Alex Sobel MP Column: Lawnswood roundabout saga shows public problems require public input
After months of hard work by campaigners working alongside me and my team as well as our local Labour councillors, it has been announced that the plans for Lawnswood roundabout have been stopped.
I am delighted that Leeds’ fantastic new Executive Member for Transport, Lisa Mulherin, has made the decision to stop and rethink the plans.
Let me be clear, there is a problem at this roundabout.
It is a known hotspot for accidents (the second worst roundabout in the city for cyclists and hazardous for pedestrians).
Its proximity to Lawnswood school makes it a key area for action, to make it a safer place to walk and cycle.
But, any large scheme must be done in conjunction with the community. Plans must come forward with more than one option and then go to consultation and residents need be central to that discussion.
The community in Weetwood and along Otley and Otley Old Road are clearly interested and engaged with making their area a better place to live. In this case, too much emphasis was given to bus priority (in a place not considered as a pinch point) and not enough emphasis on cyclists and pedestrians.
There must also be an understanding of how much mature trees mean to a community, not just as an aesthetic but as a symbolism of nature and history as well as locking in carbon dangerous to our environment.
We have made the case strongly that in any agreed scheme, tree loss must be kept to an absolute minimum with replanting on a three-to-one ratio within the locality. It is notable that the ‘save the Lawnswood Roundabout’ campaign was supported by the young people from ‘Youth Strike 4 Climate,’ and serves as a reminder to us how much trees and green spaces means to our young people.
It is therefore only fitting that Lawnswood Roundabout also marks the beginning of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) set to come into force at the end of this year.
Air quality is notably poor in our area and it is a credit to our city that we are leading in the fight against it. The CAZ is a fantastic start, not just because it is sure to make an impact on our air quality, but also to put the issue front and centre of public discourse.
Electric vehicle infrastructure, cleaner cars and buses as well as an improved heavy rail network are all key to cleaning up our air and reducing our carbon footprint.
If the Lawnswood Roundabout scheme teaches us anything, it is that public problems need public input. We must all work together to ensure the best future for our communities and for our planet.