Victory for the people
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