North Tyneside Council have recently completed a short 10 day consultation on options for regeneration of Station Road North in Forest Hall. Forest Hall is within easy cycling distance of Gosforth, only 15 minutes from South Gosforth Metro, though currently cycling to Forest Hall from Gosforth requires the use of a number of busy and unpleasant roads. It is also likely that anyone from Forest Hall seeking to drive into Newcastle City Centre would travel through both the South Gosforth Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) and the City Centre AQMA.
The consultation states that the proposals “have been developed in response to feedback from ward members who highlighted certain issues within the area – the need for more parking, traffic calming measures, upgrading of the paving materials, replacement street furniture to create a pleasant area for visitors” and that the main choice is between a traditional option [above] or a contemporary look and feel.
According to the Chronicle, the budget for this scheme is £500,000.
SPACE for Gosforth submitted the following general feedback about the scheme with suggestions to improve the public realm and access to shops and local businesses.
We are writing in relation to the Forest Hall Regeneration Proposals, which North Tyneside Council are currently consulting on, and would like to provide some feedback based on our experience looking at similar issues in the Gosforth area. We understand that as we don’t live in Forest Hall our comments will carry less weight than those that do live nearby however we still hope that we may provide some useful input.
Broadly, we support the scheme aims to re-allocate space to pedestrians and cyclists, to create open spaces, create a more inclusive environment and increase business use. There are a number of aspects to the scheme that support these aims including:
- new benches
- new cycle stands
- enlarging the pavement and
- adding tactile paving to crossings.
We also support the changes that will help calm traffic and make it safer to walk or cycle by encouraging slower vehicle speeds through the area including the removal of central line markings and the raised table at the junction with station road.
We believe however that there are further opportunities for improvement that could also be made in support of the stated aims and which would require little or no additional investment. These are set out in the attached diagram and in the text below.
We understand that parking is an important consideration for any retail centre and why the Council may wish to consider adding additional capacity. This does mean however that space that was allocated to pedestrians has been lost, apparently in opposition to the scheme’s aims. A quick look at the local map suggests that actually there is a considerable amount of parking in the vicinity, both in the centre itself and in nearby streets, and that little of this is restricted. On that basis we suggest that before any additional spaces are created, and pavement space lost, further analysis is undertaken to confirm that such demand exists and cannot be met through demand management as set out in the North Tyneside Parking Strategy. This might include improvements to walking and cycling facilities or changes to parking regulations.
It will also be useful to consider experience from elsewhere, including locally in Jesmond, where footfall has increased following public realm improvements enabled by the removal of parking spaces. https://www.bikebiz.com/retail/increased-footfall-convinces-hardware-store-owner-to-support-cycling
We also note that Google Maps shows Briar Edge, which has unrestricted parking, as having cars parked blocking the pavement making pedestrian access harder. Addressing this would improve pedestrian access to the shops.
2. Improvement for Walking
As shown in the attached diagram the biggest potential improvements are likely to be gained
- in tightening corners to reduce crossing widths and making crossing safer due to slower traffic speeds, including at the east end of Station Road North.
- by implementing continuous pavements across junctions to Burn Avenue and the private car park next to Sainsburys, similar to that proposed here for Gosforth High Street: http://spaceforgosforth.com/pedestrian-priority/
- restricting vehicle access on Burn Road to create further pavement space .
- address local access issues due to pavement parking .
- removing unnecessary pedestrian guard rails.
3. Improvement for Cycling
Making cycling improvements has also been shown to improve business performance, for example as summarised here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/bike-business/ We note that North Tyneside Council’s draft cycling strategy states that “cycling is considered as part of all highway and regeneration projects and any new infrastructure is in line with best and emerging good practice.” https://my.northtyneside.gov.uk/sites/default/files/web-page-related-files/Cycling%20Strategy%20Draft.pdf
Best practice in these circumstances would require the provision of traffic-free cycle paths usable by all ages and abilities and we have sketched out a potential layout in our attached diagram. For Lansdowne Road we note that the Council has proposed one-way access heading south to north. Our suggestion would be to reverse this but also to allow contraflow cycling via a parking-protected cycle lane.
Any changes at this location should also have due regard to North Tyneside’s future Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). According to LCWIP technical guidance Station Road, in particular the crossing over the railway line, is likely to be a major route connecting the communities that live either side of the railway line and providing onwards access to Killingworth, Longbenton and into Newcastle. We have written about this in relation to Gosforth here: http://spaceforgosforth.com/gosforth-safe-cycling/
4. Public Realm
By restricting vehicle access on Burn Avenue and retaining pavement space rather than adding additional, and possibly unnecessary parking spaces, this creates additional space which might for example be used for:
- additional planters in the entrance to Burn Avenue
- up to seven additional trees on the south side of Station Road North
- additional cycle parking locations and
- further additional seating, including potentially for street cafes similar to Hawthorn Road in Gosforth.
5. Other considerations
The other key issue left unaddressed by the current plan is the footbridge connecting the shopping centre with Albany Avenue which isn’t compliant with the Equality Act 2010 due to its steep steps. Improving this link will help those living west of the railway line to access local shops and businesses. We have written about a similar situation on the Great North Road in Gosforth: http://spaceforgosforth.com/great-north-road-proposed-toucan-crossing/
We hope you will consider these suggestions as we feel there is an significant opportunity to improve the Forest Hall area and attract more people to use local shops on foot and by cycle, and to make it a more pleasant environment for everyone.
More widely, we hope that North Tyneside Council will look to implement further improvements to walking and cycling to give North Tyneside residents the best possible choice of travel options and to address air quality and other public health concerns.
SPACE for Gosforth.