Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road Working Group | Meeting#1 – 19/09/2016

The first meeting of the Working Group met at the Civic Centre on Monday 19/9/2016 at 18:00.  At the time of writing, it’s believed that every group listed in the Terms of Reference (total 20) had a representative, with the Youth Parliament apologising for absence, but would be represented in future meetings.  (**Confirmation required from NCC on final list of attendees)

Welcome news was that the Working Group would be supported by Newcastle University Digital Civics, led by Professor Patrick Oliver who had volunteered to help with:

  • Providing advice and assistance to individual groups to help in communications with their own communities
  • Using technology to support the process via collaboration tools and acting as a repository for information and reports
  • Assistance in communicating/seeking feedback on decision making to a wider community

The meeting opened with introductions and background to the plan by Graham Grant, Head of Transport Planning and nominated Chair, John Dales.

Graham provided a brief history on how we had reached this point, going back to the 1998 Unitary Development Plan!   Following review of the public feedback the Haddrick’s Mill plan would be taken through the standard Council transport planning process, and would not be included in the Terms of Reference.   In 2009 there was a consultation on Blue House which had reached the point of submitting a funding bid, at which point, government changed and subsequently the funding stopped.  Explanation for the criteria of funding via the Local Growth Fund was explained which SPACE has referred to in our previous letter to NELEP and their subsequent reply.

The analysis from the comments made on Commonplaces website would be made available to the working group on Tuesday 20/9/2016.  The working group were asked to take this analysis into consideration since it represented the views of a large number of people who may not be connected to the invited groups, and should be considered as the view of the wider City.

Complete transparency was offered by NCC, including access to the iterations of the previous plans, data that influenced the designs, indeed anything that the Council can provide to help the working group reach it’s proposed alternative plan.  To NCC’s credit, whenever SPACE has requested reports, data, or information from NCC, where it’s available, we have received it.

Each of the groups introduced themselves and their particular interests, in summary some of the points raised were:

  • An overwhelming love of the Moor and a mission to protect it and it’s wildlife
  • The importance of public transport and in particular the passage of buses through the junction
  • Addressing concerns on safety and pollution through increased traffic
  • Opportunity to look at other transport models, managing traffic on the periphery of the city
  • Mistrust and cynicism of NCC and the need to repair this
  • Concerns on the concept of the Northern Access Corridor severing communities
  • A series of wants: no destruction of trees; no increase in air, light and noise pollution
  • The need to look at more sustainable forms of transport
  • In relation to the housing developments, more people does not necessarily mean more cars
  • Providing people with safe alternatives to using vehicles
  • Make public transport more attractive to encourage more people to use it
  • The challenge of getting those people who opposed the scheme to consider/support an alternative
  • Concern there was sufficient time to come up with a solution

There was considerable concern expressed at the lack of representation from the Stewards Committee of the Freemen.  It was confirmed that there would be the opportunity to meet with the Freemen once a plan had been proposed by the working group.  In the meantime, an invitation would be sent to the Freemen to join the Working Group.

John Dales provided a brief history of transport in the City with particular attention to the last major changes in the 1970’s.  Highlighting in a aerial photograph from 1945 that the Moor itself had changed very little in all that time.  John followed up with a view on typical transport planning which deals with symptoms like congestion rather than analysing the underlying causes, frequently putting vehicles before people.  Adding that the response to the consultation proved that this was not what the City wanted.  This was a clear opportunity to change this and the working group were encouraged to address the question “What kind of city do we want?”.

Modifications were requested to the Terms of Reference to address the lack of Council Policy as documented in the Urban Core Plan and supporting polices.  In particular that the aim of the Plan is to create sustainable communities, centres and new developments where priority is given to sustainable modes of transport. The hierarchy of sustainable modes of transport is:
– Walking
– Cycling
– Public Transport (including taxis)
– Freight
– Vehicles

It was always going to be difficult to form a 20 person working group with differing opinions to come up with an alternative plan for Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road.  Not least, the fact that some groups are experienced in Council policy, planning and process, and for others it was their first exposure.  There is a steep learning curve with an extremely ambitious timescale and lots of ensuing homework!  However, the common consensus of “protect the moor” means that the working group is already setting a physical limit to the outcome.  Some of the group felt it important to analyse the previous iterations of plans (which everyone has free access to) and it was also proposed that a prototype be built to to help everyone visualise what can be built within the constraints of the physical space.

Will we be able to attain our challenge of coming up with an alternative plan?  One meeting in, and it’s looking difficult and challenging, but if we all put in the same energy as we did to stop the previous plan then perhaps we could surprise ourselves!

Please do leave a comment or email us if you have any questions or suggestions.


Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Terms of Reference (Draft)

Background

Newcastle City Council has secured funding to make a series of highway improvements aimed at dealing with traffic flows across the North of Newcastle (focused on a series of junctions). Building on earlier work at Cowgate and Four Lane Ends, the package of measures now proposed covers (from west to east) Cow Hill, Kenton Road / Grandstand Road junction, the Blue House Roundabout, junctions on Jesmond Dene Road at Osborne Road and Moorfield; and the Haddricks Mill roundabouts at South Gosforth.

Blue House Roundabout experiences congestion during the peak hours on all approaches, with extensive queues on the Great North Road and Jesmond Dene Road approaches. The layout of the approach roads to the junction are not aligned and the potential realignment of these is restricted by the presence of a residential property on the north-west side of the junction and the proximity of heavily protected moorland. The approaches are laid out as avenues with trees. The Blue House Roundabout and the junction of Osborne Road and Jesmond Dene Road, in particular, experience substantial numbers of collisions due to the geometry and operating conditions; and these junctions cause acute problems for public transport (delay) and for pedestrians and cyclists (accessibility, safety and security).

Between the 25th July and the 21st August, the public, local businesses and local stakeholders were consulted on initial proposals for these junctions. Taking into account the scale and nature of the responses to the proposals for Blue House and the junction of Jesmond Dene Road with Osborne Road, the Council has decided to work with representatives of local residents’ groups and other stakeholders to inform and bring forward a new proposal.

Key Considerations

  • Proposals for change must take into account existing issues associated with the junction, including safety, health considerations and congestion.
  • In relation to congestion and associated negative impacts, consideration must also be given to current predictions of future traffic growth affecting the study area.
  • Proposals must improve road safety at the junctions.
  • The completed scheme must be low maintenance.
  • Relevant design guidance, standards and regulations should be considered and followed, as appropriate.
  • The needs of all user groups should be considered.
  • The junctions and local highway network will need to operate satisfactorily during construction.
  • Impinging on the adjacent moorland, allotments and their access, and on private property, should be avoided if possible within the wider constraints of the requirement to make improvements.
  • The access requirements for events that take place on the Moor, such as the Hoppings and the Mela, should be taken into account.

Remit of the Working Group 

The Working Group is tasked with bringing forward ideas for alternative proposals for the study area, taking into account the considerations outlined earlier. Scheme elements under consideration will be:

  • Design, size and position of the junction at Blue House
  • Design of the junctions on Jesmond Dene Road with Moorfield and Osborne Road
  • Position of footpaths and cycling infrastructure
  • Materials used for footpaths and cycling infrastructure
  • Signage
  • The need for and position of bus stops and bus lanes
  • Type and positioning of replanting/landscaping
  • Need for any street furniture
  • Participants need to appreciate construction and maintenance budget constraints in this process. The ease of construction and the disruption the works will cause to businesses and residents in the area must be considered.
  • The group will be facilitated by John Dales (Chair of the national Transport Planning Society, and a Trustee of the national charity to promote everyday walking, Living Streets). John has been commissioned to provide the group with independent advice and support in the design process. Ultimately, John will be asked to make a recommendation to the council, based on the work of the group.

Timeline

The Working Group will meet a maximum of five times for no longer than two hours each time, with sufficient time between meetings to enable the Council is able to respond to comments and requests for information. A general arrangement drawing of the recommended scheme design will be produced before the end of November.

Proposed meeting dates are set out below, along with initial proposals for what each meeting will focus on. All are a 17:30 for a prompt 18:00 start (20:00 finish). The first meeting, on Monday 19th September, will be in the Bewick Dobson room at the Civic Centre. Only invited members of the group will be able to attend.

Monday 19th September. Introduction from NCC (GG), including the nature of the challenge. Introduction from John Dales, on the opportunity both at Blue House and for what happens there to change Newcastle’s future transport strategy. Introductory comments from all participants. Agree/clarify the Working Group’s Terms of Reference, including the geographical scope of the study area; future programme; outputs; communications.

Monday 3rd October. Review July consultation scheme option, two others that NCC officers had previously prepared, and possibly another option prepared by JD. Consider pros/cons of each to derive an agreed assessment framework with different criteria (e.g. tree loss, cycle and walking provision, land take, queue lengths, cost…)

Monday 31st October Using the assessment framework previously devised, appraise 2-3 options (some previous, some new/modifications) for different traffic growth scenarios.

Monday 28th November Clarify, as far as possible, a single preferred scheme for the Council to take forward to formal consultation. Also, prepare recommendations to NCC about what else it should do, covering policy, strategy and design, in order to enable more people-/city-friendly designs to come forward in other places in due course.

Invitations to participate sent to, with one representative from each group (total participants = 20):

3 thoughts on “Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road Working Group | Meeting#1 – 19/09/2016

    1. Peter Post author

      Hi Sarah – feel free and no problem in the future using anything from SPACE if you could just attribute to SPACE that would be great.

      While I have you though… I hunted and hunted for that link you sent me on managing traffic on the periphery (Zurich and Bristol) – did you send me a link or is it my imagination?! If so if you could forward again i’d be dead chuffed!

      Reply
  1. Michael Gordon

    That is a tight timescale – 28th of November 2016 to come up with a single scheme to be taken forward. Why only one option? Would it not be preferable to have at least one alternative?
    Appears a lot of organisations with differing agendas, priorities, views and voices have to somehow come together to produce one coherent scheme. Will await to see the outcome of al this discussion!

    Reply

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