Meeting Two – 3rd October

Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Monday 3rd October 2016

Notes of the second meeting taken by Ali Lamb, Transport Engagement Officer, Newcastle City Council

Present: John Dales, Independent Facilitator; Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment, Ali Lamb, Engagement Officer; Mike Scott, Nexus; Cllrs Catherine Walker (North Jesmond); Dominic Raymont (East Gosforth) & Nick Cott (West Gosforth)

Representatives of stakeholder groups: New Cycling; Jesmond Residents Association; Save Newcastle Wildlife; Space for Gosforth, Newcastle Cycling Forum; North Jesmond Councillors; Gosforth Traffic; Jesmond Dene Estate Residents Association; West Gosforth Residents Association; Change.org Petition; High West Jesmond Residents Association; the Five Admirals Residents Association; Open Lab, Newcastle University.

Apologies: Newcastle Youth Parliament; T&W Public Transport User Group; Save our Town Moor.

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome & introductions

John welcomed everyone to the meeting – especially those attending for the first time. Introductions went around the table and included the visitors from the University’s Open Lab, attending to support communication process

Clara from Open Lab talked about the offer from the Lab including talking heads video clips … no one from the group felt ready to take up the offer just now. The Team had also created a web site resource for the group and already documents and links were being posted there – group members as well as the council are welcome to share resources on the platform. Some group members had not got the first email containing the link to the draft web site sent out last Thursday so circulation lists will need to be checked. Clara is also looking into the best way to create a more private group messaging blog – a google group or similar – to allow group members to discuss topics outside of meetings. – Action CC & AL

  1. Representation & Reporting Protocols

In order to promote transparency and openness, JD suggested that each representative wrote a short statement to outline the purpose of their group, who it represents, how it is constituted and the reporting process to the widest membership and their process for gathering their feedback and reactions to the work of this group. JD accepts that there will be great differences in the methods and the numbers of people being contacted, however, what’s important is that it’s clear how people get in touch with their local reps if they need to. Together with a generic email address, the process notes will be posted on the working group’s web site.

It is important that the working group can demonstrate its connections with the wider community, percolating the information and challenges that are discussed here and bringing information back to help build collective opinions and views.

It’s noted and accepted that each group works in slightly different ways, it’s just important to be able to find a way of bringing some feedback to the working group. Gosforth traffic for example, have organised a survey that will provide information on a range of travel related issues – the findings will be shared via AL.

  1. Working Group Communications

If any group would like any support with communications in their community, the Open Lab are happy to help.

The notes of the working group meeting were discussed – not everyone thought that they represented all the discussion points raised and there are also different versions of notes being posted by members of the working group.

In particular, the discussion about the number of meetings planned ahead for the working group was not recorded. This discussion was part of the agenda item about the terms of reference and there is an outstanding action to rewrite them to reflect the issues raised by the working group members.

It was agreed that, AL will continue to take notes (not minutes) and that they will be circulated to the group as soon as possible after the meeting for comments and amendments. 3 days after they were circulated, they will be posted on the web site, group members will continue to make and share notes as usual. Action AL

The status of the web site, the information carried on it and the responsibilities of reps to their members was discussed.

Action AL & CC to meet to discuss and refine process issues and explain and relaunch the google group for internal group comms.

  1. Review of Junction Options

Some of the group felt that it was too soon to be looking at junction designs and that they would like more information and a better understanding of the background and context before embarking on it, for example, detailed information on accident types, traffic types and origin destination surveys.

JD appreciates the point but maintains that this exercise is simply to gauge reaction to different junction types and establish the kind of information that group members would find most useful in making their assessments of the relative advantages and disadvantages that different designs present.

Group members want to find out more about the rationale for making any changes at all because most local people want to do nothing or simply put traffic lights on the existing layout.

GG noted that the council as the Highway Authority has an obligation to act on collision data and make provision to improve road safety by correcting inadequate layouts.

Group members are concerned that layout is a convenient excuse when the council wants to make changes.

JD concludes that there is a definite relationship between design and collisions but it can be difficult to determine – the analysis of trends and patterns helps to understand the relationship.

Some typical versions of designs were shown on the screen for discussion – these designs were shown for illustrative purposes only and are not going out for consultation at this point.

* A simple signalised roundabout

One version allows all movements and turns and the other version is same design but with banned movements from Gosforth left into Jesmond Dene Road and right, from JDR towards Gosforth.

Discussion points about assessing the strengths and weaknesses of these designs:

  • Traffic Modelling – assesses whether the design can manage the demand from traffic, if traffic can’t take a route sometimes it is displaced elsewhere and sometimes it evaporates (the journeys are not taken or different modes of transport are used).
  • The group were assured that modelling takes account of the wider area – alternative crossing points and congestion on other parts of the network.
  • Traffic Lights – red lights take time away from vehicle flow and reduces efficiency. Banning turns creates time in the flow for pedestrians and cycles to cross while some vehicles are still moving in a different direction.
  • Are permanent lights actually necessary? Anecdotally, local people report that the roundabout works fine and the congestion going north is caused by Forsythe Road …
  • Concerns that banned movements at the roundabout would be a barrier to the connectivity between the mutually dependent communities of Gosforth and Jesmond.
  • JD commented that permanent lights create opportunities for crossing points which have been identified as a desirable feature for the junction, a feature that might encourage new connections between local communities because the possibility of safely walking or cycling between Gosforth and Jesmond is enabled.
  • Members of the group queried the locations of holdups, suggesting that many seemed to arise on Jesmond Dene Road, Gosforth High Street and before the right turn from Grandstand Road into Kenton – many local people feel that a faster junction won’t help with bottlenecks on the approach and exit roads from Blue House.
  • The capacity of feeder roads to the roundabout is an issue for group members – the impact of improvements to the junction can only be as great as the capacity of the feeder roads. JD explained that link roads rarely cause congestion – congestion is created at junctions where vehicles slow and stop to give way.
  • JD – The current layout just about works for drivers but it won’t continue to work if demand increases and it doesn’t work for people travelling by other modes.
  • There was disagreement amongst members as to whether better access for pedestrians and cyclists going north / south and east / west required them to be able to cross the new junction or could be provided around the sides.
  • A group member noted that there are good public transport links north to south through the junction but very poor ones east to west. It takes 2 to 3 times longer to make an east / west journey on the bus than it does by car … there will be 20,000 new homes in the future and lots more people travelling to employment sites in the east of Newcastle.
  • JD acknowledges that strategic planning is the process for managing these pressures on the infrastructure of the city and this working group has the potential to add a new facet to that – establishing the important measures of success.
  • It was noted that marking the position of the current layout on new plans is important to help orientated the viewer.

*A gyratory with filters

*A large ‘hamburger’ shaped gyratory with a bus lane through the middle.

Further discussion points:

  • The North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Assurance Framework – is available on the group’s web site, it sets out the funders criteria which NCC has to satisfy in order to win the funding for our schemes. It describes the tests that designs are judged against.
  • The value of the scheme to economic prosperity is at the top of the list of most important features – group members question why that depends on the swift movement of traffic. JD confirms that for the Treasury, the growth of traffic is a key indicator of prosperity.
  • We should be discussing travel not traffic! Also pointed out that as many people are travelling on buses as there are travelling in private cars.
  • A group member commented that we need to invest in public transport to make a real difference to the number of vehicles on the roads – it needs to be more affordable, there needs to be a parking strategy because it’s cheaper to drive short distances.
  • This is part of debate about what kind of city we want to live in.
  • Is it possible to reach a consensus when we are managing conflicts between residents and commuters, between different modes of travel and between regional and national priorities?

JD put up a slide of a selection of measures or tests of the successes or failures of particular designs – they were presented as a starting point for discussion and group members are invited to consult with their own members to seek feedback and contributions to the final list of measures and tests that should be applied.

  • Compliance with adopted policies
  • Quality of provision for walking
  • Quality of provision for cycling
  • Quality of provision for buses
  • Traffic capacity / queue lengths
  • Area traffic management / knock on effects
  • Effect on safety
  • Land take and tree loss
  • Visual intrusion

Discussion points:

  • How to measure the objective versus subjective features of a design such as perceptions of feeling safe and the directness of a route through.
  • Surely air quality should be on the list?
  • Also light and sound pollution
  • What constitutes quality?
  • JD is suggesting that we use a red, amber, green system to rate the junctions in terms of the measures – sometimes there is data to support the decision, sometimes its opinion.
  • Remaining within the current footprint of the junction at Blue House when designing a new junction– for some group members this a vital criteria but not for all and therefore can’t be an agreed criteria for assessment.
  • JD asks group members to get some feedback from their wider constituencies on these criteria and to start the process applying the criteria to the designs we have available.
  • JD suggests that the group consider testing the signalised junction with banned movements against the criteria and the consultation drawing – what are the pro’s and cons of each?
  • JD will work on the drawings to add more details and make them more accessible and understandable – Action JD

Recap and close of meeting

  • Group members are requested to submit their comms processes and contact information to Ali asap
  • Notes to be circulated mid week
  • Requests for further information from NCC to Ali as and when
  • Junction type tests to be shared at next meeting

Date & time of next meeting

6pm on Monday 31st October 2016

Committee Room, Civic Centre.

At the meeting we had artist Marie-Pascel Gafinen making a graphic recording of the meeting. To view it click the link below.

Graphic Recording Meeting Two – 3 October

 

Comments

  1. “Some of the group felt that it was too soon to be looking at junction designs and that they would like more information and a better understanding of the background and context before embarking on it, for example, detailed information on accident types, traffic types and origin destination surveys.”

    Who are ‘some’? Who ever they are they are correct. The new super roundabout grows out of a process that needs to traced back to its origins. Such schemes do not self generate.

    “JD appreciates the point but maintains that this exercise is simply to gauge reaction to different junction types and establish the kind of information that group members would find most useful in making their assessments of the relative advantages and disadvantages that different designs present.”

    That is, a fashion show catwalk to pick the Council’s best option without examining the essential reasons for any or all. This is not a accident.

    The reason for the re-build of the Blue House road junction stems from monetising the Green Belt to the north and north west of the city. Building large new developments in sectors that are inherently difficult in transport terms without building new roads. Roads giving access into the city centre will have to past through either Gosforth High Street or Haddricks Mill and Jesmond Dene Road. Blue House I suggest is just one way point along these routes. Improvements to both axes will necessitate much more profound work in the near term in and through some of the city’s most established residential areas. The unintended consequence of building aspirational housing on the Green Belt will be a cost born by others. One bad decision will be the rationale for many more. Blue House should be viewed as the beginning of this process.

  2. Well done to all on group for giving up your time and making sure the scheme is scrutinised. A thankless task.
    Local residents’ observations on the real causes of traffic problems ( e.g. Northbound Forsyth Rd junction, northbound salters rd junction, eastbound haddricks mill jn, westbound Kenton rd jn) are universally – and correctly – termed ‘anecdotal’, but never the equally accurate ‘pretty obvious’.
    The basis of the case for change is far less obvious and will also remain effectively anecdotal unless and until the oft-referenced travel, traffic and accident info is made available.
    If people can’t understand why such a big scheme is needed, the draft KPIs are meaningless and a cynic might feel the schemes are retro-fitted to the criteria of available funding.
    Actually it sounds like the group is raising these points.
    Btw Anyone else noticed the Kenton Rd works seem to be removing the left turning lane at dukes moor garage? Already backs up all the way to Kenton lane in rush hour; More traffic for the high street.

  3. It is imperative that NCC make available accident data upon which their case is based. Also do nothing option must be tabled as one of the options. Given the mess NCC have made of “improvements” at Forsyth Road, Salters Road/High St junction and before that Kenton Rd/ Grandstand Rd, which have all caused significant traffic conjestion that did not exist before the works, I have little faith in their expertise in assessing junctions. I believe the works are driven by some other “policy” such as making Newcastle a no or less car city?

    1. I use the Salters Rd junction as a pedestrian, a cyclist, on busrs, & by car. It has improved my experience in all forms.
      I access the city centre as a pedestrian, a cyclist, by bus or Metro, and very occasionally by car. I would welcome a transport policy that discourages city centre car use.

    2. Collision statistics are public info – this website is pretty easy to use http://www.crashmap.co.uk – just search on any post-code.
      For Blue House here’s NCC’s report: http://bluehousegroup.org/2016/10/03/independent-traffic-accident-and-data-unit-report/
      NCC’s policies are documented in it’s Urban Core Policies – you can find Transport in Section 14.43 from this link: https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/sites/default/files/wwwfileroot/planning-and-buildings/planning-policy/section_4_-_urban_core_policies.pdf
      Priority is based on a “hierarchy of users” – Walking, cycling, public transport, freight, vehicles

  4. The Council’s case is too diffuse and I remain unclear about the MAIN reason for change. If it is accidents, surely they need to provide much more information e.g. a detailed analysis of day of week, time of day, direction of travel, who was involved etc before any consideration of potential “solutions”.
    I would add the messed up arrangements around Central Station to the Council’s poor track record in traffic management

  5. I would like to know how many motorists are represented on this group. Its time for a refocus on the motorist and for the council to be held account for the significant traffic congestion caused by their latest so called improvements namely at Whitebridge Park , West Avenue, Forsyth Road, Salters Road/High St junction and Kenton Rd/ Grandstand Rd. Their current work on Kenton Road into Grandstand Road has narrowed roads so that when you turn right at kwik Fit Garage into Westfield traffic can now no longer move to the left of you, so you cause a major jam. They have made super wide pavements which nobody needs because nobody lives on Grandstand road to use them. The extra extra wide pavements at the junction and all the other so called improvement junctions restrict traffic flow. The starting point for your discussions in your group need to be the disastrous faults on all the recent so called improvements which have reduced traffic lanes and caused major congestion. Until all this is acknowledged and thrashed out there is no point in discussing the Blue House, yet another traffic congestion scenario waiting to happen. The Council needs to be held account for the Government money it is freely wasting.

    1. If a motorist is defined as someone who owns and drives a car then most of the group would fall into this category. Wouldn’t it be great if on the day when I had to go to 3 meetings 15 miles apart and do the weekly shop that the roads were clear? If everyone only used their car when needed and got the bus/metro walked/cycled on all the other days then we could all have space to use our cars when we need them as well as those people who due to age and/or disability are reliant on their cars. It is too reductionist to try to portray this as one group of road users versus another.

  6. In total agreement with ‘some of the group’.

    ‘Do nothing’ MUST be included in any list of options to be presented for discussion as nothing needs doing. More to the point Graham Grant et al need to provide the data that back up their arguments relating to ‘collisions’. Or is that information similar to the non-existent ‘high traffic volumes’ data that were used to justify the complete waste of money laying utterly pointless slabs of tarmac at the junctions around Osborne Avenue recently?

    Also perhaps any of the three councillors for South Jesmond could offer some explanation as to why not one of them bothered to attend this meeting nor apparently even had the courtesy to send apologies for their absence? So much for stakeholder representation!

      1. Peter. Thank you for helpfully providing the link to this data.

        So, there have been just FOUR serious injuries to road users at or near Blue House in SIX YEARS and no fatalities whatever in over FORTY YEARS.

        For an area of road that’s having collision data cited as a reason for having millions squandered on it I personally would judge that as a pretty good record for safety. I use this roundabout almost every day at varying times of day and in over thirty years have NEVER encountered any problem with it whatever. The only problem in the immediate area has been the evening rush hour congestion caused by the almost permanently empty bus lane restricting the lane availability on the northern approach. Blue House is neither high risk nor is it dangerous, as the data clearly shows and it works perfectly well as it is.

        What we have here is one man completely obsessed with the ‘control’ of traffic by removing roundabouts at every possible junction in this region and replacing them with traffic lights when all current research both here and in the USA shows that exactly the opposite approach is what is needed. A great many drivers, and road users in general, in this city would agree that ALL the recent ‘improvements’ carried out by this Highways Department have been nothing less than an unmitigated disaster.

  7. As a member of the Freemen of Newcastle could you tell me if any objection has been received from this body as they are in fact the owners of the land in question and any objection would kill the scheme unless the local authority relied on COO powers

  8. https://youtu.be/Udt5jQV38so
    https://youtu.be/4wkubm90vNc These are two short clips taken in rush hour at 6pm and 8:30 am in term time. In neither is Bluehouse the source of the congestion. It is the roads leading off that back up to Bluehouse. This is what NCC call anecdotal evidence. I walk up there twice a day every day it’s always the case I just filmed one of these occasions. The road infrastructure around Bluehouse is just not capable of taking more traffic and can’t be made to do so. A bigger roundabout is a white elephant that won’t solve the problem.

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