Leeds Council's Chapeltown anti 'rat-running' roadblock led to delayed firefighter response in 'tragic' incident

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A controversial roadblock delayed firefighters from attending the scene of a huge house fire in Leeds last month, a council meeting’s been told.

Emergency crews were waylaid while rushing to a property on Mexborough Place in Chapeltown on June 7, because of a row of planters at the road’s junction with Mexborough Street.

The roadblock is one several put in place across the Chapeltown area by Leeds City Council in 2020 to crack down on “rat-running” around residential streets.

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But the local authority has admitted information about the closure did not filter through to the emergency services, resulting in the delay.

The scene at the house fire on Mexborough Place, Chapeltown, Leeds, on June 7.The scene at the house fire on Mexborough Place, Chapeltown, Leeds, on June 7.
The scene at the house fire on Mexborough Place, Chapeltown, Leeds, on June 7.

The blaze, which broke out in the early hours of the morning, caused severe damage to the home. No-one is believed to have been seriously hurt or killed.

Referring to the fire at a council scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, Labour councillor for Moortown, Mohammed Shahzad said: “There was a serious incident where the emergency services were not aware how to get to that house. That house I think was then lost to the fire.

“Are we actually informing the emergency services in time and do they get these (roadblocks) on their GPS maps, so we don’t have these issues?

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“I know they don’t always show up on GPS systems. It could be a major issue.”

In response, Paul Foster, the council’s transport strategy manager described the incident in question as “tragic”.

He said: “With these schemes, ahead of time we will consult with the emergency services and give them the full details.

“Obviously with that incident, the process didn’t follow through and it didn’t end up on their system.

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“But we are informing them and we are consulting them in the first instance.”

The roadblock in question was criticised by local residents shortly after its introduction.

Neighbours said in 2021 that the planters had made safety worse around the crossroad junction and made it more difficult for friends and family to visit.

A similar scheme on an estate one mile north, on St Martin’s Grove, has also drawn anger from people living there, with one resident claiming it was causing “permanent traffic james” further down the street.

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The council however, insists the roadblocks are making those streets safer by stopping passing traffic from travelling through at high speeds.

Mr Foster told the meeting: “The emergency services are generally supportive of these schemes, because it takes the congestion out of it, and even if they have to go a slightly different way it is quicker.

“They see this as a positive intervention but we just have to make sure that process works through in terms of informing them.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been contacted for comment, but has not yet responded.