Meeting Seven – 13th March

Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Notes of the seventh 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); Stella Postlethwaite (North Jesmond).

Representatives of stakeholder groups: New Cycling; Jesmond Residents Association; Save Newcastle Wildlife; Space for Gosforth, Newcastle Cycling Forum; Gosforth Traffic; Jesmond Dene Estate Residents Association; West Gosforth Residents Association; Change.org Petition; High West Jesmond Residents Association; the Five Admirals Residents Association; T&W Public Transport User Group; Open Lab, Newcastle University.

Apologies: Save our Town Moor.

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome & introductions

JD welcomed substitute representatives for Save our Newcastle Wildlife, the Cycling Forum and Space for Gosforth.

  1. Update

JD gave an update on the progress since the last meeting and noted the following:

  • Further modelling work on the junction had unfortunately not been completed because of work pressures in the team of consultants who do the modelling for the council.
  • There is also other modelling work to be commissioned – in line with points made by group members, models need to be made to assess the impact of junction design on the wider network using “S-Paramics” software and the impact of the junction design on the bus network also needs to be modelled.
  • JD feels that we do know more about the performance of various junction designs than we did in December, but not enough to make a recommendation.
  • GG gave an update on the contact with the Freemen – he submitted a report to the Stewards Committee and a full meeting in January – it presented the issues and options for providing facilities for people on foot and on bikes around the junction and some challenges around the Blue House itself. The feedback he had received suggested that the report was received without objection in both meetings.
  • Consultancy support has recently been procured by the council in support of the work of 3 new community groups – Streets for People Reference Groups in Arthur’s Hill & Fenham; Jesmond; Heaton & Ouseburn. The support comes via a company called Phil Jones Associates – the Streets for People project seeks to design and deliver neighbourhood improvements to encourage walking and cycling. JD is part of the PJA team and is working in Jesmond. Streets for People is a complementary piece of work and supports what the Blue House Group have been seeking to achieve in terms of behaviour change.

Updates from the Working Group membership:

High West Jesmond RA – at a meeting attended by 40 – 45 members, the following feedback was received:

  • HWJRA are pleased with the process and the level of engagement
  • They approve of keeping the recommendation within the footprint of the current junction
  • They would prefer to have a smaller junction and retain the Blue House
  • They support the separation of cars, cycles and people
  • They have reservations about the safety of people using paths set deeper into the Moor.
  • There are also concerns about potential light pollution if lit paths are provided to address personal safety issues.
  • There are concerns about the length of the bus lane
  • They would like to see a pedestrian crossing on Grandstand Road.
  • Overall a cautious welcome to the designs
  • In terms of ideas about Moorfield …. Some people were against the removal of parking on Moorfield because of the fear of displacement parking that may occur in other streets.
  • Not keen on making it one way at the eastern end i.e. the junction of Moorfield with JDR end.
  • They are in broad agreement but have some concerns about the left only lane to turn into Osborne Road – it has been tried before and caused tailbacks.
  • JD feels that a parking survey would be beneficial.

Jesmond Dene Estate RA –

  • Agree with HWJRA but have additional concerns about the development of the former nursery site in Jesmond Dene and egress arrangements from JDR onto Matthew Bank, need to ensure the plans are connected.

Five Admirals RA –

  • Also agrees with HWJRA but also stresses support for the retention of traffic lights to control the turn from Moorfield into JDR and would like to see a crossing at the La Sagesse corner.

West Gosforth RA-

  • More support for the smaller roundabout and the retention of the Blue House
  • Support safe crossing points
  • Retain connectivity between neighbourhoods – no banned movements
  • Urge the council not to plan to accommodate increased traffic.

Reducing Traffic Demand

As previously stated, reducing the demand for travel by car through the junction by around 10% in the peaks would enable relatively compact junction designs to handle the predicted 2031 traffic flows safely.

In order to achieve this level of reduction, it will be vital that the attractiveness of bus services is improved, and this means there should be good bus priority on approach to the junction. Nexus (MS) will be involved in discussions to ensure that the correct modelling occurs in public transport terms.

Group members are curious about possible plans to expand the Metro network for example up to Cramlington. MS confirms that the metro extension under consideration is along the Ashington, Blyth & Tyne light Railway

JD cautioned the group against over-estimating the council’s powers in terms of public transport reform and improvements.

GG noted that the council is supporting the Metro renewal programme to replace tracks and refurbish metro cars and is also working with partners including Nexus to look at securing funding for a new fleet of Metro cars and considering extensions to the Metro where the priority is on a light rail extension on the Ashington, Blyth and Tyne line rather than to Cramlington. Newcastle is also working with others to examine the potential for expansion at Park and Rides.

MS confirmed that the metro extension under consideration is along the Ashington, Blyth & Tyne light Railway

A group member noted that currently it is not reasonable to expect the council to influence public transport massively but under the Bus Services Bill, the council could have more powers. It is not possible to model the impact of the Bill, but it could ultimately have an impact on the volume of traffic on the network.

A group member said that the expected growth in driverless and electric cars could also mean that a larger roundabout is redundant in the future and asks whether the council would be required to return the funding if it chose the smaller design.

JD explained that the scheme funding is dependent on the design delivering the required benefits for all road users as outlined earlier in the process.

A group member stated that Gosforth High Street doesn’t need any more bus services – there is already over provision, so the investment in the Metro network is preferable.

There are issues to be resolved with the fare structure and zones on the metro network in Gosforth – Regent Centre and South Gosforth are in different zones. Metro travel is very expensive for families travelling shorter distances.

The Park & Ride at the Regent Centre is under used – it needs to be promoted.

Some group members felt that Ilford Road Metro Station had become a popular park & ride – how much traffic going through Blue House is generated by the Ilford Road Metro users?

JD concluded that all these points will make a valid contribution towards addressing the target of reducing the predicted traffic demand by around 10% before 2031 but so too would people to change their current travel behaviour.

Group Work – table discussions about junction designs …

  • 2 & 3 lane conventional roundabouts and ‘triangle’ (Moorfield, Ilford Road and JDR) proposals
  • Both plans require further modelling

Clarification on the trees – some trees are earmarked on the plan for removal, they are either dead or dying. There are also a few trees within the garden of the Blue House that are not part of the avenues and had not been surveyed because they are within the property boundaries.

Group Feedback

The Triangle proposals (Moorfield, Ilford Road and JDR) –

  • Why not create cycle tracks along Moorfield at the top of the triangle? That would require the removal of parking and the street has relatively low traffic so it could be considered to be unnecessary. The route would certainly be signed.
  • One reported their reservations about Moorfield being a safe cycle route given the current volume of traffic using it.
  • What about the connectivity of the cycle route onto Matthew Bank – this will be a popular route and safe integration with the traffic going down the bank is needed.
  • The number of lanes along JDR was discussed – 2 lanes are squeezed in now when vehicle size allows but there are issues at the top of Osborne Road – Left turn only lane discussed.
  • Better signals could give options to stack queuing traffic further back from Osborne Road junction – at Moorfield / JDR junction for example.
  • The performance of the Moorfield / Ilford Road junction was discussed – could a 4 way give way work? Are there options for a pedestrian / cycle crossing?
  • Generally, there is question about how best to connect two-way cycle tracks back into normal traffic flow – not yet resolved but clearly the design of this junction would be important.

Roundabout proposals –

Group asked to review and comment on the following features:

  • The position of footpaths and cycle paths
  • Whether paths should be located within the tree line or not
  • How best to protect the trees
  • The choice of materials

Comments included:

  • The paths when it’s dark – existing street lights would provide safety and security on paths next to the road but paths deeper in the Moor would need additional lighting.
  • Making the paths next to the road shared areas might overcome this.
  • Cycles are best placed away from the road, cyclists falling off would be safer deeper into the Moor rather than next to the road.
  • A group member feels that the proposed cycle paths are far enough away from the houses to make lighting them acceptable to local residents.
  • Putting paths between the trees is attractive but there may be issues with leaf fall and delivering the routes in these areas in terms of protecting tree roots.
  • The Blue house was discussed – there are different views on its history and purpose, local value and options for its future.
  • Flooding issues and opportunities to address flooding in the immediate area.
  • Trees and replanting opportunities.
  • Choice of materials for new paths – recycled tyres and other materials were discussed – the group would like to see some samples.

Next Meeting

Monday 24th April 2017, 5.30 for 6pm, Committee Room, Civic Centre

Meeting postponed due the pre-election period for the General Election – it was reconvened after the election.

Comments

  1. A couple of comments regarding Moorfield: I feel this road can safely be left as it is. Even with parking along each side of the road, it is wide and lightly used. There really should not be a conflict between cycle and vehicular traffic there. However, its junction with Ilford Rd could be improved; possibly with a raised platform? The sight lines to the left towards Ilford Rd metro station are poor and it would be beneficial to slow down approaching traffic.
    A filter for cycles turning left at the traffic lights where Moorfield meets Jesmond Dene Rd might be considered. Jesmond Dene Rd is wide at that point and there would be no conflict in accommodating this.

    One other thing; I believe the rail extension along the Ashington, Blyth & Tyne line is for a heavy rail service, not part of the Metro network (installing the overhead catenary posts would be prohibitively expensive). The service would start from the central station and interconnect with the Metro at Northumberland Park station, before continuing along the Blyth & tyne metals to Ashington.

  2. Thanks to attendees for all their hard work and time given to the working group. I do however have a number of serious reservations about the proposed segregated cycle routes.

    I am dismayed and alarmed to see, at this late stage, that cycle routes are also proposed along the Little Moor and Forsyth Road field, running parallel with Great North Road. I don’t think that these additional routes have been made clear in the Minutes of the meetings or the plans on this website. Indeed, I only became aware of them by the additional information provided on the Space for Gosforth website. The proposed route along Forsyth Road field is not referred to anywhere, as far as I can see from the meeting notes.

    These proposed cycle routes would all have a negative impact on the character of the Moors, removing valued green space and replacing it with hard surfacing. There would be a significant loss of open space overall, contrary to NCC’s planning policies which aim to protect the integrity of open space provision in the City.

    If these cycle routes are implemented, it may be possible to use a ‘No Dig’ system such as or Geocell or Cellwebb to construct the cycle paths. However, excavation would still be needed to provide lighting columns and the electricity cables needed to service them. All adjacent trees are therefore still potentially at risk from serious root zone damage, causing them to die.

    Lighting of the cycle routes would also be very damaging to Bat species that forage on the Moors. Bats are very sensitive to artificial light and would no longer be able to feed, breed or seek refuge in these locations.

    The path running through Dukes Moor would potentially cause conflict between users and cows. The cows are very skittish when they arrive in May, and it is at this time that problems may occur, as they may be startled by passing bikes. Having said that, I think the route would hardly ever be used. Cyclists would also be greatly inconvenienced by the need to dismount twice to negotiate two sets of self closing gates within a short distance. This route is simply not practical.

    In light of the above concerns, I think that an alternative option to provide shared routes for pedestrians and cyclists without impinging on the Moors or tree avenues would be highly preferable, and would be more appropriate for the level of use to be expected along the GNR/BHR route. The existing route on the Little Moor, which links Highbury with GNR, works perfectly well as a shared route for both pedestrians and cyclists. There is no reason why this approach cannot be followed along the GNR/BHR and thereby avoid encroachment on the open space of the Moors.

    It is worth noting that the Brandling/Tankerville/Highbury/Little Moor route will always be the preferred cycling route because it is more pleasant, quiet, convenient and much less polluted. Those heading from the city centre to West Gosforth would continue to use the existing route on the Town Moor. So the route along GNR/GNR will always be a poorer alternative route for non motorised users, serving the fewer numbers who can tolerate its toxic traffic fumes and associated traffic noise.

    I would therefore request that this proposal is reconsidered, and that the potential for creating shared pedestrian and cycling routes (around BHR/GNR/JDR and Grandstand Road) is progressed as a preferred alternative, along with the smaller Roundabout option shown on the plans. I would also appreciate it if a plan can be prepared showing all additional tree planting to compensate for losses shown on the Roundabout plans. All gaps in the existing avenues of trees should be replanted with young trees. In addition, further tree planting is necessary along the length of the Little Moor shared route. Some of the young trees that were planted 2 years ago along here have died due to a lack of aftercare by NCC and should be replaced.

    1. I agree with many of the points you make Julie. However I’m not sure why you believe that Brandling/Tankerville/Highbury/Little Moor will always be the preferred route? Sorry but I think that is just your opinion. There are no safe cycle lanes, at rush hour times it can be particularly dangerous mixing with cars, and of course it takes longer to get to work! I, and many others, commute daily by bike down GNR since (with the exception of crossing Blue House roundabout itself) is by far the quickest and safest route. Yes there is the noise and pollution of vehicles alongside but I tolerate this as I prefer not to be run down by a racing parent dropping their child off at one of the schools in Jesmond. I certainly wouldn’t send my children down Highbury/Tankerville.

  3. Thanks David, for your reply. I agree with you that Tankerville should be avoided during school drop off and pick up times. When cycling this way at these times I avoid Tankerville by a quick detour going west onto Forsyth Road, the GNR shared route, then back onto Clayton Road. I also agree that GNR is a more direct route for those travelling from central Gosforth. However, pollution levels along GNR/BHR are so bad that I don’t think it is an appropriate route for most cyclists and pedestrians. In particular, as a major bus route, toxic fumes will be at a level that is harmful to human health.

  4. I have to say that my comments, questions etc on what was discussed at the 7th meeting are the same now as they were after the 5th meeting back in November 2016 and then 6th meeting on 12th December, but I will reiterate anyway:
    • Given discussions on shared paths, paths between tree avenues etc, can someone point me and others, towards relevant and upto date pedestrian and cyclist flow data across this junction
    • The junction design still relies upon 2/3 lanes merging into 1/2 lanes east and westwards. There have been many messages stating that removing such merging lanes from the existing junction would improve the accident statistics immediately. So why do we still have them? We are building in conflict on yet another junction.
    • The plan/s still do not show the full extent of the existing bus lanes, so no-one is able to appraise the full impact of the junction re-design taking this into account. In addition the location of proposed Toucan crossings is exactly at the points where the plans indicate a merging of 2 lanes into 1. This merging creates issues with racing traffic. Add a crossing to the mix and !!!
    • What is the benefit of extending the northbound bus lane to virtually the roundabout. The only real effect would be a saving of a small number of seconds for bus journeys during peak times and an extension of traffic queues back onto the central motorway at peak times. And just out of interest timetabled journey times from Regents Centre to Haymarket changed approx 2 years ago from 10 mins at peak times to 17 mins.
    • The plans provided should show the full extent of any changes. So what happens when the proposed cycle/pedestrian paths need to merge with those existing, north, south, east and west of the junction? Plus with the associated works obviously going beyond the plan coverage, do we not need to see an extended tree survey in order to cover these potential works areas?
    • With new off-road shared surface paths suggested, what happens to the existing shared paths?
    • Does the highway design allow for (safe) on-road cycling across the junction still ie increased width?
    • There is nothing that should hinder the lifting and moving back of the Blue House in order to facilitate a scheme.

    General comments
    • The website indicated that people making comments would get an answer to their questions. To date no replies. Why?
    • I hate to constantly repeat this but those not attending the meetings rely heavily upon accurate plan material in order to both view the detailed proposals as well as being able to make relevant comments. We still have the situation where plans are both inaccurate and also do not cover the whole of the suggested proposals.
    • Why does the public have to go to the participating ‘groups’ websites in order to view all the relevant (inaccurate) plan information?
    • In terms of reducing modal usage across the BHR junction, Nexus reducing the number of am peak time trains from Regents Centre by nearly 25% back in February doesn’t help.

Comments are closed.