‘The whole area has been gaslighted’
The issue of consultation is an interesting one. I live in Levenshulme and was really surprised when so many people complained about a lack of consultation. It felt like it had been going on for ages, with lots of offline engagement (flyers, meetings) as well as online. But I was interested in the scheme, and connected to people actively supporting it, so my experience is perhaps not universal.
Clearly many people feel like they weren't asked, so something went wrong. I suspect some of this can be explained by people feeling like they weren't listened to because it turned out they were in the minority in opposing the scheme. This has been confirmed by the recent numbers showing pretty overwhelming support. But that doesn't mean there weren't issues.
The process could have been handled much better and I absolutely agree that it's down to the council. There should have been more rigorous analysis of air quality and traffic flows, to create an evidence base that, even if it wouldn't touch the emotional core of the dissent, would show that the scheme is working objectively as well as subjectively (I feel a lot safer letting my kids walk around). I completely understand that this would be expensive, but I don't think you'd have the same situation in Prestwich now if you had a really powerful case study from Levenshulme (and had learned the lessons about communication).
In Levenshulme, even after all the complaints about communication during the consultation, the planters just turned up overnight, weeks before any signage, causing further frustration and mayhem. It didn't give an impression of engagement, clear planning, or frankly, competence.
It’s interesting that Bury Council were disappointed with the outreach that Sustrans performed on Prestwich. They also performed consultation on Walton Road in Trafford and a colleague who lives on that road reported back that his interviewer that day to collect his opinion wrote down not one word that criticised the scheme design, layout or proposed traffic flow alternatives for residents and emergency vehicles.
Then again, surely it’s not rocket science not to employ a group intent on putting in the scheme to take charge of public engagement. It’s hardly going to win doubters over or install confidence that the residents views were being listened to. Hopefully Trafford come to the same conclusion as Bury.