Notes taken at the eighth meeting of the group held on Monday 19th June 2017

Present: John Dales – Independent Chair; Graham Grant – Head of Transport Investment; Ali Lamb – Transport Engagement; representatives of Open Lab and Newcastle University.

Representatives of organisations and groups:

Introduction and next steps:

John had previously circulated the draft position statement and invited feedback from the group. He was taking on board the comments, particularly those which highlighted that the case for a larger roundabout did not naturally emerge out of the discussion set out in the paper.

He was also noting that there had been considerable pace in the work of the group up to and including the meetings in December but then, delays in progress on certain things like modelling and the General Election of course, had led to a disappointing loss of momentum.

John suggested that, given the length of time since the last meeting, the small groups take some time to discuss the four options to refresh their knowledge and discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. He also suggests that the reps then take some time over the summer to discuss the options with the membership of their groups and get their reaction to the direction of travel.

Following this meeting, John will revise the position statement, and publish it, without a recommendation, so that the working group members can discuss the contents with their members and get feedback for john which he will use to finalise his recommendation.

John & Graham suggested that in September, they would arrange another meeting for the reps and their groups.

A representative said that that would be a good idea to hold a wider meeting as long as it was about the options and not revisiting the criteria or discussing walking and cycling.

John’s recommendation will be made after big meeting in September.

So, working group members are asked to feed their comments to join, their own and their group’s ideas – please send directly to John rather than reply to all, simply for clarity.

A group member asked if one option was the inevitable choice because the funding criteria seemed to favour one option over all the others, is it not the case that, ignoring the demands of the funders risks losing the funding completely.

John reminded the group that doing nothing was always an option but the funding offers significant opportunity to improve road safety, create facilities for walking and cycling and deliver bus benefits. The current layout appears to be efficient in traffic terms but that is at the expense of safety.

Of the options to be discussed the smaller roundabout option would deliver significantly less traffic capacity so John could not recommend it.  One group member feels that would be significant opposition to a larger roundabout so why not try to get the funding anyway … John agrees not to completely close down the smaller option but cautions that it would make things significantly worse for traffic and therefore, for buses too.

A group member suggests that the way to approach the funders is to demonstrate that the new design for Blue House increases the junction’s capacity for people, that is, that the sustainable travel improvements bring additionality that is attracts the funding in the same way as traffic capacity.

Graham points out that throughout the working group time, he has been clear that the group’s criteria and the assurance framework that guides funding decisions are different, however, the working group process is exceptional and has been used itself to mitigate against the rigours of the current assurance framework.

A group member maintains that the residents’ view is that making the Blue House smoother and faster for traffic to negotiate will only shunt the problems to other parts of the network.

John explained a table of data which shows the modelled performance figures for the four options which are:

  • The 2016 consultation option
  • A signalised crossroads with all movements
  • A large roundabout
  • A small roundabout

For clarification, the modelling data takes account of the pedestrian and cycling facilties.

Some group members are also keen to see crossing facilities on all legs, those on the west and south appear to be missing from the drawings and are essential to support modal shift. They feel that crossings should also be single stage although John warns that single stage, although desirable, will kill the junction’s capacity and benefits for vehicles.

Another group member points out that there was supposed to be a new crossing on Jesmond Dene Road, opposite Friday Fields and that seems to be missing too. … just an error.

A period of group work and discussion followed

Round up and closing remarks

John offers additional resource to answer any questions on the Assurance Framework, for example, queries about the impact on buses.

He reminded everyone about sending their feedback on the position statement and asked for headline feedback from tonight’s group work:

  • Believes there is a safety case for the larger roundabout – better lane discipline but difficult to be specific on the safety differences between the large and small roundabout’s – slower speeds only get you so far because slow can cause frustration also.
  • Agrees that there is no discernible safety benefits between the 2 roundabouts although the question of Air Quality and the impact of the 2 has not described.

Graham is clear that we have not done any modelling on Air Quality so anything we say here is speculation or assumption. Broadly speaking, fewer vehicles make AQ better but, idling and stop start makes it worse again.

  • Still a little sceptical about the accuracy of the models – Graham and John however, have confidence in them.

John introduces a policy paper that he and Graham have written about Transport and Health.

John also reminds everyone to send their feedback about the position statement in the next 2 weeks so that the stage one draft can be published and the reps can start to consult their members.

Notes by Ali Lamb