Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Monday 14th November 2016

Notes of the fourth 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; Save our Town Moor; Open Lab, Newcastle University.

Agenda Items

  1. Welcome & introductions

JD welcomed everyone to the meeting and introductions followed because there were a couple of new representatives attending to cover for absences.

  1. Tree Survey

Discussion points:

JD introduced a tree survey which had been undertaken between April and August this year. The survey is a condition survey of each tree completed to British Standards by arboriculturalists, the trees surveyed have also been plotted on a map.

820 trees were surveyed, 38 are currently at risk because they are dying, dead, damaged or diseased.

A number of questions were raised, the answers have been added to these notes after the meeting:

Q: What would happen to the trees identified as ‘at risk’ normally and when?

A: The at risk trees would be reported to the Arbor squad and they would schedule appropriate work – pruning or removal

Q: Would the survey have been completed anyway or was it prompted by the proposed highway works?

A: The survey is part of a full Town Moor Tree Survey, there are over 3,000 trees around the Moor and the management plan is being updated as a result.

Q: Some trees are designated ‘remove’ and some are designated ‘recommended remove’ – what is the difference?

A: ‘Remove’ is a definite instruction for the tree to be felled, ‘recommended remove’ suggested fell but also a request for a second opinion before that is done.

  1. Amendments / comments about the notes of the last meeting

Amendment to the reported collision figures from the meeting notes from 31.10.16 – figures should read between June 2010 and June 2016 there were 75 collisions which resulted in 115 injuries.

It was also noted that the notes did not convey the level of positive feeling about retaining the open space and trees in the area rather than expanding the profile of the junction that came out of the small group work … that is largely attributable to the fact that the small group work wasn’t recorded in the notes and that each group was supposed to send their findings in to be added after the meeting.

The drawn record of the meeting also misses out the group work because they were inspired by the written notes.

Web site comments – people are posting comments on the web site but there is no one to take on the responsibility of pulling the replies together. It was agreed that the best thing to do is to put a statement together to let anyone who posts know that their views are being noted and fed into the working group – CC

  1. Collisions data

The comparison figures requested at the last meeting were tabled for reference, they show the collision data for 40 junctions compared on a rolling average.

They show that Blue House has risen from 19th worst in Tyne & Wear to the worst and or second worst in the last 3 years.

Q: When does the period that data is collected start and finish

A: Data is compiled on a monthly basis and presented in 5 year clusters – the last data set that our figures relate too was collected in August 2016.

Q: The data suggests that there was a rapid increase in collisions at Blue House 5 years ago – did something happen at the junction to cause this? For example, is that when the 2 lane right turns were introduced?

A: Traffic Management team have said that there have been no significant changes in road markings at the junction for over 8 years – google maps from 2008 shows the road markings to be the same as they are today with the only change being the refreshed paint in 2012. They have also commented that the police’s accident investigation would have identified road layout problems and changes would have been demanded as a result.

Q: Can we rely on historical comparisons between junctions to indicate the danger that a junction poses? Wouldn’t absolute numbers be a better indication? Also, the map of the location of the collisions shows that some of them are on the approaches not at the actual junction.

A: The collisions mapped are within 50m of the junction. We weren’t actually asked to provide the absolute numbers of collisions, we were asked to compare Blue House to other junctions in the City. But we do have some data about collisions at similar capacity junctions in the region which will be shared and shows that in absolute numbers, Blue House far exceeds similar junctions in the area.

Comment: Some of the most dangerous junctions have the fewest accidents because people try to avoid them.

  1. Growth Assumptions and turning counts – presentation by GG

The presentation shows graphically how the capacity of the junction was tested at different times of the day in 2015.

It was noted that the width of the lanes in the vicinity is below current standards. In terms of producing a reliable growth forecast, the method involves collecting data from ANPR (Automatic number plate recognition) cameras, turning counts and queue counts and adding them into a computer model to forecast how they will grow – the findings are validated by a localised model that compares them to what is currently happening. It was pointed out that the queue information, although valuable, does not show the extent to which delays were occurring slightly further ahead at nearby bottlenecks, and therefore does not give a full picture of the impact on journey times.

The data for this forecast was collected over the course of one week.

The council accepts that currently we don’t have a queueing problem outside of the peak hours. It was also noted that human behaviour leads to peak time spreading – that is people changing the time they make their journey – a little earlier or later or finding alternative routes to avoid queues. People prefer to keep moving even if the journey time ends up being the same.

ANPR records show that the popular traffic patterns within the area have been confined to the main roads thus far.

Comment: The queue lengths shown in the model seem to be much shorter than the experience of those travelling around the junction at peak times. One explanation suggested is that the queue lengths are averaged over a peak period, meaning that the time-spans of longer queues would be quite short.

Q: Does the model account for pinch points along the approaches? Most residents believe that congestion is generated away from the junction.

A: It is agreed that queues do build up at the lights on the approaches to the junction but once the traffic gets there, the roundabout has no way of managing the flow that comes on to it.

Q: What is the tipping point or tolerance for queue lengths?

A: The policy is to keep traffic on the roads that are designed to carry it and out of residential streets which are for access.

Q: Is it possible to use network planning to divert traffic away from Blue House and onto roads like the Coast Road? Or let the queues and congestion build so that people will decide to use public transport or other travelling methods instead….. 

Anticipating Growth – the National Trip End Model predicts growth in car ownership. Currently 42% of households in Newcastle don’t have access to a car but in some areas more than 60% of households do – the most deprived areas have the lowest car ownership. The model also looks at housing growth across the region to predict the increase in population – the council have used the lowest predicted growth figures for this scenario.

JD comments that the data shows that our travel time and the number of trips are remarkably constant – the way we travel means that we can travel further, faster, by car as opposed to travelling by public transport, walking or cycling.

Q: when will the working group look at how to change travel patterns and preferences … will the group challenge travel choices?

JD comments that national traffic forecasts predict growth but they are rarely reliable.

Group members raise the idea of back casting to assess the reliability of forecasting …

Also, the issues of climate change and air pollution have taken on a greater significance after the recent government court case. JD remarks that the future isn’t written and that better air quality, economic and personal health, congestion etc. are all linked to political decision making.

One of the working group members presented a proposal to introduce better cycling provision around the junction linking the improvements in the city centre north, up the Great North Road and into Gosforth …the proposals brings together the good support that the small groups seemed to share last time for better walking and cycling provision.

  1. Assessment of possible new layout

JD presented a junction proposals that had been worked up by his team, to deliver on concerns and issues such as better lane discipline, tighter turns, preserving trees, better provision for walking and cycling …. The design shows a simple roundabout with a bigger central circle and fewer lanes (which means that it has lower capacity).

The working group worked in small groups to assess this proposal using their previously determined criteria and assessment tools.

The Headline feedback:

Positives – preserves trees, slower and safer

Negatives – lower capacity (modelling still to be done), 2 stage crossings with poor air quality on islands in the traffic – less frequent green time for pedestrians can improve the capacity – JD will get some timings.

Some members weren’t convinced that cycling provision was needed on both sides of the GNR and noted that the location of the crossings would have an impact on the traffic flow.

However, crossings for all modes are an important feature on all legs and provision for buses is also important.

  1. Any other business

The group were told that the council have prepared a paper for the next Cabinet meeting on the 21st November where they are requesting to apply for planning permission for the Haddricks Mill and Killingworth Road proposals …. The Cabinet report references the Blue House working group and the redesign of the junction in the business case for the funding for Haddricks Mill. An indicative design has been included in the business case, it is not a design that is being progressed, it is an example as required for the funding bid to progress.

Next meeting

Monday 28th November 2016 – 5.30 for a 6pm start.

For additional supporting documents click on the links below.

Bill Dodds’ proposal to enhance provision of cycling

John Dale’s team new junction design proposal (work in progress)

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