Category Archives: blog

A message from Chi Onwurah

I am so pleased to see the working group is in place with terms of reference and a plan for how to proceed.

The town hall meeting at Gosforth Trinity Church highlighted to me just how much residents wanted an opportunity to have their say, and make their voices heard. The image above shows the main themes from the individual feedback forms we received during and after the event. I will be posting a full report of this on my website soon. I will also make that available on this website.

It was a lively meeting and I was delighted so many came and participated, even if at times it was difficult to ensure all voices were heard.  I hope the Bluehouse Group can take forward the enthusiasm and determination to make the city a better place to live for everybody.

It is important that Newcastle City Council listens to the recommendations the group presents, and equally important that the Bluehouse Group are speaking on behalf of the wider communities involved in the consultation. This is an opportunity for people to get involved at the early stages of consultation, the most important time, when it is really possible to have an effect on the outcomes. It would be a great shame if some parts of the community were not represented in this.  I know that there are many different ways of ensuring participation and my office is working with Digital Civics to look at how the web can be used to share thoughts and ideas. I hope the Bluehouse Group can be part of this.

Developing plans for regeneration or change is a complex and multifaceted process, as well as something that needs sensitivity to a range of issues, and I’m sure we can all appreciate that council officers have a difficult job, but that doesn’t mean we should just leave them to it!

It is important that they listen to the views, ideas, and concerns of residents and take this into consideration when making decisions that affect people’s lives in many ways.

For my part, I will follow closely what the group publishes on this website, and do my part to make sure the Council carry out what they said they would do.

Hopefully this is a successful model for consultation that can be replicated throughout the city to hold the council to account on a range of decision-making processes.

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; 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


Meeting One Roundup

Blue House & Jesmond Dene Road Working Group

Monday 19th September 2016

Notes of the first 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 Stella Postlethwaite (North Jesmond); Catherine Walker (North Jesmond); Dominic Raymont (East Gosforth) & Nick Cott (West Gosforth)

Representatives of stakeholder groups: New Cycling; T&W Public Transport User Group; Jesmond Residents Association; Save Newcastle Wildlife; Space for Gosforth, Newcastle Cycling Forum; North Jesmond Councillors; Gosforth Traffic; Save our Town Moor; Jesmond dene Estate Residents Association; West Gosforth Residents Association; Petition; High West Jesmond Residents Association.

Apologies: Newcastle Youth Parliament

 Agenda Items

(NB. Subsequent discussions about internal and external group communications effect this action).

The report underpins the council’s decision to withdraw the first stage consultation designs for Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road junctions and their decision to proceed with the Haddricks Mill proposal by workshopping the challenged features of the design and working towards detailed design.  The proposals for Haddricks Mill will be the subject of further consultation.

This working group (a sub group of the Transport Forum) will be contributing to the design process of a new solution for Blue House and Jesmond Dene Road junctions, the final decision about the next design that the council will consult on, is the council’s though.

JD noted that this is an unusual process and may well have implications for the way the council approaches large infra structure schemes in the future.

Questions were asked about the funding sources for the junction improvements and the criteria for success in accessing them. The funding comes largely from the Local growth Fund, with some addition monies from our Local Transport Plan. In order to be awarded the funds, the scheme must demonstrate through a business case that it fits in with the policies of the region, that the scheme is deliverable and represents value for money. The Assurance Framework that details all of this is to be made available to the Working Group – AL will circulate (NB. Subsequent discussions about internal and external group communications effect this action).

A design to improve the junction had been taken through a consultation process in 2008 but had not made it through the Integrated Transport Authority’s selection process, to the funding challenge – the minutes of that meeting are available on line for those who are interested. The task and focus for us now are definitely looking forward.

Group members were invited to share their group’s perspectives – there were some shared themes:

Many group members were also concerned about the lack of representation of the Freemen on the Working Group – GG agreed to extend an invitation to the Freemen to the next Working Group meeting.

A whistle stop summary of the history of transport policy in the city showed how the approach that had developed dealt with the symptoms of problems rather than the root causes – e.g. approaching congestion by building more capacity on the roads rather than how to reduce the demand.

Explaining that the debates we are going to have in the Working Group are fundamentally about what sort of city do we want to live in and how are we going to achieve it. This Working Group approach has the potential to be a blueprint for the way the council approaches engagement on major schemes in the future – we need to find a way to ‘believe in better’

There were a number of discussion point flowing from the introduction:

There were a number of comments about the TOR’s which John will look at before finalising the draft:

– The working group is a sub group of the city’s Transport Forum but the TOR’s don’t reference and explain this relationship.

– Some of the key considerations seem too stringent for a group of volunteers.

Other discussion points:

Prof Patrick Olivier gave an outline of the kind of help and support that Newcastle University’s Digital Civics Team could offer to the working group.

Ideas included:

The offer from the DC Team will be refined and developed in the coming weeks and established properly for the next meeting. NB. The policy documents and resources previously discussed are probably best shared using the platform developed by the DC Team rather than emails so some timescales for sharing information may slip.

John summarised the topics covered in the meeting and thanked everyone for their time.

Monday 3rd October, 6pm in the Civic Centre