Local residents are furious at “abhorrent” planters put up by a bumbling city council that blocked their road – and prevented firefighters from getting to a blaze-ravaged house.
An electrical fault sparked flames that ripped through the top floor of a terraced house in Leeds, West Yorkshire.
But firefighters were stopped by four giant planters set up just yards from the property at Mexborough Place in Chapeltown to crack down on the fun-drivers.
The emergency services had to unscrew the bollards before they could fight the fire.
The fire at Mexborough Place, in the Chapeltown suburb, broke out on June 7th.
At a council meeting last week, it was reported that “emergency services did not know how to get to the house” which “was then destroyed by the fire”.
Council officials admitted their procedures for notifying 999 crew members of road closures “were not followed and did not end up in their system”.
Sharon Kelly, 60, said: “It’s just amazing. In an emergency, every second counts – it could mean the difference between life and death.”
“My mother has Alzheimer’s and there were times when we needed an ambulance and it got to the roadblock and couldn’t go any further.
“If the fire brigade could have gotten to the house fire faster, I don’t think the damage would have been so great.”
“But the delay could have cost lives if residents were still inside.
“The trouble is, the next day the council came and screwed up the planters right away.”
Sharon, who lives in line with the roadblock, said she has been fighting to have it removed since 2020.
She said, “You’re hideous, but that’s actually the least of my worries.”
“The city council says they want to stop speeding, but instead of solving the problem, they’re just creating new ones.”
Neighbor Audra Gatewood, 56, whose house overlooks Mexborough Place, said: “I think the planters are a good thing.”
“Courier, shopping trolley – they all come here. You see them make it to the roadblock and then reverse. Then they have to figure out how to get past it.”
Audra, who called 999 when the fire broke out, said she was still in favor of the roadblock to make the life of her 13-year-old daughter Janiqua-Shae safer.
She added: “These roads were used as a racetrack. They bombed the street so fast we feared they might go straight into our house.”
Neighbor Sarah Kandziorka, 40, said: “I can’t tell you how many speeding cars almost ended up in my living room.”
“It was so dangerous that you couldn’t let the kids play outside. There were so many near misses – houses were fenced off.”
“Something had to be done so I’m glad the road is closed.”
“We called an ambulance ourselves and saw it coming up the street and then realized it couldn’t get through.”
Mishia Buchanan, 38, mother-of-two, added: “At first the planters annoyed me but I just got used to it.”
“Cars don’t race there anymore, that’s a good thing.”
“It’s just fortunate that no one was hurt.”
Paul Thomas, Leeds City Council transport strategy manager, described the incident as “tragic”.
He told a council review committee: “On these plans we will consult with the emergency services beforehand and give them full details.”
“Apparently the process in this incident was not performed and did not end up on their system.
“But we inform them and consult them first.”
A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, central government has launched the Emergency Active Travel Fund (EATF) which aims to reallocate street space for pedestrians and cyclists.”
“Leeds City Council used these funds to pilot an active travel district in Chapeltown.
“Neighborhoods in Leeds have been prioritized based on the impact of Covid-19 on existing travel patterns, car ownership, existing infrastructure and residents’ access to local services.
“Funding was conditional on rapid implementation due to the pandemic, which somewhat limited the level of consultation that was possible, although an online consultation was conducted prior to implementation of the program and a letter was sent to every household in the area about the proposed trial.”
“The planters (made by a local company from recycled materials) were placed on residential streets in Chapeltown in May 2020 to deter vehicles from outside the area from taking shortcuts, creating a safer space.
“We have since worked closely with residents and local councils, including a resident focus group, to gather feedback from the trial and collectively design a revised scheme.
“The revised system remains in the testing phase and we continue to work with residents and local councils to gather further feedback before making a decision on whether to make the system permanent.”
“During the design and implementation of the plan, we liaised with the emergency services, who were given copies of the plans.”