Blue House roundabout draft proposals should not be part of Newcastle’s future – we need to change the way we travel

In a meeting with Newcastle City Council yesterday (Wednesday), Chi expressed her deep, deep concerns at the proposals for changes to the Blue House roundabout which the Council has released in early pre-consultation. She is calling a town hall meeting in her constituency to discuss other solutions, including changing the way we travel to reduce congestion.

The Council’s proposed expansion of the roundabout on the Great North Road would require land from Dukes Moor and the Little Moor, together with the removal of trees. Any Town Moor land lost must be replaced elsewhere and the Council has committed to replacing all trees.

Chi recognises the ambition of the Council to ensure the city has the infrastructure necessary to meet increased demands from growth in jobs and housing over the next 20 years and to improve air quality. Newcastle City Centre has the greatest concentration of jobs in the North East, and will need reliable transport links to new housing developments in North Tyneside and Northumberland. Chi is pleased that the Council won funding for the project, as part of the broader Re-newcastle scheme, which means Newcastle’s council tax payers will not be footing the bill.

But Ms Onwurah is clear that the current proposals are deeply concerning. Chi said:

“I grew up in Newcastle, I love the Town Moor, it is massively important to me, my constituents and all Newcastle residents. Blue House roundabout needs investment to address the level of accidents and improve air quality but the proposals to meet increased demand do not reflect the Newcastle I want to see in twenty year’s time. We need to change how we behave to reduce demand. The Newcastle of the future shouldn’t need a mega-roundabout.”

The first phase of pre-consultation is now open for comments until 21st August.

Chi asked the Council to extend the consultation period to enable a wide ranging and imaginative discussion on what people can do to reduce cars on the road in that area. Chi said:

“I hope to see people pledging to change the way they travel in our city – I’m thinking about what I can do myself to reduce car journeys to and from Gosforth, like cycling more. Around 20% of cars on the road every morning are doing the school run, are there ways we can reduce that? There are great bus links to Gosforth, what can we do to get more people using them? This is a great opportunity to have a creative conversation about what kind of city we want to live in and what we need to do to achieve it.

13 thoughts on “Blue House roundabout draft proposals should not be part of Newcastle’s future – we need to change the way we travel

  1. Nicholas Simon

    I often despair of Labour and this Council as regards the Green Agenda which, after all is about our very survival within nature, and the survival of our planet as a home for humanity.

    That fight, which is what it has become, should be at the cornerstone of all policy, and the issue of transport pollution and healthy communal transport solutions are necessary for any future urban development.

  2. Hayley

    I would like to use buses between Gosforth, Jesmond and the city centre, but don’t because they aren’t user-friendly. I’ve quite happily and easily used buses in Leeds and London but the Newcastle bus system still seems to be stuck in the dark ages. There’s no ‘easy’ payment/ticketing system and it’s really difficult to plan your journey because there ae no electronic or live bus times or easy to use route maps.

    1. Amy

      Thank you for putting forward the case against the current Council proposals for the Blue House Roundabout. I can understand that the Council need to plan for future weight of traffic, but the justification provided for these proposals is based on existing issues (road collisions, congestion and air pollution). The Council has repeatedly been asked to make any relevant studies fully available on their website, but they have not done so as yet (so far as I can see). Here is the anecdotal evidence which I have found (may not be reliable) :
      Collisions – I understand these are largely involving cyclists. Safety for cyclists should be improved on the existing roundabout (the Little Moor crossing is a bit of a detour). I am sure there are various alternatives including an underpass (maybe the best long-term solution but very disruptive in the short-term). No knowledge of non-cycle accidents I’m afraid.
      Congestion – only an issue (and not a severe one) at peak times during term time, and, as you say, there is scope to reduce car use, especially for school runs, something which the Council should be actively encouraging. Removing cyclists from the main road by providing an alternative crossing would also help.
      Air pollution – the extent of green space surrounding the junction makes it hard to believe that there is a current air pollution problem, but if weight of traffic is anticipated to increase, then it may become one in future. Building a massive roundabout to encourage cars and reducing green space/trees will not reduce air pollution!
      I have no knowledge of town planning, but I would have thought the Council could provide alternative less grandiose and more environmentally friendly schemes within the existing landspace. It seems they are determined to spend the whole allocation of funds. If so, why? I assume all Council members and Freemen have to declare connections to any contractors involved? NCC is low on trust after previous major traffic interventions (e.g. tailbacks on Gosforth High Street at Salters Road, and the sharp and dangerous turning onto/off Forsyth Road) and these proposals are extraordinary in their size, impact and logic, including the proposed land-take from the Town Moor, the chopping down of many mature trees (which surely help prevent pollution?) and the Osborne Road shutdown to right turn.
      On their website today the Freemen have posted a statement (http://www.freemenofnewcastle.org/news.html) which says they won’t commit either way until the Council formally consults them, but that there is a ‘necessary balance’ between their duty to preserve rights of ‘air and exercise’ and public safety ‘including footpath/cycleway and highway considerations’. In light of this, it is critical that (a) any studies regarding road collisions, congestion and air pollution are presented to the Freemen fully, with data broken down so that any specific causes are clear (e.g. types of accidents, peak time traffic and volume, air pollution compared to elsewhere in Newcastle), (b) the decision-making process of the Freemen is transparent and (c) any contractor connections are declared.
      You say above that this is the first phase of a pre-consultation – I had understood the public to be effectively ‘locked out’ of the process after 21st August when comments close – is this not the case? If we are ‘locked out’ after the deadline, it is especially important to extend the comments window beyond the summer holidays to enable more people to respond. I would also like to know more about the consultation process and how the overwhelmingly negative response is being taken into account.
      Finally, I look forward to hearing when the date of the constituency meeting to discuss this is arranged.

  3. Nick Moore

    Thank you for standing up for the people of Newcastle and for common sense Chi. The council’s proposal has no merit whatsoever.

    Those of us protesting against this are, like you, keen to see a growing city with a safe and effective infrastructure but we firmly believe that green spaces are a key part of this infrastructure – they contribute hugely to making Newcastle a place where people want to live and work.

    Furthermore we are deeply suspicious of some of the statistics on accidents and traffic numbers that are being used to justify the proposal and we simply cannot understand how the proposal can be seen to offer any environmental benefit as it will increase air pollution in residential areas and is completely at odds with the council’s own environmental policy on green spaces.

    Over 1000 people have now made their feelings heard through the council’s website and less than half a percent have had anything positive to say. The consultation should be stopped immediately and better solutions brought to people for a sensible two-way discussion.

    Thanks again for your intervention.

  4. Liz Bray

    Could not agree more. This roundabout is not needed. Accommodating more vehicles and taking urban greenspace to do it is not the answer. I’ve lived in Gosforth for 26 years. I cycled daily to work at the Civic centre and I also walked, jogged and drove across the Blue House roundabout in all weathers and at all hours. I simply cannot understand how such an environmentally unsustainable project could even be conceived in this precious location, let alone commission costly and abortive design work.

  5. lin harwood

    agree chi, need to improve roads for cyclists not cars, save moors from any development, slow down car traffic, reduce car use.We have brilliant metro service, park ‘n ride, masses of buses going through gosforth. And kids going to school by car need to use their legs! Trees take years to mature.

  6. Julia Bell

    I completely support Chi’s case, I do not want to see our beautiful green spaces turned into a giant motorway to encourage more cars coming through Gosforth. If we do this we continue to send a message to the next generation that the use of cars instead of public transport or cycling is ok, it’s not. But – cheaper transport (buses /metro getting ridiculous) safer routes for cyclists and safer better lit walking routes are needed to encourage people to get moving. Please don’t destroy another part of the city, we are so lucky to have green spaces surrounding the city

  7. Maurice Constable

    This scheme drawn up by Aecom, an American owned International firm of consulting engineers is completely over the top being suited to an inter- urban not an urban road network. It Is one step below a completely grade- separated interchange used for motorways. A much less expensive scheme is possible that would meet all requirements and local sensibilities. An organised protest group should be set up by all those opposed to this profligate waste of public money. Members could subscribe a modest sum to set up a fund to employ their own consultants to draw up an alternative. There is no need to relocate the existing junction and take common land. The Freemen should be pressed to resist approaches from the Council to hand over land that really is not required.

  8. Pingback: An Open Letter to the NE Local Enterprise Partnership - SPACE for Gosforth

  9. Sandra Mawston

    I,like hundreds of other local residents,am absolutely shaken by the monumental changes “suggested” by the City Council.
    This horrendous plan will completely alter everything that is green and wonderful about this area. We need serious discussion with the powers that be before any more decisions are made

  10. Brian O'

    Well done Chi, I was attracted from London to Newcastle in 1990 due in part the quality of its environment. The following is the comments I’ve just made on the Lets Talk Newcastle website.
    The scheme has no endearing features whatsoever. Just because the LEP and the Combined Authority have some money in the kitty don’t waste it on a grandiose scheme that detracts from the cities environment. The roundabout moves very well most of the time and is only congested for an hour in the morning and afternoon. It’s a complete fallacy to link it to potential housing/employment growth in North Tyneside and Northumberland. Neighbouring councils have had a poor record in considering the impact of their own developments on the population of Newcastle. We’ve had years of unrestricted housing development in the non-existent green belt in North Tyneside which has drawn economically active families from the east end that has made it suffer, look at Shields Road shopping centre. Similarly North Tyneside paid scant regard to the Gosforth Nature Reserve in allowing housing development so close to its boundary. Do we need to waste millions just so the residents of Morpeth and North Tyneside have a reduced travel to work time of 10 minutes? There needs to be incentive for those people to use train etc. in accessing our city. If improved road networks as the answer to job creation then someone should explain what has gone wrong with the commercial/office development at Newburn Haugh with the cities plans for a site to rival Gateshead’s Team Valley have not materialised. We are the envy of many other cities in the UK due the integrated transport system we have in place. I’m sure economically thriving cities like Bristol, Brighton and Edinburgh would love to have the structures we already have in place.
    It’s hard to believe that not many years ago the city was twice given the accolade of the UK’s Green City and yet now we are planning to fell mature trees, remove valuable pasture land and an ancient Hawthorn hedge on Dukes Moor so rich in its biodiversity. Nature deserves protecting and not being destroyed.
    As for widening the footpaths there is no need, I walk a dog everyday on Dukes Moor and Little Moor, while there are plenty of pedestrians walking North to South, with the exception of joggers and some dog walkers very few people actually walk west of the Blue House roundabout along Grandstand Road towards Cow Hill, the only part of Grandstand Road that has any pedestrian traffic is during school terms when small numbers of young people walk west from Kenton Road towards Fenham. I’d love to see the survey evidence that supports this part of the proposal.
    As for narrowing the roads this seems crazy given that most highways improvements by their very nature would normally widen a road. This is particularly so as minutes even seconds can make all the difference if Ambulances or Fire Engines are slowed down attending emergencies because vehicles have to mount the footpath to allow them to pass.
    Finally preventing cars from turning right from Jesmond Dene Road unto Osborne Road will have a castatrophic effect for residents in Forsyth Road and all the terraces to the north as these will become rat runs endangering the lives of children going to and from West Jesmond Primary school. It’s also likely to impact on residential property values but worse will have a detrimental effect on the quality of life for these residents living there.

  11. Richard Pow

    I also totally agree with you Chi. A mega rondabout and the thinking it reflects is not the answer. We should be determindly pursuing more sustainable transport solutions that are better for people and the environment.

    The city we want in 20 years time is one where considerably more people are cycling, walking or using public transport for journeys to work, college or school. And one where our green space is preserved, expanded and cherished. This will not only improve health by reducing air pllution but will also help to address the massive and growing health problems associated with lack of pysical exercise such as childhood and adult obesity and related problems including type two diabetes and heart disease. It will bolster mental health and well-being.

    And of course happier, healthier people are more productive and creative; essentail aspects of behaviour for a vibrant and diverse economy and to reduce the ever inceasing demands on the NHS.

  12. Katja Leyendecker

    Why are the local politicians (councillors) not talking about Newcastle City Council policy of Climate Change, sustainability, mode shift and tackling public health issues? Are they shy? Are they not aware…? which would beckon the question who is in charge? It worries me gravely to think that politics does not want anything to do with policy. Isn’t if the one instrument that helps council to rule fairly?

    Most notably the Local Plan read:

    (11.12) 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, Car Traffic.

    Further:

    (11.1) Transport and accessibility are fundamental to the delivery of the Plan’s spatial strategy. It is important that new development is located in the most sustainable locations and accessible by a choice of travel modes, including walking, cycling and public transport. This will help reduce the need for people to travel, minimise congestion, improve road safety and meet climate change reduction targets. This also links with the need to improve people’s health by creating more opportunities for people to walk or cycle rather than use the car.

    (5.12) [Sustainable development] is to reduce the need for people to travel, minimise levels of congestion, improve road safety and meet climate change reduction targets
    (14.55) It is expected that there will be a considerable increase in cycling over the next few years and many routes will be in place. The Councils will improve conditions for cyclists through alterations to general traffic movement as outlined in Policy UC9. Vehicle speeds will be reduced and the volume of traffic minimised within the area bounded by the Urban Core Distributor Route (UCDR). This will encourage cycling as there will be greater priority and a more attractive environment for cyclists.

    (14.57) The Newcastle Cycling Strategy includes a Strategic Cycle Network. This includes Strategic Cycle Routes to connect the surrounding areas to the Urban Core. They will be direct links to the Urban Core providing greater cycling priority. Although the majority of the Strategic Cycle Routes are outside the Urban Core all of the routes lead there and many more will be completed over the next ten years. Both routes to the Strategic Cycle Network and the Strategic Cycle Network itself will be developed. Cycle interchanges will be provided at Metro Stations and a central cycle hub is proposed to support network development.

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