Vic­tory for the peo­ple

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Front Page - Ian Bunt­ing

In a true dis­play of peo­ple power at its finest, Chapel­hall res­i­dents have en­sured the can­cel­la­tion of con­tro­ver­sial plans to close a ma­jor stretch of road in the vil­lage for four months.

Pas­sion­ate views against the move were put across at a packed pub­lic meet­ing and the coun­cil has back­tracked on its pro­pos­als to shut the busy Lau­chope Street, from its junc­tion with Main Street, for re­con­struc­tion work.

The coun­cil will now “re­view its plans ”in the wake of the U-turn.

Peo­ple power won the day as pas­sion­ate Chapel­hall res­i­dents’ con­cerns and opin­ions led to the coun­cil aban­don­ing plans to close a ma­jor stretch of road in the vil­lage for five months.

Dozens of res­i­dents packed the vil­lage’s com­mu­nity cen­tre last Wed­nes­day night for a pub­lic meet­ing on plans to close Lau­chope Street, from its junc­tion with Main Street to No 21, for ap­prox­i­mately 22 weeks – start­ing next month – for work to in­crease ca­pac­ity at the junc­tion, pro­vide bet­ter traf­fic move­ment and com­bat air pol­lu­tion lev­els.

The Ad­ver­tiser was in at­ten­dance and emo­tions were stirred as the panel – which in­cluded Air­drie South coun­cil­lors Michael Coyle, Paul Di Mas­cio and Sandy Wat­son, Alex Ram­say of the coun­cil’s roads depart­ment and Fiona McGuire, se­nior en­vi­ron­men­tal health of­fi­cer at the coun­cil – were grilled by an­i­mated and well-in­formed mem­bers of the com­mu­nity.

The vis­i­bly shell-shocked panel lis­tened to the views of the peo­ple – and the roads depart­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives were forced into an ig­no­min­ious U-turn giv­ing a com­mit­ment to “stop the process now” and “go away and take ex­tra steps” to ad­dress the is­sues raised and the feed­back re­ceived from vil­lagers.

One res­i­dent who ad­dressed the panel seemed to speak for many when he said: “No­body wants this done”. And when the res­i­dent asked if there was a coun­cil vote on the mat­ter, Mr Coyle’s re­ply that there was no vote led to a lot of un­rest in the room.

The same vil­lager then said: “Ev­ery­one in here lives in Chapel­hall and no­body is lis­ten­ing to lo­cals”, which brought rous­ing ap­plause from his fel­low res­i­dents.

Sandy Aitken, who co-owns award-win­ning Chapel­hall B&B Shawlee Cot­tage with wife Cathy, com­pared the frus­tra­tions that vil­lagers were feel­ing with how res­i­dents of Gren­fell Tower must have felt when their con­cerns over fire safety mea­sures were ig­nored.

He said: “The new junc­tion is only go­ing to make the traf­fic worse. Are we go­ing to do some­thing about the heavy goods ve­hi­cles com­ing through Lau­chope Street?

“We have been ask­ing for traf­fic mea­sures to be in­tro­duced for 40 years. Don’t let this be like Gren­fell – are you go­ing to lis­ten to us?”

Many in the au­di­ence joined Sandy in high­light­ing how the main prob­lem with Lau­chope Street was the vol­ume of heavy goods ve­hi­cles (HGVs) pass­ing through.

And Mr Ram­say was met with howls of de­ri­sion from lo­cals when he said the road was “suit­able” for this type of ve­hi­cle and “that’s how lo­cal busi­nesses get de­liv­er­ies”.

Other is­sues raised in re­la­tion to the pro­posed road clo­sure in­cluded one con­cerned mum say­ing: “There have to be ad­di­tional mea­sures to stop lor­ries go­ing up the street dur­ing school hours.

“The jour­ney [to school] is go­ing to be chaos – kids are late enough as it is.”

A wor­ried shop­keeper said: “We’re con­cerned about our busi­ness. What am I sup­posed to do?

“I’m as­sum­ing we won’t be en­ti­tled to any com­pen­sa­tion [for loss of in­come]?”

The pro­posed work would see an ex­tra lane put in at the cross­roads junc­tion at the A73, but an­other vil­lager high­lighted: “If the fil­ter lane is go­ing left and right-hand traf­fic is com­ing into Lau­chope Street, there is no way I can get out of my gate.”

Af­ter lis­ten­ing for an hour and a half, the be­lea­guered panel ad­hered to the vil­lagers’ opin­ions and feed­back, with Mr Ram­say telling them: “We have given a com­mit­ment to stop the process now and look at how to tackle the HGVs is­sue. We will take ex­tra steps to ad­dress mea­sures and speak with the com­mu­nity. We do lis­ten.”

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Coun­cil­lor Coyle – who called the pub­lic gath­er­ing – told the Ad­ver­tiser: “The meet­ing went well and I felt like there were a lot of sores lin­ger­ing for a num­ber of years that were opened and dis­cussed. While recog­nis­ing the dis­rup­tion the road clo­sure would’ve caused, I was in favour of ac­tion be­ing taken to tackle the traf­fic con­cerns in Chapel­hall, but it was clear that vil­lagers present were not in favour of these pro­pos­als.

“If it wasn’t for me call­ing this meet­ing, it’s ap­par­ent that a lot of peo­ple would’ve been un­aware of these plans and I will keep fight­ing to try and get clo­sure on the traf­fic is­sues.”

Coun­cil­lor Coyle’s Air­drie South coun­ter­part Paul Di Mas­cio added: “I was heart­ened to see the coun­cil of­fi­cers com­mit to re-as­sess­ing their plans and sin­cerely hope that once they have com­pleted their re­view of cur­rent plans and as­sess the is­sues raised by mem­bers of the pub­lic, that they fully ad­dress these is­sues and ful­fil their com­mit­ment to fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion prior to pro­jected works.”

At one point, two men left the pub­lic meet­ing and one – chan­nelling com­edy legends The Two Ron­nies – yelled out: “It’s good night from me and it’s good night from him.”

It may not be quite good night for the res­o­lu­tion of traf­fic is­sues in the vil­lage, but the peo­ple of Chapel­hall have spo­ken – and they’re not go­ing to take a back seat and go qui­etly into the night.

Traf­fic trou­bles Lo­cal ac­tivist Gabe Smith sur­veys the busy Lau­chope Street

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