Notes taken at the tenth meeting of the group held on Monday 20th November 2017

Present: John Dales, Independent Facilitator; Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment, Ali Lamb, Engagement Officer; Mike Scott, Nexus; Cllrs Stella Postlethwaite (North Jesmond); Catherine Walker (North Jesmond) & Nick Cott (West Gosforth); Sean Peacock – Open Lab.

Representatives of stakeholder groups: T&W Public Transport User Group; Jesmond Residents Association; Newcastle Cycling Campaign; Save Newcastle Wildlife; Space for Gosforth, Newcastle Cycling Forum; Gosforth Traffic; Jesmond Dene Estate Residents Association; West Gosforth Residents Association; Petition; High West Jesmond Residents Association.

Apologies: Dominic Raymont (East Gosforth)

John welcomed everyone to the meeting, especially those representing groups on behalf of the regular attendees who could not make it.

John circulated a draft paper summarising the recommendations he is intending to make to Newcastle City Council. His recommendations are presented under three headings:

The first, relates to the case for change at Blue House and covers the five key issues that changes must address – road safety, walking, cycling and public transport facilities and finally, the capacity of the junction to deal with vehicle demand.

The recommendation deals with the possibility that there may need to be a junction with bigger capacity in that location in the future, but, for now, the recommendation is that it isn’t built and that work on reducing demand commences instead.

The second, looks at the supporting actions that the Council and its partners could take to manage and potentially reduce demand to keep the junction working.

The third, addresses the future role of the Blue House Working Group in terms of sharing and advocating messages about changing travel behaviours locally to help protect the Town Moor and, going on to transform into a Streets for People group helping to manage the network around the Blue House to avoid any unintended consequences in terms traffic cutting through nearby residential streets.

Graham presented a series of slides about travel behaviours in the area, drawn from census data which illustrate the points made in John’s draft recommendation paper. The presentation also includes a timeline and outline process map showing the stages of approval, awareness raising and formal consultation that the design for Blue House would need to get through.

Discussion Points

  • If WG members do decide to take on an advocate role for the scheme, what data sets and other support will they have to help them work on the behaviour change agenda?
  • Will the census data be available to WG members?
  • It will be important to reconnect with the sentiments of the people who marched on the Moor to protest about the large roundabout last year and tap into their energy for the behaviour change campaign. Local people have far more travel choices (as illustrated by the travel behaviour map on Graham’s presentation) and are therefore more likely to change their travel behaviour. Travellers from further afield will be more difficult to convert because they have fewer choices and further to travel.
  • Will the WG have access to PR and Marketing expertise and other resources to support them marketing the recommendation to the wider public?
  • A WG member wanted clarification on the preferred design in the recommendation, to establish if the northbound, left turn lane into Grandstand Road can be retained. They believed that the left turn lane contributes significantly to clearing the junction at busy times. JD is prepared to model that option and finesse the design if possible.
  • JD reminds everyone that the measures to address the key issues for change, will reduce the capacity at the junction anyway and agrees that it is logical that local residents would conclude that taking out a lane will have a negative impact on capacity, increase queues and air pollution but that this was the process that had been collaboratively worked on.
  • The messages that go with marketing the recommendation need to be slick and evidenced and backed up with a solid set of actions.
  • The WG would like clarity on what aspects of the recommendation are to be showcased first? The last consultation option included banned turns on Jesmond Dene Road / Osborne Road – local people would need to know that those proposals had been withdrawn as an opener. It was confirmed these would be included.
  • A WG member asked for the Jesmond Dene Road proposals to feature strongly in the recommendations too.
  • GG confirms that we must cover all aspects of the recommendation in the awareness raising exercise.
  • The web site will hold all the resources used in the development of the recommendations and present emerging key messages. The FAQs should be about the key issues and non-technical plans should also be provided to make the proposals more accessible.
  • A WG member raised the availability of city centre parking on demand through the Blue House.
  • JD described something called a ‘Work Place Parking Levy’ which has been adopted by Nottingham City Council. Businesses who provide city centre parking spaces for their employees are required to pay a fee per space to the council – they have invested those fees in the city’s tram network.
  • GG said that NCC is revisiting the car parking strategy with Gateshead. We currently have 10,000 publicly accessible spaces in the city, not all controlled by the council and around 10,000 private non residential spaces completely out with the council.
  • A WG member commented that it’s important that city centre parking isn’t displaced into residential areas.
  • In terms of the future role of the WG, a member said that there needed to be more thought about discussing behaviour change in all sorts forums not just the groups represented in the WG. The membership of the WG needs to be broader to help build a consensus. There is also concern about the continued availability of funding since the criteria can change very quickly and also the consistency of the councillors, officers and reps involved. What about the involvement of people from outside Gosforth in the group?
  • A WG member welcomed the agreement to look into a single stage crossing on the Grandstand Road arm but is disappointed by the 2 stage crossing on the Jesmond Dene Road arm although the 2 crossings will help to facilitate the east – west route through the junction. Could Park & Ride facilities be thought about further afield than Gosforth too?
  • JD will model a single stage crossing on both arms and finesse if possible.
  • What potential future uses could the Blue House building have if it’s not going to be used as a dwelling? WG members expressed concern that the Freemen could withdraw maintenance and support for the Blue House anyway which would jeopardise its future.
  • GG pointed out that most of the people who work in Newcastle, live in Newcastle as well although, overall, we import more trips than we export. Car borne trips are a massively popular choice all over the city but the map shown, shows that some areas have far more choice of mode than others.
  • GG described the timeline that the recommendation is following:
  • Early Dec – JD makes his formal recommendation and it goes up on the Blue House Group web site
  • Dec – Jan 18 – the Council will review the recommendation and discuss it with the funding agency.
  • Likely Feb 18 – Cabinet approval sought on a report about the design and the engagement & consultation process surrounding it.
  • The stakeholder engagement process will include information drop ins to equip stakeholders with the knowledge they need to participate in the formal consultation process which will follow.
  • The formal consultation will be run by the council as the Planning Authority as a planning exercise – ultimately the Planning Committee will decide because the design will need planning permission.
  • JD would like to hear feedback from WG members about what they think the group needs to be able to deliver on the challenge of presenting the recommendation to the community and getting buy in.
  • GG offers light touch support over Christmas in terms of pulling FAQ’s together.
  • In terms of resources, GG references the Air Quality Strategy as potentially providing funding for behaviour change as well as the Transforming Cities Funding which is due to be announced in the budget.
  • JD is aiming to provide more data after Christmas.
  • GG would like WG members to consider putting themselves forward as contacts for the media and cautions against too much professional PR.
  • A WG member noted that it is vital to get the language right and to make sure ‘consultation’ isn’t used to describe anything other than genuine consultation when participants can influence the outcome – anything else is information.
  • Technical explanations should be available for people who want them – attending drop ins or browsing the web site.

The Blue House Group Web Site

  • The web site has been largely dormant since last June – the notes from the June meeting are still missing as are the notes from the last meeting. The discussion wall has been left unanswered.
  • There are a lot of questions about the web site. Is it still needed, what is it for, who will manage it and who will respond to the comments?
  • The consensus is that the web site is very important and the WG want to keep it. They want to keep it because it’s already well known and was well used last year, it has lots of resources on it but needs updating and tidying up. The Comments feature needs to be addressed – themed answers to the most popular questions provided and then the comment feature turned off.
  • All 3 sets of notes and the recommendation papers need to be published on the web site when the recommendation goes to the council.
  • Sean’s support in providing this service is greatly appreciated.

 Next Steps

  • Publish the recommendation
  • Soft launch / discussion with local groups
  • Wider public awareness raising and information drop ins after Christmas.

Notes: Ali Lamb 21.11.17