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STOCKPORT: Ambulances were blocked by ‘active neighbourhood’ planters, emergency services bosses admit

STOCKPORT: Ambulances were blocked by ‘active neighbourhood’ planters, emergency services bosses admit

Carnforth Road, Heaton Chapel, Stockport. Credit: Google Street View

Emergency services bosses have admitted ambulances were blocked on their way to call-outs in an area currently trialling an ‘active neighbourhood’.

The controversial scheme launched  in Heaton Chapel in September and aims to reduce ‘rat running’ while improving road safety and air quality – particularly near Broadstone Hall Primary School.

Also known as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) it was hoped the three-month pilot would encourage people to take more journeys by bike or on foot.

But the use of ‘modal filters’ – essentially giant planters blocking off one end of a road to stop motorists using streets as cut-throughs – has proven highly contentious.

Local campaigners against the Active Neighbourhood raised fears about ambulances being cut off and  having to take circuitous routes when responding to 999 calls.

Reports of this happening began to emerge almost as soon as the trial began in Mid-September – and residents’ CCTV purporting to show ambulances having to turn round because of the road blocks was also circulated.

However, North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) denied there was any problem.

In early October the  service told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that crews has not reported any issues, adding ‘the local council have ensured local managers and crews are aware of the new road layout, and if any future issues are identified, we will work together to resolve them’.

For its part the council sent a letter to residents saying that reports of ambulance delays were ‘misinformation’ and that ‘crews from North West Ambulance Service were not forced to find alternative routes or delayed on their way to emergency calls and that they are fully aware of the positions of the modal filters in Heaton Chapel’.

But now, as the three-month trial nears its end, NWAS chief executive Daren Mochrie has admited that there have been serious issues.

In a letter to a resident who reported several incidents, he said she was ‘quite correct’ and that ‘ambulances have been caught up in that the ambulances have  been caught up in the new road layouts and their response has been delayed because of them’.

Seen by the LDRS and circulated on social media, the letter reads: “I have discussed this at great length with the operational team and unfortunately, a look into our formal reporting systems ahs show that ,disappointingly, none of of our staff have formally reported and delays due to the road blocks.

“However, on receipt of your email, using the information and call signs supplied by yourself and another resident, we have been able to track some of the journeys listed.”

Mr Mochrie adds that local crews were made aware of the roadblocks, some of the  ambulances called to incidents in Heaton Chapel were from out of the area.

He continues: “We do, in the main,support traffic calming measures, especially if they reduce accidents on our roads. However we do so with the caveat  that if we  find our access to incidents being hindered, we would hope the councils would reconsider.

“I certainly do hope so in this instance.”

A spokesperson for NWAS said: “Having received additional information, the trust looked into some of the incidents reported by residents and found that there were a number of delays, as some ambulances had to navigate around the road closures.

“As a result, we are now undertaking an investigation into all incidents reported to us and will be consulting with the council.

“We are also reiterating to staff the importance of our reporting systems to identify these types of issues.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for residents who raised concerns said campaigners were glad that reports of blocked ambulances had ‘now been validated as true’.

They said: “We are very disappointed that our local councillors refused to help us and despite seeing footage of numerous ambulances getting stuck, kept stating it was ‘misinformation’, refusing to engage with us and constantly saying we were just an echo chamber.

“We are extremely grateful to Daren Mochrie for looking into this for us and showing the concern that our councillors lacked”

Stockport council insists that the safety of residents has always been the town hall’s top priority.

A spokesperson said: “We had been made aware of reports from residents regarding ambulances travelling through the area.

“We consulted all of the emergency services prior to the start of the trial, and we have been in dialogue with the North West Ambulance Service since the trial began.

“We had been reassured by NWAS that there had been no issues with their crews being affected by the modal filters.

“Following a letter sent to residents by NWAS regarding crews experiencing delays, both ourselves and Transport for Greater Manchester are urgently awaiting the details from the NWAS operations team so we can understand the issues that their crews have faced while travelling through the area.

“The safety of our residents is of paramount importance to the council.

“With the trial scheme coming to an end in early December, a consultation on a permanent scheme for the area will take place in early 2022.

Words: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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