‘Safer streets’ planters in Withington: residents split over whether they help or are a hindrance

  • Residents of Withington are divided over the ‘low traffic neighbourhood’ scheme in trial
  • Local post office shares its concerns as it notices a decrease in business due to the road closures
  • Online petition, protest and signs call for removal of planters before the trials even over

It has now been three months since the implementation of the ‘safer streets’ scheme on Parsonage Road in Withington but residents are appealing for the removal of the scheme rather than supporting it.

‘Stop road closures’ posters have snuck their way into the area. Photo Credit: Anna Klekot

The aim of the wooden planters which were placed on nine junctions in and around the neighbourhood was to minimize traffic, encourage cycling and walking and make the roads safer for locals, however, most believe that it has only created new issues.

Although residents are in support of the aim to make the streets in Withington safer, they believe that the execution of the scheme has been poor and have since appealed for the removal of road blocks in an online petition as well as a protest which occurred over the weekend.

Photo Credit: Anna Klekot

Zakir, an owner of a local post office in Withington shared his concerns about the future of his business and his frustration as a resident of the area. He said that “People are angry”. Understanding the issue of speeding and safety in the area he said, “they need to understand there is a different way, there is a different solution to reduce the traffic, not by blocking the roads, [but by putting] speed cameras or speed bumps.”

Increased traffic and pollution

Danish, an employee at the post office has also voiced his concerns for their loyal customers from the area, he said: “vulnerable people come here to collect their benefits, they are finding it difficult because what once was a four minute journey by car is now taking 15 to 20 minutes.”

The increased journeys are now costing people, “they are paying triple fares, because those taxi drivers now have to take a longer route to get to us.”

Vandalized sign rejecting the scheme. Photo Credit: Anna Klekot

The longer journeys however have only contributed to the already congested Wilmslow road and traffic emissions, said Danish, “I feel like the pollution has gone up, if you go on the main road – Wilmslow road, you’ll see that there is traffic, all the time, so blocking one street in the name of safer streets and having a whole lot of trouble for other people is not making sense.”

Zakir has also expressed his concern over the business which hasn’t been taken into consideration. The planters have diverted the customers even further with some giving up and having to drive further in order to find the post office, ultimately choosing to go to a different area.

He said “sales have dropped, the numbers of customers coming in has dropped, it is definitely affecting the business.”

Wooden planters dividing Parsonage Road. Photo Credit: Anna Klekot

“Traffic was really bad and the speeding was a real issue”

– Len Grant

Len Grant, a resident of Withington, has said, “planters and road closures have made the streets a lot quieter, and as a cyclist much more pleasant to use”. Noticing the impact on pedestrians and cyclists. However, Len added that “it would be interesting to know if there was another way of solving the problem that has less of an impact on everyone.” Some residents feel positive about the goal of the scheme but see its need for improvements for the neighbourhood.

With the mixed response of the neighbourhood, there is no denying that a lot of people are dissatisfied with the council’s execution of the plan, so far the online petition has already accumulated over 1,000 signatures in support of prematurely ending the trial, originally scheduled for February 2024.

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council has said: “The aim of the Parsonage Safer Streets project is to create a safer, more welcoming and more environmentally friendly neighbourhood where the health and safety of residents is prioritised over the usage of cars.” Adding that “it is important to note this is a trial and can be subject to change as more is understood about its impact.”