Councillors call for delay to government consultation on Leeman Road closure

Councillors ask government to postpone vital Leeman Road closure consultation until after virus outbreak In the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 Holgate Ward councillors Rachel Melly, David Heaton, and Kallum Taylor have written to the Secretary of State for Transport to urge a delay to the upcoming consultation on plans to permanently close Leeman Road. The Department for Transport (DfT) is set to run a 28 day consultation, starting next week, on a proposed “Stopping-Up Order” for the road. The controversial proposals are in order to facilitate the Railway Museum’s plans to expand across the width of the road, as part of the wider York Central development. But local councillors say that the consultation, on an issue that will impact on the local community for decades to come, cannot be effectively or fairly conducted in this time of national crisis. In a letter to the Minister they raised concerns that if the consultation period goes ahead at a time when residents are distancing themselves, isolating themselves, and understandably concerned with little else other than coronavirus, the DfT will not receive a realistic enough reflection of responses in order to be fully informed when deciding on the permanent road closure. Cllr Rachel Melly said: “Leeman Road is an essential route for many people travelling to and from the city centre. We have no guarantee that safe, suitable alternatives will be provided before Leeman Road is closed, especially for pedestrians and cyclists. It is essential that local residents are considered before the closure order is granted. Residents should be given the chance to make their views on this known at a more reasonable time, not when they’re scared and prioritising the health of themselves and their loved ones.” Cllr Kallum Taylor who – with members of the local community – led a petition of over 1,600 signatures against the Leeman Road closure plans in 2018, added: “The timing of these two events could never have been predicted but with non-essential activities being cancelled at CYC, and all over the country, the DfT should do the reasonable, democratic thing here and give residents the chance to deal with this at a better time. Every single one of us is having to adapt, delay, and re-prioritise around these exceptional circumstances and this matter – which will impact on thousands of local residents for decades to come – should be no different.” The afore-mentioned petition against the Railway Museum’s plans was part of the community’s “Keep us Connected” campaign and gained over 1,600 signatures. It was presented to the city council by Cllr Taylor at the Full Council meeting of May 2019. No alterations to the Railway Museum’s plans have taken place as a result, despite criticism from a number of organisations, including York Central Action and the York Civic Trust. Further, as things currently stand, the plans also do not include any improvements to the riverside path – an alternative route for pedestrians and cyclists which is often unpassable due to flooding.