'Forklift truck' knocks over controversial plant box traffic calming measures in Levenshulme
Report by Granada Reports' Sarah Rogers
A 'forklift truck' has been used to remove controversial plant boxes hoping to act as traffic filters in the middle of a residential street.
The scheme, in Levenshulme, has caused 'quiet chaos' with neighbours, with many at loggerheads about their placement.
Manchester City Council installed the 14 'modal filters' on 4 January, but locals say there has already been mass confusion among motorists trying to navigate the tight streets.
Drivers have even taken to illegally mounting pavements to bypass the diversions, and get around the planters.
Just several hours after the installation of planters soil had already begun pouring out onto the street, while others had been moved and knocked over.
Marc Geoffrey was one of a group of residents out until 1am tidying up the filters and moving them back.
He said, although no one could be sure, it was clear they had been deliberately targeted by "some kind of machinery" - with rumours of a forklift truck involved.
Mr Geoffrey added: "There is clearly frustration from both people who are for and against the trial but there are some condoning acts of vandalism that I don’t think are very productive.
"The filters were definitely moved by some kind of machinery. You cannot manually move them as we had to empty all of the soil out just to lift them back onto their feet."
The planters are part of a six-month trial for an Active Neighbourhood project, which will also see improved road crossings and traffic calming measures to improve air quality.
The scheme was first proposed in 2018 - but many residents claim there was minimal warning of the measures before the planters arrived.
They also say there are no signs of notices indicating they are in use, or how drivers should adjust their journeys.
Jeremy Hoad, who lives in Levenshulme, said: “It’s good to see something finally happening.
“I think a lot of people presumed that the project wasn’t going to happen because it’s been in the works for so long so I think they have been caught off guard.
“After waiting so long for these planters to go up as filters, they’ve been put in and haven’t been done properly. Not only that but they could be potentially dangerous.”
One anonymous local added: "It’s a well-intended scheme. I appreciate there’s a few bits that need to be ironed out but in order to prove that it will have a positive effect, it needs to be well executed - this feels like half a job."
There are also safety fears as the planters do not have any high visibility on them - making it difficult to see them at night.
The council said it was taking residents' feedback on board to ensure the trials helped to benefit the 'health and well-being of the community', and would now be looking at installing reflective signage and additional planters.
Mr Geoffrey said he was optimistic about the trial, but added there is still a lot of confusion surrounding it.
Mr Geoffrey said: "As soon as they were installed, people were wondering what they were - there are no signs or labels around.
"We really need for there to be high-visibility signs put on them to avoid the risks of accidents."
Resident Nick Purcell, who is also in favour of the scheme, added he has been left ‘in shock’ at the first stage of the trials.
He said he had already seen multiple cars driving around the filters and illegally onto pavements to bypass the diversions.
The council condemned the behaviour as 'unacceptable' and promised to look at installing additional planters.
An oven has appeared next to one of the filters in an apparent attempt to stop drivers from using the pavement to cut through
Streets For People, a group in favour of the scheme, said the trial was a welcome answer to ‘overwhelming local support’ for measures to make it easier for people to get around on foot and by bike.
It acknowledged there were some issues that needed to be addressed as soon as possible.
Tom Haines-Doran, chair of Streets for People Levenshulme and Burnage, said: “We hope that the installation of the trial modal filters marks the beginning of a series of improvements over the next few months.
“However, it is apparent that the council is making some big mistakes. They have placed the filters in such a way that car drivers can go around them on the pavement, which is very dangerous.
“Thankfully, all of these issues can be fixed during the trial, and the council have both the money and public backing to do so.
“We ask that the council act quickly to fix these problems, and create a trial which works for the majority of residents."
The filters are designed to divert traffic, making the roads safer for people to travel on foot and bike.
Councillor Angeliki Stogia, executive member for the environment, planning and transport, said: "We've installed new traffic filters at locations across Levenshulme, on a six-month trial basis, where consultation told us that the majority of local people who responded were in favour of this going ahead.
"Where people have reservations about the trial, we urge them to continue to raise these with us in a positive way.
"It's disappointing that a small number of planters were moved overnight and it's really heartening to know that members of the community acted to clear up after the act of vandalism.
"We're also aware that in some locations, vehicles have illegally driven on the pavement to go around the filters. This is unacceptable and dangerous. We'll be looking at positioning additional planters where possible to deter this behaviour, while protecting essential access for people on bikes, pedestrians and people with disabilities.
"In line with feedback from residents, we'll also be adding reflective signage, to improve the filters' visibility at night.
“This investment into Levenshulme has the potential to benefit the health and well-being of the community in the wake of the pandemic, by making streets safer for people as they go about their journeys.
"The point of the current trial is to find out what difference the measures make on the ground and to carry on listening to local residents and businesses, so that we can work together and make changes where necessary to get it right, before any permanent decisions are made."