In 2015, at SPACE for Gosforth’s launch event held upstairs at the Gosforth Hotel we asked local residents, what do they like about the High Street and what could be improved?
This was in the autumn of 2015, after the Council had given the go-ahead to implement its proposed ‘Red Route‘ scheme, but before work had started on the Salters Road junction. The Salters Road junction, and short-term parking on Moor Road North, were the only parts of that proposal that were implemented.
What people told us then was that they loved Gosforth High Street, that it was a great community hub with good quality independent shops and services, but also that it had too much traffic and suffered from inconsiderate parking, poor air quality, noise, and was generally a poor experience if you walk or cycle.
The Your Streets – Your Views survey gave us an opportunity to revisit this to see whether, three years later, these concerns were widely shared.
Issues and Concerns
We asked which of eleven common issues are current problems on Gosforth High Street. The answers to these questions don’t tell us, for example, how many potholes there are or how polluted the air is, both of which can be measured objectively. Rather, they show how people feel about these issues and whether they are currently matters of personal concern.
The bar chart below shows the top six responses for Gosforth High Street. You can see the results for Gosforth as a whole on our previous blog Your Streets – Your Views, Survey Results.
Too much traffic was the biggest issue recorded for Gosforth High Street and for Gosforth as a whole.
We know poor air quality is an issue for Gosforth High Street because measurements show that it is. In the most recent official figures for 2017 two out of three locations were shown to have illegal levels of air pollution, one of which was the worst reading across all Newcastle, approximately 50% higher than the legal limit. We also know from recent Council data that air pollution on the High Street is very closely linked to the volume of traffic.
Traffic Noise is also monitored. Readings can be viewed via the Urban Observatory website, with typical readings being between 70 and 80 decibels during the day. 75 decibels as about the same as a vacuum cleaner, not ideal if you want to have a conversation.
The other five issues we asked about were, in order, cycling on pavements (24%), potholes (23%), uneven pavements (22%), Pavement parking / obstructed pavements (19%) lack of dropped kerbs (6%).
At the time of the survey, the High Street had not been resurfaced so the carriageway was in a pretty poor state. Despite this, only 23% said potholes was an issue, in 8th place out of 11.
Your Thoughts and Ideas
We also asked for other ideas and comments and had lots of responses. Not surprisingly, there were more comments about the High Street than any other part of Gosforth.
Given the Salters Road junction is the most recent change to the High Street, we’ll start there.
Salters Road, Church Road junction
The Council’s assessment of its 2014 consultation was presented to Newcastle City Council Cabinet on 24 September 2014 (item 7 on the agenda). In the report it states that “a majority of respondents favoured improving Salters Road Junction, providing cycle safety improvements and not re-providing car parking on the High Street.”
It also adds some success criteria. The ones relevant to the junction are:
- Reduction in number and severity of accidents;
- Improved facilities for pedestrians and cyclists;
- More reliable bus services;
- Less traffic queuing and congestion;
- Better air quality and reduced noise and pollution;
- Reduction in average journey times and improvement of journey time
From the comments we received it’s not entirely a success.
“The increased traffic and poor flow is unprecedented. This needs serious, rapid intervention. The changed lights at the crossroads of Church Road, Salters Road and Gosforth High St are a disaster. I lived in Gosforth from 1990 to 1999 then lived in Northumberland and returned to Gosforth in 2012. The difference, not for the better, is marked. I actually am rapidly going off living here now because it feels dirty and unhealthy. My house gets filthy in a way it never did or any house has ever done…this is certainly due to the proximity of queuing traffic right back to south gosforth from the high street and the dust and fumes from the increased road use.”
“The traffic lights at the junction of the High St and Church lane causes long tailbacks and results in vehicles belching out fumes making the air quality poor at busy periods (an example of a recently designed junction.”
“The new junction at the High Street is shambolic. This in turn has increased the traffic within the surrounding streets.”
This pretty much illustrates the catch-22 of road building. If you do something to reduce journey times then it just makes the road more attractive for driving. If it is more attractive then more people use it. If more people use it then most, if not all, of the journey-time benefits are lost and you have to queue just as long as you did before. The only substantive difference is that there is more traffic than there was before and that inevitably means more pollution.
Picture from the SPACE for Gosforth blog Zoe the Guide Dog reviews Salters Road Junction
We also had a suggestion to improve “traffic flow” but that’s pretty much what already happened so we don’t think doing more of the same is likely to make it any better.
“The high street seems to be much more congested since the Salters Road junction was redone, worsening air quality, that junction needs improving to smoothen traffic flow. ”
Only one person commented on how the junction works for walking and cycling.
“New junction at high street/ church road is worse than the old one for pedestrians and cyclists an a complete waste of money.”
More recently we know that some residents have been badly affected by the removal of the right turn to allow even more traffic to flow north-south through the junction during the Killingworth Road roadworks.
“Since the alteration to the High Street/Salters Road/Church Road junction, there has been a tremendous increase to the traffic flow on Henry Street including very large lorries. These lorries have difficulty negotiating this narrow mostly residential street. The pollution and noise created by this heavy flow of traffic has a negative impact on one’s health and well-being. there needs to be a coherent joined up plan for Gosforth that also links in with neighbouring areas so that problems are not just shunted around the city.”
Henry Street is next to Gosforth Junior Academy and Archibald First School, as well as being a popular route for children walking to Gosforth Academy. It shouldn’t be a route for goods vehicles or a place where children are expected to mix with heavy vehicles.
Being the most common concern a lot of people mentioned traffic on the High Street. Here are some examples.
“Gosforth is ruined by the High Street being a primary road and the not being a way to bypass, and it’s getting worse and worse with all the new housing in North Gosforth / Great Park”
“The problem IMHO is fundamentally the amount of traffic using the High Street that remains the same over the last 25yrs despite it no longer being the A1 – Great North Road. The High Street remains the obvious desire line for traffic heading North out of the City Centre.”
“The real problem for Gosforth when it comes to air quality and traffic volume is the fact that the GNR and the High street is a major route into the City center. I would support ideas that leads to better/additional public transport and other policies that discourage motor traffic along this route by encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport.”
Also, plenty of thoughts for how to respond to this.
“Congestion charge zone starting at regent centre into Newcastle.”
“To remove rat running through the area focussed on The Grove and its associated streets. Introduce a Low Emissions Zone throughout the length of Gosforth High Street to ban polluting vehicles.”
“Suggest better traffic management including variable speed limits, average speed cameras, synchronised traffic lights or more radical measures to divert traffic from Gosforth high Street bottleneck Better traffic controls on high street.”
“There should be a co-ordinated approach, particularly to reduce commuting car traffic, by investment in more (and cleaner!) buses as well as the measures to encourage walking and cycling that you have identified.”
“Smart traffic lights have been suggested for the High Street to reduce stop-start traffic and associated pollution. When will these be installed?”
“Also put traffic lights on the high street/ Grove junction to reduce rat runs and major tailbacks in the grove.”
Charging and/or a Low Emission Zone the would certainly reduce traffic levels – quite a few people mentioned this. We’re less sure about the traffic management as those approaches are often proposed with the aim of enabling more traffic. Putting traffic lights on the entrance to The Grove would almost certainly encourage even more traffic on the Grove, opposite of what appears to be intended.
A couple of people pointed to competing views of what the High Street is for.
“Residents from North of the High Street have no benefit to slower transit through the area and will always complain about restrictions. Those living near to the High Street will always have a different opinion, focusing upon the effects of the traffic such as pollution and noise. A bypass is unrealistic so I feel that removing the desire to move through the High Street for transiting traffic is the only solution, achieved by making the transit slow and unattractive, reducing traffic lanes and making it almost bus-only. The additional space can be used for pedestrians and to improve the provision of shopping services.”
“One has to properly define ‘Gosforth’ as there are a competing mix of agenda depending upon whether one sees the High Street as a walk-to shopping centre or a drive through traffic corridor.”
“Another benefit of reducing traffic via Gosforth high street will be attracting more customers to small local businesses located there.”
In the Council’s Development and Allocations Plan Gosforth High Street is marked as a Secondary Distributor Road and a Public Transport Distributor Road. According to that plan Secondary Distributor Roads should ‘carry significantly lower volumes of traffic with fewer HGV’s than either’ Strategic Roads or Primary Distributor Roads. It also says that on Secondary Distributor Roads ‘Pedestrian and cycle movements should be segregated from traffic.’ In the consultation for the plan, we asked that Gosforth High Street be designated as a new classification ‘Retail Area Road’ so that its purpose as a local centre was prioritised, but that was rejected by the Council.
Quite a few people commented that they did not feel safe on the High Street.
“The high street continues to be very dangerous for all road users and pedestrians, there simply isn’t space for multiple lanes and buses and other large vehicles constantly cross the lane markings.”
“The road on the high street is awful at the moment. So noisy, so busy and an absolute danger to children. ”
“High Street pedestrian crossings are dangerous because some cars run the red lights. Also, vehicles continue to park on double yellow lines on the High Street.”
“do something about the dangerous pelican crossings on the High St, cars don’t stop”
“Traffic Enforcement i.e.Install a speed camera going South between Roseworth Cres. & Moorfield. Have cameras on traffic lights to deter the many who go through them on red. A 20mph on the high Street only.”
“Cameras on traffic lights at main junctions e.g. Regent Centre/M&S and High St/Salters Rd/Church Rd to force road-users to obey the lights or face fine + 3 points on licence. It worked well where I lived in France. Pedestrians & cyclists were safer as they knew vehicles wouldn’t disobey amber and red lights, it brought the average speed down and deterred vehicles from piling onto crossings as the lights turn red & then getting stuck, impeding other traffic.”
“Need to bite the bullet and reduce traffic on the High Street Reduce high street to 20. Penalise speeding and those going through red lights every day !!”
The good news is that the Council have issued legal orders to reduce the speed limit on Gosforth High Street to 20mph. You can access the consultation here up to 7 May 2019.
Air Quality on the High Street
Not surprisingly there were some comments on air pollution on the High Street.
“Fix the air pollution. It’s an absolute disgrace that Gosforth High Street is so polluted.”
“In my opinion, air pollution is the major problem of all Gosforth but in particular on the high street. It gets really bad when there are many buses standing in traffic during rush hour. Air pollution is a health hazard for all age groups, but children and elderly are particularly vulnerable. Hundreds of children attending Gosforth Academy and many elderly waiting for bus on the high street are exposed to air pollution every day. Reducing traffic via Gosforth high street and replacing polluting diesel buses with hybrid/electric ones will solve air pollution problem.“
“Publish air quality results daily in big letters / numbers on an electronic board. Direct action”
Pollution graph from the SPACE for Gosforth Blog Black Friday, Smoggy Saturday
Buses were frequently mentioned in the context of air pollution.
“Reduce traffic and pollution on High Street by (i) reducing lorry traffic (ii) reducing bus traffic (most buses are rather empty outside rush hours) (iii) direct through-traffic onto other routes (iv) reduce Metro prices to encourage usage (v) promote use of Metro to cyclists by having cycle storage on carriages.”
“Low/no emission buses would make a big difference to the High Street.”
“Get rid of so many buses cutting through Gosforth high street from the north heading for the city centre. Get rid of bus lanes to ease congestion and pollution.”
“The cycle and bus restrictions on and around the High Street are making Gosforth MORE dangerous for all. The bus lanes are generally empty and create much more traffic congestion and pollution. In addition the road changes over the last few years are destroying Gosforth for residents, please stop making it difficult to get around and a more dangerous place to live.”
No car lane picture from the blog Children Want to Cycle
“The ideal scenario would involve a European style bus terminal at Great Park with trams connecting to the city centre via Gosforth high street.”
“Too many buses use the high street that don’t stop on the high street Why not re route them – also why can we have an integrated public service all buses going to town to drop off at Regient centre metro”
Low emission buses would certainly help. Making public transport less attractive e.g. by removing bus lanes or forcing passengers to get off at the Regent Centre and buy another ticket almost certainly would not. The latter could potentially be resolved though if there is integrated ticketing at the same overall price and journeys don’t take any longer.
Graphic from the Your Streets – Your Views Leaflet
A relative lack of east-west bus routes is definitely something that can be improved.
“lack of a coherent efficient bus service (OK, plenty of services run down the High Street but not in other directions around Gosforth, there is very poor information on them, they are dirty, noisy, unreliable – why no policy for taking buses back into local authority control?).”
The Council did seek to take buses into local authority control via its Bus Quality contract but that was rejected.
“Also there should be far fewer bus stops on the high street, surely one bus stop is sufficient for a 600m long high street? I think that there should be more signs on the high street for the metro to encourage people to take the metro. Ilford Road and South Gosforth are quite out of the way and maybe some people don’t know that there is a metro there.”
Signs to the Metro would be good and easy to do, although a lot less convenient than using the bus.
“The failure to sort out the overcrowded bus stop on the west side of the High Street opposite the Brandling is a scandal, especially when there is an unused bus shelter nearby.”
This is also a relatively narrow pavement and the most polluted location on the High Street. Not ideal for people to wait for the bus.
Picture from the SPACE for Gosforth Blog Everything wrong with our High Street starts here
Pavements and Crossings
Issues with safety at the pedestrian crossings on the High Street has been mentioned many times over the years, especially where a larger vehicle in the inside lane blocks the light and another drives through the outside lane while people were crossing.
Several people picked up on a more recent change though, we believe due to Killingworth Road mitigations so that people have to wait longer to cross.
“If the pedestrian crossing on the High Street could allow more time for crossing it would reduce near-misses.”
“The frequency of crossing times eg near Sainsbury’s seems to have been reduced making pedestrians not only wait longer but also encouraging people to take risks.”
“Third issue, more an observation: pedestrian crossing timings are totally random. Opposite Sainsbury’s is the fastest. Second best are Brandling Arms, Lloyds and at the town moor. But at Salter’s Road junction and outside County Hotel you can wait up to five minutes to get a green man. What’s that about?”
We’ve previously written about installing continuous pavement over the side streets, something other cities have done. The Council even consulted on this.
“Pedestrianize some of the side roads on High Street”
“Wider footpaths on Gosforth high St, narrower highway”
“Continuous pavements along a road so that side streets have to drive over the pavement / cycle lane to enter / exit a side street.”
“What happened to the paved crossings on side streets? Is the Council still going to do this on the High Street? I thought it was a really good idea.”
We believe work is still ongoing to confirm how this could work though with no committed timescales.
Other people went further than this.
“Pedestrianise the High St! Gosforth High Street pedestrianised.”
“Pedestrianisation of the High Street (I assume buses would have to be an exception), start with closing it on Sundays and build up from there.”
“We need to ‘seal off’ more of the side streets that join the High Street eg West Avenue.Remove redundant information signs that are collapsed on the pavements, especially near the traffic lights at the Salters Road junction with the High Street. Sweep the streets of litter and wet leaves which cause people to slip.”
Picture from the SPACE for Gosforth Blog Everything wrong with our High Street starts here
We had a few comments like this more generally.
“Newcastle City Council seems to do its utmost to make being a pedestrian difficult: little effort has been made to reduce traffic along Gosforth High Street, speeding is the norm and driving through red lights a daily event and then in addition cyclists on the pavement despite all the cycle lanes that have been put in. In fact, it would seem that every possible effort has been made to discourage people from walking.”
We have certainly highlighted increased traffic on the High Street and speeding. It is hard to respond where comments are non-specific but pavement cycling can indicate people not feeling comfortable cycling on the road, no doubt partly due to the increased traffic and speeding.
On the other hand, that means there’s definitely an opportunity to improve things.
“The pedestrianisation of Gosforth High street would completely change the area. The High street would become the hub of a vibrant community. At the moment, I rarely visit the shops on the street as I do not like walking along the pavements with my young children due to the traffic, noise and air pollution.”
There were lots of comments about cycle lanes on the High Street.
“The plans to make it one lane each way with cycle lanes would have been a vast improvement but the cycle lanes need to be suitable for families with children otherwise they won’t be much use. 20mph will be better too.”
“There needs to be a cycle lane on the High Street. This wouldn’t slow down traffic, as the limiting factor is actually the junctions at each end (ie Blue House to the south, and Salters Road to the north A traffic management scheme is needed for the area bounded by The High Street, Church Road, the Metro and the Town Moor.”
“I would like to see more done to make main roads feel safer for cyclists, particularly the High Street where the cycle lanes are frequently driven and parked in, and the buses are intimidating.”
“This year , I have come across three accidents on High Street (south of the shops) involving a collision between a cyclist and motorist – each requiring an ambulance for the cyclist. It’s time for better engineering on the High Street and lower speed limits so that cyclists can travel in safety.”
“Improved cycle routes. Very poor how they spit cyclists out onto roads or pavements. Also cars are almost continuously parked in the cycle lanes on Gosforth High Street (as you come from town up into Gosforth).”
“Safe cycle facilities on Gosforth high street and more cycle stands to lock bikes onto”
Where cycle lanes have already been provided, they still have their issues.
“Why isn’t the section from Regents Centre to High Street a cycle lane? There is a very narrow painted cycle lane – which I don’t like using when out with the children on bikes so we go on the pavement but there’s loads and loads of room?”
“A protected cycle lane on the high st by the regent Centre”
“stop allowing cars to park in the cycle lanes eg on Great North Road approaching High street, so forcing cyclists into the traffic flow”
“Protected cycle lanes, without cars parked on them. Cycle lane on the High Street”
“ban cars from parking in cycle lanes. Entering the High street coming North is a prevalent problem. The carriageway is clearly wide enough to have both flows of traffic (single lane), parking for residents on the West side) and clear cycle lanes. I am continuously confused why this has not been done.”
Crossing the High Street is also an issue if you want to cycle.
“As someone who commutes by bicycle on a daily basis, there are a number of issues with regards to the transport in the area. It is very difficult to cross from east to west (across the High street) and vice versa on a bicycle. Many of the junctions are not designed with bicycles in mind. What should be a simple commute from Gosforth to Benton park View in Longbenton is fraught with problems.”
While pretty much all comments were in favour of cycle facilities on the High Street one person gave a different view.
“The money spent on the unnecessary cycle paths would have been better spent improving the High Street by creating on street short-stay parking bays and more space for pedestrians.”
If this refers to the money spent on the High Street cycle paths then probably that wouldn’t add up to much more than a can of paint.
We didn’t ask specifically about parking but quite a few people mentioned this. For example…
“Have a large car park within reach of the High Street”
“Provide free high street parking.”
There are already three reasonable sized car parks right next to the High Street and Regent Centre is not far away. Using even more land for parking in Gosforth is likely to be expensive and counter-productive. Far better to manage what we have. One way of managing parking spaces is by setting parking fees to encourage the type of parking desired. Free or under-priced parking, for example, is likely to encourage all-day commuter parking and will make it harder for shoppers to find a space. Arguably parking prices should be increased in Gosforth to encourage turn-over and enable more people to use the same space.
Most comments though showed a desire to minimise parking on the High Street itself.
“More vigilance about speeding and parking on the High street”
“Double red lines along Gosforth High Street”
“Stopping random parking on the High Street. Eg to pick up a Gregg’s sausage roll. Enforcement of existing rules is required!”
“Remove cars from parking illegally on the Highstreet”
“A Red route but perhaps only from Spittal Terrace to Elmfield Road to placate residents at southern end of Gosforth”
“Prosecute illegal parking on High St.”
“No parking or stopping (apart from traffic lights) on High Street”
“Prosecute “stopped” cars blocking the flow on Gosforth High Street.”
“Too many cars illegally park on the high street making it difficult for driving and walking”
“I like the idea of a red Route in the High Street to stop all the lazy temporary parking. Clear messages and communication.”
A couple of comments made specific suggestions, which we can follow up on.
” if delivery trucks for the High Street has designated bags off the high street and didn’t stop on high street to unload for 15+ minutes.”
“Could Blue badge spaces on streets please be valid badge including Sundays, please? Access to High St is difficult on weekends for shopping & leisure.”
Look and Feel
Lastly, a few people suggested that the High Street needed a bit of a makeover, separate to any traffic issues.
“I personally love Gosforth high Street as a shopping area and would like it to look more attractive- bright paintwork more trees and flowers.”
“I would love to see more greenery/trees around High Street eg area outside Gosforth Gym, Ivy Road and area of pavement just to north of Loch Fyne behind traffic lights”
“The high street needs a serious clean up. It is so filthy and cluttered with signs, bollards, railings, bins, lamp posts. It should be so much nicer considering this is a well to do family area.”
“Lots of the High Street shops are great but the street itself is awful. Dirty, smelly and so loud because of the traffic, it’s hardly possible to talk especially with children. Not somewhere I like spending any time.”
Thank you again to everyone who took part in our survey and provided comments. We’ve tried to include as many comments as we can about Gosforth High Street in this blog, but if you feel we have missed something please feel free to add it via the comments section below.
Other Gosforth High Street Blogs
SPACE for Gosforth has written lots of blogs about the High Street if you want to find out more. All blogs tagged Gosforth High Street can be found here.