In August 2017 some residents from Garden Village contacted SPACE for Gosforth to ask for our help in looking at how to improve their community, in particular from the perspective of ensuring the village flourished as a safe and healthy place for everyone. We were of course happy to oblige.
At the same time as we engaged with the Garden Village Residents group, Newcastle City Council published an open consultation to hear views on Salter’s Bridge. The consultation closed on 6th November 2017.
Garden Village – A Little History
The homes in Garden Village were first built in the 1920s to house the railwaymen who worked for London North Eastern Railway Company (LNER) in the adjacent railway yards. At the time LNER was the second largest railway company in the UK. LNER gave their workers the opportunity to own their own homes in Garden Village, repayable over a 20 year period. In addition, some leisure facilities were built for the residents including a tennis court and bowling green, which exist to this day. The Bowls Pavilion was opened in 1928.
You can find all the plans and development of the village here including the original site plan in 1928. The village also had the dubious pleasure of housing the first sewage works in Gosforth at the foot of Hollywood Ave!
On the map below the first houses built can be identified with a red roof built in a triangle. You can find more about the history and personalities of the village here.
When originally built the only route in and out of the village was via Killingworth Road and Salter’s bridge, and the village itself was surrounded by fields. This is a similar model adopted post-war with nearly all new housing developments.
Salter’s Bridge is listed as an ancient monument dating back to medieval times.
The population of Garden Village from the last census in 2011 was 1469 people living in 620 houses, of which 304 are children and 432 are aged over 60.
If you would like to join the Garden Village Action Group or just be kept up to date with progress then please email: email@example.com
Our first meeting was held on 18 September 2017 in the Garden Village Association Hall, which attracted some 55 people (basically filling the small hall!). The objective of the meeting was to help the residents form themselves into a community group, work out how they would communicate with the rest of the residents (many do not have access to the internet) and think about/document the Garden Village they would like to see.
To help the residents SPACE proposed the process below, which the meeting thought was a good starting point to create structure and an agreed way forward.
One of the benefits in following this process is that it stops debate around solutions (of which there could be many) and concentrates minds on the issues and available policies and data.
This is a similar process that has worked well at the Blue House Working Group meetings. Our role was purely to facilitate this discussion.
The aim was for the discussion not to be about purely whether Salter’s Bridge was opened or remained closed to vehicles, but a longer term view on aspects of the village the residents would like to see improved. Understandably, for lots of different personal reasons, there were some people who wanted it to be opened and some who wanted it permanently closed. It was time better spent understanding the reasons for the division of opinion.
The residents broke up into smaller groups and discussed what they liked and what they’d like to change about Garden Village and subsequently shared their thoughts with the rest of the meeting. There was collective agreement that everyone wanted a safer and healthier village. The same positive comments were repeated, that it was a great place to live but could be much better. Lots of people have lived in the village for many years.
Key Issues for Residents
This information was collated and the following were agreed as the key points:
- A safer Garden Village – a reduction in the volume of vehicles passing through
- A Garden Village with less noise and air pollution
- A reduction in the speed of vehicles travelling on Hollywood Avenue
- Better access for pedestrians to South Gosforth and Longbenton
- Improved cycle routes for all
- A more inclusive Garden Village
- A park for the children
- More benches for residents
- A reduction in people parking in Garden Village who do not live here
- Protect Salter’s Bridge as a listed bridge
- An eye on the future – development of the Gregg’s factory
Creating Measures of Success
From these aims it is possible to derive a series of categories to help narrow down issues and support developing a series of “Measures of Success” (i.e. reference points for when later looking at options and plans).
This then allows the resident group to develop quantitative and qualitative measures by answering questions such as:
- What are the historic/current vehicle volumes?
- How to reduce aggressive driving behaviour?
- What makes for a safe environment for children, older people and people with mobility issues?
The next step is to support answering the questions through a bit of research. From then on it’s time to look at plans and find solutions that address the measures of success.
Communicating with all residents
In addition, SPACE helped the residents form themselves into a team with agreed objectives, recommended tools and plans on communicating with the rest of the residents.
Inevitably, this means a lot of door knocking and talking to neighbours about what the group is trying to achieve in the long term for their community.
We have had several follow-up meetings with the team, the door knock exercise has been done and in addition the residents were made aware of Newcastle City Council’s Let’s Talk Consultation on Salter’s Bridge. The consultation closed on 6th November 2017.
A further village meeting is being scheduled with residents to report on progress in the next few weeks.
SPACE’s view on the recent consultation
As SPACE are currently helping the Garden Village residents group through the above process, we do not think it appropriate at this stage to make a statement on whether Salter’s Bridge is opened or closed. Clearly currently having the bridge closed has dramatically reduced the volume of traffic on Hollywood Avenue and as a result the street is safer, quieter and with cleaner air.
There are a number of options that the Residents Group would like to explore before putting their preferred choice forward to the City Council.
It is unfortunate timing that the Council chose to publish the Let’s Talk Consultation on Salter’s Bridge just as the Garden Village group was being formed and working through the adopted process above.
In addition, the questions in the consultation were framed around a binary choice of whether the bridge should remain closed or be reopened. While access across Salter’s Bridge can be viewed as the key issue, it’s not the bridge that creates problems but the sheer volume of through traffic that uses Hollywood Avenue. The consultation does not address this critical concern.
A safer Garden Village | Vehicle Volumes on Hollywood Avenue
The average daily total of vehicles using Hollywood Avenue is 8,127 (2008, source: Newcastle City Council Monitoring 5 day average 12-19 March 2008). There have been no recent vehicle counts but it is reasonable to assume that this number has increased during the last eight years.
To put this into perspective the Great North Road, south of Brunton Lane, a dual carriageway, has an average daily total of 20,091 (2015, source: Traffic & Accident Data Unit).
The following chart highlights the issue of speeding drivers on Hollywood Avenue with only 6% keeping to the 20mph limit. One of the worst streets in Gosforth.
The photograph below shows the daily scene on Hollywood Avenue when the Regents Centre junction rework was in progress. This photograph highlights a number of issues on the scale of the problem:
- The volume of through traffic
- The negative impact of stationary and slow moving traffic
- Air pollution impact (even worse for those sitting in their cars)
- Noise pollution impact
- Negative impact on the quality life for residents (in particular children and older people)
After the roadworks were completed the scale of queuing traffic diminished but it is reasonable to assume that the volume of through traffic has remained the same (or indeed grown) and the problem persists.
Safety for Children and Older People
It is clear that an average daily total of 8,127 vehicles will have a negative impact on safety in Garden Village and in particular for people living on Hollywood Avenue. The volume of vehicles makes it difficult and dangerous for people trying to cross the road. In addition many families would like to see their children playing outside safely.
The “Playing Out” group provides 10 good reasons why playing out is good for children:
- Children need to play.
- The street is a blank canvas.
- Children like to play near home and have traditionally done so.
A 2007 poll found that 71% of adults played out on their street every day compared to only 21% of children today.
- Children need ample space to play energetically.
- Playing in the street increases community cohesion.
- Street play creates new opportunities for socialising and friendships.
- Children learn valuable skills when they play out.
- Playing in the street allows for ‘semi-supervised’ play.
- The street is the “starting point for all journeys” (Tim Gill, 2007)
- Streets constitute the vast majority of public space in the city.
As has been highlighted above the large volume of vehicles has an impact on everyone’s safety, not least when trying to cross the road.
In addition, at Salter’s Bridge the pavement is very narrow. It is not possible to use the pavement with a buggy or wheelchair. Managing small children in this environment is stressful and presents considerable risk.
In our blog post “Lots of children want to cycle to school, but hardly any do” SPACE highlighted the issues facing children who wanted to cycle to school. Hollywood Avenue with the volume of vehicles using it just at the time when children would head to and from school makes it a dangerous activity.
In addition Salter’s Bridge is known for aggressive driving behaviour and is very narrow. This deters parents from allowing their children to cycle to school, and increases the likelihood of more vehicles on the road as parents choose to drive their children.
Summary of the impact of a through route for people living in Garden Village?
- Safety – Hollywood Avenue (and all streets in Garden Village) are defined as 20mph zones. As we have highlighted in a previous article covering issues for East Gosforth, this speed limit is frequently exceeded and not enforced. This creates a serious hazard to everyone living in the area but in particular for children and older people.
- Air Pollution – more vehicles invariably means more pollution and the consequential impact on health. SPACE has covered the impact of pollution extensively here.
- Noise Pollution – more vehicles also causes an increase in sound. In particular, when vehicles are stop/starting which happens frequently on Hollywood Avenue with parked vehicles and traffic calming on both sides of the road.
- Damage – Perhaps not a common event, but everyone will have had experience of broken/clipped wing mirrors and unexplained scratches to their own or neighbours’ vehicles.
- Quality of Life – there is a negative impact on people’s lives as a direct result of the above points leading to fewer social connections with neighbours and less of a feeling that your street is yours. (Driven To Excess: Impacts of Motor Vehicles on the Quality of Life of Residents of Three Streets in Bristol UK, Joshua Hart and Prof. Graham Parkhurst)
SPACE will continue to support the Garden Village Residents group as they work together through the process above.