or cycle, my brother is partially sighted and can’t walk or cycle, so for them it’s just creating a nightmare situation.

“People feel trapped because it has restricted your movement. It’s going to kill the town because people just aren’t going to go into the town.

“It’s dividing communities, I had a letter from the police because I came through here on my motorbike one day and somebody reported it to the police.

People feel trapped because it has restricted your movement. It’s going to kill the town because people just aren’t going to go into the town. It’s dividing communities

"They are pitting people against each other that don’t need to be. Neighbours who agree with it are arguing with those who don’t.”

One resident named Rachel, who refused to give her full name for fear of reprisals, said people who supported the scheme had been subjected to abuse from people opposed to it, including having poo posted through their letterboxes.

She said: “It’s an 18 month trial and we need to give it a go. It is affecting some of the journeys I make, but if you accept climate change is real and you accept Exeter has a problem with traffic, then somebody has to do something about it.

“Sometimes an intervention is necessary to make people think about it.

"If some of the people who can change their habits do, then life is going to be easier for the people who can’t.

“We used to be able to drink and drive, we used to be able to drive without a seatbelt and smoke in pubs, that’s how the world is.

“If you accept climate change is real then there is an inevitability about these schemes.”

A Devon County Council spokesperson said: “Consultation is ongoing on our Active Streets pilot scheme which intends to reduce traffic volumes on residential streets in Heavitree and Whipton, making it safer for people to walk and cycle. 

“In response to initial feedback about the impacts of the trial on taxi and private hire vehicles we've listened and we’re modifying the scheme so that from Thursday 9 November, Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles will be able to use the ‘bus gates’ as many of these journeys provide transport for people with disabilities who are unable to walk, cycle or use a car, or for home to school transport.

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“We are also continuing to liaise with all emergency services throughout the trial. At a meeting with the South Western Ambulance Service last month (September) they were unaware of any adverse incident reports attributable to the scheme.

“ While they believed early issues with out-of-date mapping had been resolved, they did note that any additional barrier introduced on the highway has the potential to cause delays.”

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