An Open Letter to the NE Local Enterprise Partnership

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Ms H. Golightly,
Chief Operating Officer,
North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Dear Ms Golightly,

Re: The Northern Access Corridor funding criteria

I am writing on behalf of SPACE for Gosforth, a residents’ group based in Gosforth, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Like many others in Newcastle, we are very concerned about the current proposals put forward for the Northern Access Corridor and their likely negative impact on public health right across the city.

While we fully support the essential maintenance to the Metro bridge over Salters’ Lane and its widening to create space for bus and cycle lanes, we are concerned about the impact on air quality resulting from the additional vehicle traffic forecast and the loss of part of the Town Moor to build a high-capacity junction to facilitate the movement of this traffic.

We understand from the North East Growth Deal that the NELEP will be contributing funds towards this scheme and thought that if the NELEP were able to provide some assurances relating to the conditions of that funding it might help mitigate some of the serious concern felt by the local community.

These assurances should include:

  1. That funding will only be provided for schemes aligned to the NELEP Transport Strategy. In particular we would like to highlight the NELEP objective to “reduce carbon emitted by transport“, whereas the current proposals imply a large increase in traffic-related carbon emissions;
  2. That the NELEP has processes and pre-determined criteria to assure that any scheme submitted for funding meets the NELEP Transport Strategy objectives, especially the objectives relating to carbon emissions and encouraging sustainable travel modes;
  3. That the Value for Money assessment of the scheme will include a comprehensive analysis of benefits and disbenefits including the impact of air pollution on public health; and the impact of the loss of iconic and much loved green space on the Town Moor; and
  4. That there are no obstacles to NELEP funding an alternative scheme that improves the local environment and where transport connectivity is provided primarily through improved public transport and active travel modes and does not require the loss of green space on the Town Moor.

Our Understanding of the NELEP Transport Strategy

The NELEP transport strategy is very clear about what it wishes to achieve and states:

“Whilst aiming to improve transport connectivity, we [the NELEP] are also committed at the same time to reducing carbon emitted by transport. A key way of achieving both goals is through the use of shared and sustainable modes of transport alongside reducing carbon emissions from all vehicles and networks. Two thirds of all journeys in the UK are less than five miles. The majority of these trips could be made by sustainable modes, including walking, cycling and public transport. By making sustainable travel easier and more attractive, many short trips can be taken off our local road network, with economic benefits for the area arising out of a reduction in congestion.”

At SPACE for Gosforth we entirely agree with these objectives. In particular it is clear that encouraging sustainable modes of transport such as walking, cycling and public transport is one of the best ways to reduce congestion whereas building additional road capacity is proven to lead to induce traffic and any benefits of reducing congestion through that approach is likely to be short-lived.  A recent report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute sets out these conclusions in some detail. “Generated Traffic and Induced Travel Implications for Transport Planning” 11 May 2016 Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute. http://www.vtpi.org/gentraf.pdf

The NELEP Transport Strategy goes on to say:

“The area has poor levels of public health, obesity and life expectancy. Quite apart from the personal costs, these health issues are a serious concern for the local economy, reducing the available labour pool, adding to employer costs and increasing the burden on local NHS resources. […] promoting active travel and reducing short car trips, can assist economic growth, reduce health inequalities and enhance the quality of life for many of the area’s residents.”

Making it easier for people to walk or cycle also meets other NELEP objectives such as providing access to jobs and education to everyone, and not just to those with access to their own vehicle (48,853 out of 117,153 households in Newcastle Upon Tyne do not have access a car).  Also, as Newcastle is a relatively compact city, it is likely that many of the journeys across these junctions will be within the five miles specified in the NELEP Transport Objectives.

It is clear from the NELEP strategy that transport schemes should prioritise walking, cycling and public transport as key travel modes for building future transport capacity.

Criteria for Ensuring Schemes Support the NELEP strategy

Specific criteria are not included in the NELEP strategy however we would like to suggest the following, which broadly represent how SPACE for Gosforth assesses transport schemes:

  1. That best practice has been followed in providing dedicated (not shared) space for walking and for cycling, both separate from vehicle traffic. These routes should be suitable for use by the whole community including families, school children and those with limited mobility, and not just by those who currently walk or cycle.
  2. That all junctions are designed to provide safe and efficient passage for people walking and cycling (no slower than for motor vehicles).
  3. That connectivity is provided for people walking and cycling to link with other dedicated facilities. For example, the Northern Access Corridor links the Coxlodge Wagonway, Jesmond Dene Road and Town Moor walking and cycling paths. This is important, as we know that studies show bicycle share increases with the length of a city’s bicycle network.

In addition we would suggest that the scheme should be able to support a volume mix of transport modes aligned with the NELEP strategy where most of the two thirds of journeys that are less than five miles will be made on foot, by cycle or on public transport.

The Value for Money test

We understand from the Growth Deal that ‘The North East LEP will be expected to deliver the projects highlighted in the Deal, but will have flexibility over the management of these projects in order to deliver the greatest economic benefits to the area.’

Studies have shown that investment in active travel shows very high value for money (the DfT Value for Money Assessment for Cycling Grants showing an average £5.50 return for every £1 spent). We should therefore be confident that to have the best chance of delivering the greatest economic benefit any scheme should include a very high focus on walking and cycling.

Other benefits that SPACE would expect to be considered in a complete and rounded assessment include:

  • Improving public health and mental wellbeing, and reducing inactivity, both across Newcastle and also specifically in the South Gosforth Air Quality Management Area that covers both Blue House and Haddricks Mill roundabouts and the roads linking them.
  • Making the roads safer and more accessible for the most vulnerable users including pedestrians, cyclists, older people and children;
  • Avoiding air pollution and noise – typically the health benefits of walking or cycling outweigh any negative impact of air pollution, whereas drivers and their passengers will suffer more as a result of higher concentrations of pollution inside a vehicle;
  • Improving access to jobs and education for everyone but especially for the 42% of Newcastle households with no access to a car;
  • Extending the reach of public transport e.g. by making it easier to walk or cycle to Metro stations;
  • Lowering transport costs for users meaning more money is retained to be spent locally and reduced exposure to changes in oil prices or currency swings;
  • Reduction in congestion and less need for costly road schemes as a result of reduced demand;
  • Reduction in carbon emissions contributing to climate change.
  • A positive impact on the public realm.

Evidence for the benefits of walking and cycling can be found in a wide range of sources including: The Value of Cycling report produced by the Department for Transport, The Benefits of Investing in Cycling research summary commissioned by British Cycling, More cycling and walking; less driving, needed for our health and economy, a report by the Faculty of Public Health, The pedestrian pound: The business case for better streets and places, a report by the Living Streets charity and World Transport Policy and Practice Volume 22.1/2 May 2016.

Improving the Local Environment

All these factors will contribute to Newcastle and the North East becoming a healthier, more productive, more resilient and more attractive place to live, work and thrive. Likewise, the Town Moor, a key part of the Newcastle upon Tyne ‘brand’ that gives Newcastle a distinctive character that further enhances the city’s status, must be protected.

As Chi Onwurah MP has noted, “We need to change the way we travel … We need to change how we behave to reduce demand.” This can only be achieved by ensuring that when we do work to improve roads and junctions we include the right changes to make sustainable travel easier and more attractive.

Thousands of people have spoken of their concern about the Northern Access Corridor scheme both through the Council’s Commonplace website and through the Change.org petition saying no to the Blue House proposals. We sincerely hope you will be able to provide the assurances we are seeking and help Newcastle make the right choices for its future.

Yours faithfully,

 

SPACE for Gosforth

Copies sent to:

  • Chi Onwurah MP,
  • Catherine McKinnnell MP,
  • Nick Brown MP,
  • Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council,
  • Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, Newcastle City Council,
  • Professor Eugene Milne, Director of Public Health Newcastle,
  • Pat Ritchie, Chief Executive Newcastle City Council and Lead Chief Executive – Transport for the North East Combined Authority,
  • Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment, Newcastle City Council,
  • Local Ward Councillors,
  • Also published on www.spaceforgosforth.com

2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the NE Local Enterprise Partnership

  1. Paul Roberts

    This is an excellent letter that questions the consistency of aims in national and local planning objectives. I look forward to an appropriate and relevant response.

    Reply

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