Devonshire Road evening access restriction made permanent

Image above: Devonshire Road; Google streetview, September 2022

Vehicle access restriction pushed back to 6.00pm

After two and a half years of trials and consultations, the current arrangement preventing vehicles from turning into Devonshire Rd from Chiswick High Rd and driving down it in the evenings is being made permanent – with one modification, that the road will be open to traffic for one hour longer than it is currently, until 6pm.

At the moment drivers can use the road between 8am and 5pm without restriction. Overnight between 5pm and 8am access is restricted  to disabled drivers with blue badges and those needing access to properties in the one-way part of Devonshire Rd, Devonshire Mews and Prince of Wales Terrace. Anyone else driving to the Glebe estate or further down Devonshire Rd, has to find another way of getting there.

The suspended parking bays between no. 8 (Duci) and no. 22 (Hangar 22), in front of The Stitching Room, aprilmae dress shop, Wild Swans dress shop, Genco barbers, Vinoteca wine bar and Top Hat dry cleaners, will become a permanent footway.

Image above: Suspended parking bays between 8 & 22 Devonshire Rd

A compromise between those who want the restrictions withdrawn altogether and those who want the road pedestrianised

The decision by Hounslow’s Assistant Director of Traffic, Transport & Parking, Jefferson Nwokeoma, represents a compromise between those who wanted to see Devonshire Rd completely pedestrianised and those who wanted it left as it had been pre-pandemic, with no traffic restrictions. The discussions over these restrictions have been fraught.

The initial restrictions introduced in June 2020 banned most traffic during the day, between Chiswick High Rd and Glebe Street, with the intention of preventing through traffic.

Some people enjoyed the opportunity to sit outside restaurants and eat in the summer evenings without risk of being run over or breathing in exhaust fumes. The hospitality businesses loved it after all the tribulations of the pandemic.

Others, notably businesses such as W4 Plumbers which relies on the white van trade, and Frivoli, the art gallery, said it damaged their business and drove away customers.

There followed a long period of online consultation, during which both those in favour of the restrictions and those against claimed the exercise was rigged, allowing people from other areas outside Chiswick to pile in and skew the results.

Image above: Duci and The Stitching Room

Consultation, consultation, consultation

In May 2021 the Council’s consultants reported:

‘Analysis has demonstrated that the primary area of concern is the measure’s impact on the local economy, particularly the independent shops located on Devonshire Road, largely due to perceptions of decreased footfall, brought about by the removal of vehicle access and parking on the street.

‘Of those that provided an open response, over half expressed concern about this. Related to this, some respondents expressed concern that the removal of vehicle access makes shopping on Devonshire Road unattractive.

‘Other key areas of concern include increased congestion on surrounding roads, reduced air quality, unclear signage and the restricted access for residents of the Glebe Estate.’

A second round of more focused consulations followed in June 2021, involving direct engagement with businesses and residents. This led to the introduction of the current restrictions in July 2021, in the evenings only.

As is the way of these things, this was also a trial, to be tested with traffic surveys and further ‘engagement’. Once shopkeepers and residents had been given six months to get used to it, the Council embarked on another round of talking to those directly affected by the changes.

Image above: Devonshire Rd; Google streetview

Both residents and businesses split on the issue

The announcement that the current restrictions are being made permanent follow detailed analysis of a process of engagement in May and June this year in with 35 out of the 38 independent businesses and 77 out of the 103 residential properties in this part of Devonshire Rd, Devonshire Mews and Prince of Wales Terrace as well as ‘stakeholders’ such as the ward councillors.

This consultation too had its critics, as many of the residents of the Glebe estate felt they should also have been consulted. The results show how controversial a process this has been and how difficult to decide fairly.

When residents were asked their preferences as to whether the restrictions should continue in place:

  • 36% preferred the measures to be made permanent as they are.
  • 32% preferred the measures to be made permanent (subject to some
    modification)
  • 32% preferred the measures to be removed now.

When businesses were asked the same question:

  • 49% preferred the measures to be removed now
  • 46% preferred the measures to be made permanent
  • 5% preferred the measures to be made permanent (subject to
    some modification)

The split reflects the type of business, as the businesses who would prefer the measures be made permanent with or without some modification, were a combination of hospitality, and
beauty/grooming salons.

Image above:  Devonshire Road closed for a street party in 2017

Insufficient consideration of elderly and disabled people and pregnant women

The decision by Jefferson Nwokeoma takes into consideration an overall fall in traffic passing down Devonshire Road (and some displacement increasing traffic in Brackley Rd), with the resulting impact on air pollution levels.

It also acknowledges that some groups such as pregnant women, elderly and disabled people had been negatively impacted by the initial changes introduced in June 2020.

“The access restriction may have had a disproportionate impact upon the elderly, disabled, and pregnant women on the basis that they would be less likely to be in a position to change their mode of travel to walking or cycling.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Frivoli may be “forced to close”

See also: Local Government Ombudsman criticises LB Hounslow for Turnham Green Terrace and Devonshire Rd closures

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