Southampton: Councillor debate plan to close Portswood Broadway

The ‘SAY NO to Portswood road closure’ petition has 2,868 signatures – enough to trigger a full council council debate.

The Labour council wants to close the carriageway between Westbridge Road and Highfield Lane to private cars and make it a ‘greener’ and ‘more vibrant’ place.

However, people are worried that up to 12,000 cars will be diverted elsewhere.

Karen Edwards, spokesperson for Portswood Residents Conservation Area presented to a full chamber on Wednesday.

Southampton City Council is getting ready to release its third consultation for the proposals and while the Labour-led authority accepts that there is a large amount of objection it shows no signs of scrapping its plan.

Recently it said that doing so could lead to the loss of £20 million worth of investment.

However the opposition Conservatives object and say they would scrap it immediately if they got into power in May.

The proposals have led to campaigns and protests at the civic centre, and on the streets of Portswood.

But there have also been campaigns for the plans to go ahead, including a ‘SAY YES’ petition which managed to achieve almost a third of that of the ‘SAY NO’ petition.

Here are the highlights of the debate in the chambers on Wednesday:

Karen Edwards, spokesperson for the Portswood Residents Conservation Area.

“The limited benefits will be far outweighed by the adverse impact on local businesses and residential neighbourhoods.

“There is already a traffic problem in surrounding areas without a potential 12,000 cars a day adding to the congestion and pollution.

“We all want a greener environment but shifting one problem and creating another we feel is not the answer.”

“We cannot see the logic of how closing 150 yards of road to cars is going to improve bus journey times.

“If you block off part of Portswood Road, cars will be forced to take a different and longer route down residential roads, not designed to take such an increased volume of traffic leading to increased pollution over the wider area.”

The council says that from its research, four out of five diverted cars will use Thomas Lewis Way, not the residential roads.

Ms Edwards also spoke about how the lack of passing trade would cause ‘the demise of the local shops’.

The spokesperson made a number of suggestions of what could be done instead, including more bus improvements in other areas and a bridge over St Deny’s Road.

Daily Echo: Cllr Eamonn KeoghCllr Eamonn Keogh

Councillor Eamon Keogh, cabinet member for transport

Cllr Keogh highlighted the aims of the transforming cities fund (TCF) and underlined the need for ‘step change’.

He said: “We passionately believe the Portswood Broadway scheme, with its bus priority, mobility hub, active travel zone and public realm improvements will support the city in achieving its transport objectives and achieve that step change.

“TCF has already led to significant upgrades in Thomas Lewis Way to accommodate the existing traffic if the Portswood Broadway Scheme is to be approved.”

Daily Echo: Cllr Gordon CooperCllr Gordon Cooper

Councillor Gordon Cooper, Labour councillor for Portswood

In Cllr Cooper’s speech, attention was drawn to the increasing population in the city.

He said by 2026, there will be another 5,000 university students at just one of the two universities. 5,500 houses are projected to be built by that same year and 20,000 over the course of the next decade.

Cllr Cooper said: “Southampton is popular.

“More homes and more jobs and more people wanting to get about.

“In Portswood, many of the students and new residents will want to use this lovely highstreet. They’ll come in their cars, not just to visit the high street but to travel through it and the queue of cars will get longer and some are right to worry about the air quality because that too gets worse.”

“Quite soon the high street could lose the very thing that local residents like myself know and love – easy access to the shops and cafes and a relaxed buzzing place to visit.”

The ward councillor said that the plans will not stop people from accessing the shops.

Daily Echo: Cllr Dan FitzhenryCllr Dan Fitzhenry

Councillor Dan Fitzhenry, leader of the Conservatives

The Tory leader is staunch in his views on the broadway.

He spoke about how the scheme ‘has no additional buses added to it’, ‘has no carbon dioxide emissions data’ which could suggest the council will achieve its 2050 net zero goals.

“As a city it does not do anything to provide alternatives for transport, it does not do anything to support the concerns of residents about the impact because 12,000 vehicles a day will still need to go somewhere.

“There are a number of impacts this will bring forward.”

Cllr Fitzhenry repeated his calls to scrap the plan and referred to the scheme as an ‘anti-car agenda.

He said: “The council should do the right thing now and move forward and say this scheme has been scrapped, it doesn’t work – and find sensible alternatives.”

Daily Echo: Cllr John Hannides - Tory - BassettCllr John Hannides – Tory – Bassett

Councillor John Hannides – Tory 

The Conservative councillor called for the Labour council to ‘come clean’ with residents and admit that the plans are part of the group’s ‘ideological obsession’.

“I think the people of Southampton and the people of Portswood would probably see you (Labour) as more credible and have a bit more respect for you if you were just honest and came clean with the residents and admitted this was part of your ideological obsession of being anti motorists, anti car.”

“This initiative is driven not by any kind of research or any evidence but is driven by your instinctive (attraction) to any initiative that might be inconveniencing motorists.

“If you were honest then at least people would know what they are dealing with. Instead you’re being disingenuous.

“You’re making a case in saying if we don’t do it we will lose government money. What kind of logic is that? You’re seriously expecting people to believe that the only reason you’re doing it is so you don’t lose government money?”

“Well, if you don’t think it’s a good idea, you don’t do it.”

Daily Echo: Cllr John SavageCllr John Savage

Councillor John Savage, Labour councillor for Portswood

The second ward councillor to speak at the debate called for better communication.

He said: “There has been a real problem with communication.

“Speaking to residents in the area, people say all kinds of unusual things like the whole route from Lodge Road to Sainsbury’s is going to be closed which is not the case.

“There is loads and loads of misunderstanding and strange whispers about what this all involves and very few of them are true.

“The whole thing has been miscommunicated”

Cllr Savage cited the modelling report which states that 80 per cent of diverted cars are predicted to use Thomas Lewis Way as the diversion, not residential roads.

Daily Echo: Screenshot 2023 03 16 14.31.22

Councillor David Fuller, chair of the Scrutiny Overview and Management Committee (SOMC)

The Conservative told the council what conclusions his committee came to when the Portswood plans were discussed last Thursday (9th March).

The purpose of SOMC is to scrutinise the executive.

The first was an issue with the data.

“The information presented to make this decision was quite honestly inadequate.

“We have significant concerns from local residents on where traffic will be moving if this road is closed and modelling was not done on these side roads.”

The second was communication.

“Communication on all sides has not been great.”

The third was the consultation.

“There was universal agreement that the consultation should have been better.

“Many points were raised about how independent the consultation questions were for residents to have their say.”

Daily Echo: Screenshot 2023 03 16 14.31.50

Councillor Professor Barrie Margetts

The recently independent, Cllr Margetts focused his speech on the need to reduce cars in the city for the sake of the residents’ health.

He said: “(It is) absolutely imperative we put the health of the people of the city first.

“I have a paper here from the world conference on transport research 2022 based on a systematic review on all the evidence of car use and the impact it has on both climate change and public health and it’s very clear that all the evidence in all the cities around the world says we should have less car use for the better health of the city.

The councillor agreed that affordable alternatives should be made available.

Daily Echo: Cllr Satvir KaurCllr Satvir Kaur

Councillor Satvir Kaur, leader of the council

The leader spoke about the importance of ensuring that the city receives the investment (by not scrapping the plans) – and pointed out how close the council came to losing it.

She said: “I think it’s quite serious that last year (under a Tory council) we almost lost £12 million that would have benefited local people.

“Thanks to the Labour council that came in.”

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