Groves road closures ‘could add considerable time to an emergency response’, ambulance service told council

This image of an ambulance on an emergency call was taken on the first day of the Groves road closure
10 Sep 2020 @ 6.21 pm
| News

Both the ambulance and fire service raised concerns that the Groves road closures would hit their emergency response times, it emerged today (Thursday).

During the consultation ahead of the 18-month trial scheme, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service told City of York Council the changes “could add considerable travel time to an emergency response”.

The comments were unearthed by Cllr Paul Doughty, who said he was shocked they were apparently disregarded. He has called for the restrictions to be suspended immediately.

But council transport lead Cllr Andy D’Agorne hit back, saying none of the emergency services said the trial should not happen “but raised points which we have addressed”.

The restrictions on through-traffic in the Groves followed a consultation with residents. The scheme is designed to encourage walking and cycling and help regenerate the area.

Since the road closures were introduced last week, motorists have regularly flouted them – moving barriers and even driving on the pavements.

And a petition calling for the roads to be reopened has been signed by more than 1,300.

Concerns ‘disregarded’

Cars mount the pavement to drive past restrictions in the Groves on 3 September 2020. Photograph: YorkMix

Cllr Doughty, Conservative group leader, asked to see the consultation responses from the three main emergency services after hearing of instances of ambulances being delayed and caught out.

He was also concerned about the impact on the services caused by extra traffic queuing along Lord Mayor’s Walk, Monkgate and Clarence Street.

Cllr Doughty said: “Both the ambulance and fire services raised serious concerns that the changes could impact their ability to respond to emergency and life-threatening situations requiring them to make time consuming detours.

How do you navigate the Groves now?

To reach the ‘bottom’ end of Lowther Street and streets off Brownlow Street you need  to approach from the Huntington Road end of Park Grove.

To reach the Eldon Street area access is from the Clarence Street end of Lowther Street. Exit is back onto Lowther Street and via March Street to Townend Street.

“I was shocked to read comments by our emergency services which appear to have been disregarded and mitigation measures they suggested ignored by the Lib Dem-Green Council.

“My fears were heightened when I heard barriers had been replaced with concrete when the fire service had expressly said barriers should be moveable.”

He said “many city residents opposed the trial”, as did the Conservatives, adding:

  • Until the Lib Dem-led council and their Green coalition partners can make a full and frank disclosure of the risks they are prepared to take on residents behalf, I urge the council to suspend the trial and reinstate through access immediately.

Inviting feedback

Photograph: YorkMix

Cllr D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said: “All three emergency services were consulted before the low-traffic trial began.

“None of the services said the trial should not happen, but raised points which we have addressed. This included volumes and flow of diverted traffic on the larger roads which we are monitoring and are adjusting traffic controls accordingly and the choice of barriers.

“Unfortunately, some planters used as barriers were vandalised so we have strengthened these points.

“We recently contacted all the emergency services again and the services acknowledged that it can take a little time for new measures to be embedded with crews.

“We are also inviting them to feedback on the measures now they are in place.”

What the emergency services said

These are the responses to the Groves road closure trial consultation, as supplied to Cllr Doughty.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service
When crews receive an emergency while at York hospital they would in all likelihood use Penleys Grove Street as the route of choice to get to the other side of York.

If this route were cut off to us we would need to take a much longer detour, this being Clarence Street to Lord Mayors Walk to Monkgate. As you will understand this could add considerable travel time to an emergency response.

I feel this would be even more hindered by the extra traffic using this route by all the extra traffic that would no longer be using the routes through the Groves.

North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service
We can still access all areas if responding appliances select the correct approach road although travel time to some addresses will be increased.

The zoning of the Groves may present access issues if responding appliances are either unfamiliar with the zoning (standby crews etc) or if incorrect address information is given.

Whilst we will make the information available to all crews it is sometimes difficult to anticipate which appliance will be responding to an incident.

Therefore if it was possible to have a barrier system in place that could be bypassed by emergency responders if required, such as locked or removable bollards, this would provide a fail-safe system.

North Yorkshire Police
My main concern with the proposed scheme is the extra traffic on Monkgate, Lord Mayors Walk and Clarence Street, and its impact on air quality particularly at the Monkgate Bar junction and the Lord mayors Walk / Clarence Street junctions.

I appreciate that the proposed scheme would initially be experimental however, as the ongoing release from lockdown has shown, reversing the change and re introducing through traffic would be difficult if not impossible given the weight of local opinion.