Jesmond candidates on walking, cycling and safer streets
It’s election time in Newcastle again and SPACE for Jesmond have written to all candidates in North and South Jesmond wards to find out what they think about getting around Jesmond sustainably and the liveability of our streets. Do they support measures to make getting around on foot, cycle or wheelchair easier? Will they support low traffic neighbourhoods when concerns are raised by people who want to keep driving their normal routes?
Let’s find out!
The candidates in Jesmond are:
|Party||North Jesmond||South Jesmond|
|Con||Melissa Jane Pearson||Olly Scargill|
|Lab||Tanya Pretswell||Charlie Gray|
|Lib Dem||Deborah Burns||Tom Appleby|
|Green||Laurence Taylor||Tim Dowson|
|Reform UK||–||Martin Evison|
|North East Party||–||Brian Moore|
We’ll be publishing the responses here in the order they are received.
Martin Evison, Reform UK Party
1. Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?
There is always more that can be done. I do notice street clutter getting in the way on the pavement and that the crossings of the Metro track are not all ideal for wheelchair users and cyclists. I notice the pedestrian crossings of Sandyford Road and the Coast Road are not well placed for transiting through Jesmond Old Cemetery when it is open. It would good to explore the possibility of improving the pedestrian / cycle journey from Osborne Avenue to Starbeck and then on to the Ouseburn at minimal cost to the Council Tax payer.
I find this a difficult question. I cycled to school most of the time as a child and my parents used to tell me I was lucky, because they had to walk for miles (and miles). Times change and I imagine parents these days are often reluctant to expose children to a safety risk, small though it may be. Examining how traffic flow could be further channeled to separate cars and cycles while avoiding unwelcome costs and inconvenience may be an option, accommodating everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and motorist’s alike – as much as possible.
I may have been one of them! However, I – like most people – like a clean safe environment, whatever the view on climate change. Ideas such as those suggested above or other low-cost and convenient environmental improvement measures might meet goals acceptable to a wide range of residents.
I would show residents the evidence proffered by both sides and let them ask questions and form their own opinion.
The modern bicycle was born in Britain and experienced a boom in the 1900s, when it was the dominant form of transport in many places. Would you like to see more people using this most British form of transport once more?
Yes, of course.
Deborah Burns and Tom Appleby, Liberal Democrats
Jesmond is a forward-thinking, progressive neighbourhood, and as such, has begun making significant steps towards improving infrastructure and facilities for all forms of non-motorised mobility, as seen (for example) with the introduction of cycling priority lanes. One barrier to this is parking; the volume of cars continues to be an issue – this is amplified in Jesmond due to the number of multi-car households (especially in the case of large HMOs) and the use of available parking space by commuters. Additional pressure mounts during school drop off and pick up times, as there are three large schools in the area. This can lead to poor practices, such as pavement parking, which obstructs both wheelchair users and parents with young children in buggies. I would say that, whilst advances have been made, there is more that can be done to prevent poor driving practices, and to create safer ‘joined up’ spaces for cyclists, pedestrians and all non-motorists. Cycle paths that come to a sudden stop are unlikely to attract new cyclists. We would also like to see more secure cycle parking and storage.
Wider implementation of parking restrictions would see less commuter traffic entering Jesmond. We have spoken to local residents who have requested restrictions for their streets, but their requests have been denied. We would look to argue the case for parking permits on residential streets where commuter parking is problematic.
In order to encourage active travel, it is vital we provide attractive alternatives to cars. In 2012, the Council approved a cycling strategy, instigated by the Lib Dems, based around strategic cycle routes and connecting links which would provide a safe structure for people to cycle instead of using the car. This has never been fully implemented and we would make this a priority.
Ensuring streets are clean and well-maintained is crucial, along with fixing all those potholes and uneven road surface that are a danger to cyclists and those on any form of scooter. Residents report that there has been an increase in litter, dog excrement and hazards such as broken glass on pavements in recent years, and it is vital this is dealt with.
Liberal Democrats would also look to implement changes to public transport systems which would make leaving the car at home a more attractive prospect. We would invest in electric buses on all key routes, and look to establish park and ride systems where possible.
To summarise, implementing a clear cycling strategy, reducing the number of parked cars, maintaining and repairing road surfaces, ensuring pavements are clean and hazard free are all key to increasing active travel. Establishing effective, cleaner public transport systems will simultaneously reduce car use.
The health and safety of our children is undoubtedly the greatest priority. Deborah says “From my own experience of cycling to West Jesmond Primary with my children, and from talking to other parents, I would say that the area where parents and children feel most unsafe is that directly around the school, most notably Tankerville Terrace. Since the removal of the two crossing wardens, tensions between motorists and pedestrians/cyclists have risen, and this is not a sustainable situation.” We would welcome the trial of a ‘school street’ scheme in Jesmond, with careful monitoring to see how various stakeholders are impacted. Once parents and children feel safe in the immediate area surrounding the school, more may be encouraged to walk or cycle. Additionally, those who live relatively close to school may feel that driving is no longer the most efficient method of transport. If successful, a school street scheme could see both the health and safety of our children improved, with cleaner air and safer streets.
Furthermore, encouraging schools to engage with schemes such as ‘Bikeability’ is an excellent way to build children’s confidence in cycling and road use. Working with children and providing them with the skills they need can help to motivate parents to become involved – when they see their child improving and gaining in confidence, they may begin to view alternative modes of transport as viable options.
People wish to live and work in a healthy environment with clean air and green spaces. However, achieving this in busy locations is not always straightforward. Aside from the challenges of the practical considerations, behavioural changes tend to take time. To ease this process, changes can be made which have less impact on lifestyle, but which deliver similarly effective results. For example, the widening of pavements to reduce parking, or the introduction of pedestrian only zones at weekends can increase active travel without proving overly disruptive. Similarly, genuine consultation with stakeholders, followed by trialling and monitoring of schemes, rather than top-down implementation can help to alleviate concerns and give space for people to air their views. Allowing voices to be heard, even where they conflict, is extremely important.
When people choose a place to live, their decision is undoubtedly based on numerous factors, all of which are very important to them. Any significant change to their circumstances is, therefore, going to cause concern, as this impacts directly upon their daily lives. Accordingly, our conversations with residents often seem to focus on the frustration people feel at the lack of consultation over any changes the council makes, and the sense that new systems are introduced without discussion. There are also many who are perturbed by the perceived lack of transparency in local authority spending on projects, with questions over how, and to whom, funding is allocated. Successful consultation, therefore, is only possible where that consultation is genuine, and the considerations of all are respected and heard. As above, we believe that trialling of agreed options, with subsequent discussion and amendment, may give local people the voice to air their concerns and have a stake in the decision-making process.
Deborah: The Liberal Democrat manifesto pledges to “introduce a nationwide strategy to promote walking and cycling, including the creation of dedicated safe cycling lanes” and to place a higher priority on walking and cycling. Do you want to realise that vision in Jesmond, and if so how will you handle resident’s concerns about the re-allocation of space away from motor vehicles?
Liberal Democrats are keen to invest in cleaner, safer transport. Inevitably, this involves change. The key is to involve residents in the discussions from an early stage to try to build consensus and deal with any perceived obstacles to the proposals. Additionally, it is essential to have funding in place to implement the plans once they have been agreed. A lot of time was invested by residents on the Streets for People plans, but the Council then had insufficient funding to implement them; unfortunately, this led to disappointment, with people feeling their time had been wasted.
Tom: You have condemned the decision to close Haldane Bridge to cars before public consultation. Why is this, when there has been ongoing consultation for the last three years, and the bridge closure is an essential component of building the infrastructure proposed in the Streets for People programme?
The reasons we believe closing Haldane Bridge without prior consultation was a mistake are as follows:
1) Most residents like to have their views properly considered before decisions are made and imposing changes causes resentment and resistance. Even if they are personally opposed to a change, most people will accept a majority decision.
2) The closure has caused massive congestion at school drop-off and pick-up times, with some local residents, including key workers, being unable to get out of their street to get to work. This was entirely predictable and should have been considered in advance. Work is urgently needed with Jesmond schools to implement school travel plans that increase the numbers of pupils cycling and walking to school and reduce car journeys. This would reduce rush hour traffic and make the bridge closure more acceptable.
3) We also believe that low traffic neighbourhood plans should be prepared and discussed with residents, rather than introducing isolated measures. Plus, if you ask the people who deal with an issue day in, day out they they’d likely already have a solution to solve that issue. If you don’t ask people’s opinions, then you may miss a solution to an issue that hasn’t been considered.
Brian Moore, The North East Party
The City Council has for decades prioritised cars over pedestrians. The North East Party is committed to reducing through traffic throughout the Ward especially at rush hour in the morning. Clayton Road at 8am is just one stationary car park. This is not local traffic, just drivers using the road as rat run. Haldane Bridge is a great example of turning a quiet location to live in into a nightmare for residents. There are so many other areas within the Ward that needs traffic calming, linked to improved pedestrian and cycle facilities. The North East Party believes in strong local discussion and agreement to ensure there is full support for any proposal.
Getting young people to cycle, walk and use public transport is a priority for the North East Party.
The North East Party sees resistance to change as a challenge when implementing change. We passionately believe in public debate bringing all sections of the community together
The North East Party believes in public consultation at every stage of a proposal to ensure that the final implementation has the support of the community.
Brian: The NEP 2021 Manifesto seems keen on increasing parking and increasing traffic flow over the Tyne – how does sustainable transport such as walking and cycling fit into that vision, and specifically in relation to Jesmond?
Ensuring the flow of traffic on our trunk roads is important on many levels. The Ward is built up of a number of different communities and examples like Cradlewell, where investment in the by-pass has improved the lives of local residents, show what can be done. Therefore our farsighted policies for improving traffic flow across the Tyne can help everyone.
With respect to the Ward, the North East Party is committed to working with local residents to reduce car usage by encouraging other forms of transport such as cycling, walking and public transport.
As a Party we are looking forward to working with your Group closely to improve the Ward for residents.
Labour: Tanya Pretswell & Charlie Gray
Labour Councillors have been consistently in favour of making cycling, walking and wheeling safer and were closely involved in the Streets for People Consultation.
This is why they have lobbied for a School Street outside of West Jesmond Primary. School streets are currently being piloted in other areas of the city and when the lessons learned from the pilots are reported back this should identify ways in which similar pilots could happen in the area.
In North Jesmond there has been further lobbying for the closure of Lily Crescent/Norham Place to through traffic to create a safe area for children using Bells Yard and residents in this area, more speed bumps and continuous pavements on St George’s Terrace, and safer crossing points on the Osborne Road/North Jesmond Avenue junction.
More recently North Jesmond Councillors were told that there was a small budget for road/pavement improvements; Councillors Young and Postlethwaite voted in favour of the new pavements now installed down the entire south side of Grosvenor Road. They opposed the LibDem Councillor’s bid to spend the budget on the back lane of Sanderson Road, which was potholed.
In South Jesmond councillors worked with residents in Jesmond Vale/Minories to draw up a list of highway safety improvements to make their streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists – and even hedgehogs!
But we do want to see more action from the Government around protecting wildlife such as Hedgehogs. Last year an investigation by the AA found that out of the 4 councils – including Newcastle – that applied for Hedgehog road signs none were allowed by Government to go ahead with plans. We want to see the Government make it easier for councils to apply for Hedgehog road signs. This is important in both protecting wildlife and road users – who may swerve when unexpected small animals are in the road especially late at night.
Councillors insisted that safety amendments were made to the Brandling Park Cycling scheme last year when it became clear from residents and park users that pedestrians and wheelchair users didn’t feel safe entering Brandling Park.
With regards to Haldane Bridge there were specific issues including drivers mounting the pavements when two large cars were coming in either direction and pedestrians, cyclists and other road users not feeling safe using the bridge. At the start of the COVID19 pandemic, it became clear that alongside these issues that social distancing wouldn’t be possible on the existing layout of the bridge.
The Labour team in Jesmond and Sandyford are working hard to ensure that residents are able to safely cycle, walk and wheel. It’s important that we take into consideration the needs of all residents. Charlie and Tanya are committed to working with residents towards these aims.
Labour Councillors fully support the trial of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood Scheme in Jesmond, which should help to make young cyclists safer, especially if coupled with a School Street. Lots of children come to West Jesmond Primary from other areas so a scheme to encourage the use of public transport as well as requiring parents driving their children to school to park away from Tankerville Terrace would make a difference.
Work is being done to map out more clearly safe cycling routes to school, and work is also being done with schools in Jesmond, both Primary and Secondary, around alternatives to parents needing to drop off children at all and to raise awareness of the environmental and public health benefits of walking, cycling and increased use of public transport.
We want to see Government give councils the power to set up their own bus companies which would be in part aimed at reducing the amount of private vehicle use, increasing the use of environmentally friendly buses, alongside being used to open up access to education, training, skills and work opportunities to those that don’t have cars. Specifically the reduction in the use of private vehicles would go a long way to ensuring that “every child is confident and safe walking or cycling to school”.
There is more to be done from an environmental point of view and Labour councillors work with the Plastic Free Jesmond and Sandyford Group to encourage outlets to use less plastic. More work needs to be done so that large organisations and big businesses make priorities of reducing their use of plastic, reducing their carbon impact, and encouraging their staff, customers and service users to walk, cycle, wheel or use public transport.
There is an annual Glorious Gardens competition with the aim of making Jesmond greener. Labour councillors have worked with Keep Jesmond Clean to pressure neglectful landlords into tidying the front gardens of their properties.
As above we feel that working with schools around awareness of climate change is important. One of our priorities is to increase the amount of recycling and to make this easier and more effective for residents.
In South Jesmond Labour councillors are supporting a Food Nation community food waste composting trial in Sandyford which was part funded by the Labour ran Ward Committee. If successful could be extended to other locations in the area.
Across the city the Labour ran City Council is putting climate change at the heart of every decision it makes. This is being done in part with the creation of a Committee to tackle Climate Change in the city, slashing its own carbon emissions by a third and continuing to strive for net-zero by 2030 more information can be found here (https://www.newcastle.gov.uk/our-city/climate-change-newcastle/net-zero-newcastle-2030-action-plan), decarbonizing public buildings across the city including West Jesmond Primary and the introduction of ‘Bee Friendly Verges’ to protect bees who are so vital for wider biodiversity of our city and whose
populations have been decreasing. These award-winning efforts have led to Newcastle being recognised as a world-leading city in our efforts to address climate change.
A recent very successful Climate Change Citizen’s Assembly was held by North of Tyne Combined Authority, which we hope will come up with suggestions about how best to secure community buy-in to the various actions needed to tackle the climate crisis, as we know the work around Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is just one small strand of what we all collectively need to do.
It’s important that we all do our bit when it comes to tackling the climate emergency and we are glad to be doing ours. By working together, bringing people on board with ideas, answering questions or concerns around proposed changes and ensuring that there are consultation periods are incredibly important in creating long-lasting change and coming up with the solutions we need.
Councillors from North Jesmond and South Jesmond are keen to progress with Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and have asked Council Traffic Engineers to draw up schemes which will help to bring this about and benefit all residents. This is after receiving many comments from residents with useful ideas.
The aim is to reduce the volume of non-local traffic while still allowing access for vehicles. This will enable more people to walk or cycle and encourage greater use of local services and shops. Following feedback from residents, a few areas and streets have been identified which will be put forward for trial schemes of six months initially, during which time all residents will be encouraged to give their comments.
It’s also important to recognise that although Low Traffic Neighbourhoods will be developed to minimise the amount of through traffic – residents can play their part by minimising car use and being mindful of the needs and safety of fellow residents, including older and frailer people, disabled people and children.
We need to ensure that there’s a full understanding of the issues involved, the design and impact of the possible schemes and ensuring all voices are heard, including older and frailer people, disabled people, children and small businesses.
Acorn Road is such a good example of this – there was such an outcry and yet now who would go back to that dirty busy street, which was impossible to cross, when we have one of the most attractive shopping streets in Newcastle. We must build on this across Jesmond and Sandyford by working with residents ensuring that they feel like their voices are being heard.
Tanya Pretswell & Charlie Gray: Newcastle’s Labour council declared a climate emergency but despite this statement of urgency there is still £470 thousand pounds of money which is allocated to Jesmond for improving walking and cycling which is unspent from the “Streets for People” programme, awarded in 2015. How will you push for a more appropriate pace of development with regards to both this funding and the Low Traffic Neighbourhood programme?
The Labour team was disappointed that the decision-making process took so long, but this was partly due to intense opposition from individuals and groups opposed to walking, cycling and wheeling improvements outlined above. Councillors are privileged to be able to work with highly skilled engineers that help to deliver the vision for a better Jesmond and Sandyford, and the best possible outcomes for residents – sometimes this takes time, but we must also ensure that all residents get the opportunity to be fully informed about what is being proposed and why.
The Streets for People budget will be spent in its entirety. So far the Osborne Road/North Jesmond Avenue crossing – funded in part from the Streets for People budget – is in place, the pavements outside of the Brentwood Avenue shops have been de-cluttered, and a continuous pavement along the west side of St George’s Terrace is scheduled to be put in place this year.
Green Party: Tim Dowson
1. Cycling, walking and wheeling (such as using a wheelchair) are cheap, healthy and environmentally friendly ways of getting around. Do you feel they are sufficiently prioritised in Jesmond, and if not, what would you do to prioritise them?
‘Active travel’ is rarely prioritised enough anywhere, and this includes Jesmond. Non-car travel needs to be the easy and obvious way of travelling locally, and to become the first thought for residents, as a result. This is partly about making it easier to do, and partly about making car use less dominant. So, making more streets no-through routes for cars means that foot or bike or wheelchair may be easier and quicker. This in turn makes it more pleasant (not having to dodge cars so much) and means there are more people around which reinforces community links. More (strategic) dropped kerbs, ramps on steps, bike racks (lots of places but just one or two in each place), and enforcement of parking regulations – maybe with a minimum distance between parked cars to assist people crossing roads from having to walk a long way round cars. This includes expecting orange-scooter riders to behave responsibly too!. Low speed neighbourhoods are part of this as well – 20’s plenty, in residential and school areas.
Getting children to walk or cycle to school involves helping them and their parents feel it is safe. So there should be fewer cars driving near to schools at opening and closing times. Schools should be on no-through roads at these times generally. Less parking near schools – say within 100 yards of entrances – and enforcement of this except for people with disabilities. Other factors such as local schooling rather than pupils being driven around town would also help.
These surveys suggest that more than three quarters are actually willing to alter lifestyles to help reduce the climate extremes that are becoming more commonplace in Britain. But surveys can give stark results while the reality is often less extreme. With many changes, a gradual move allows us all to change bit by bit – eg over time petrol cars are reducing and electric ones, with less urban pollution, are increasing. And it is notable that some of the resistance is orchestrated – eg thousands of emails recently opposing the Newcastle bridge closures to motor vehicles turned out to come from a single foreign email souce. In addition, much opposition is about worries that turn out to be unfounded, eg shop keepers opposing parking restrictions then find that traffic-free streets are more attractive to shoppers.
In part, I’ve discussed this above. Correcting inflammatory comments is important as well as using (local) examples of where it has been successful. Involving residents at the planning stage is also important. And new estates should also be built to discourage expansion of car use, and with public transport planned in.
Tim: If elected, how would you build alliances across with other Jesmond councillors to ensure positive changes for walking and cycling could be delivered for Jesmond residents?
There is actually a lot of common ground on the above ideas but many people – including existing councillors – have spent little time considering the details. The ideas above are not ‘anti-car’ but about stopping motoring from dominating residential area, and encouraging other possibilities so we don’t all have to own cars.
I would also ensure that all schemes were discussed not just with local organisations, but with local residents/users. A number of cycle schemes implemented here seem quite dangerous, as they are confusing. But these have also been quite expensive to build. It looks as though the priority is to spend money on good-sounding schemes, rather than spend it on useful and safe ones.
Laurence Taylor, Green Party
Walking: All streets in Jesmond have pavements. This may sound obvious but it means pedestrians have a protected space on every single street, so walking is safe and generally convenient. The key obstacles for walking are the traffic levels on Jesmond Road, Jesmond Dene Road, Sandyford Road and Osborne Road, which make walking unpleasant, and cause delays to walking journeys by having to wait at the lights.
Wheeling: I’m not a wheelchair user so I would have to ask about this. I would imagine that the major obstacles are the main roads already listed, and the railway line. West Jesmond station looks quite challenging for access, with a long bridge to negotiate. Conditions of pavements could be better.
Cycling: Residential streets are fairly good, but some eg. Grosvenor Road and St George’s Terrace are in appalling condition and need resurfacing. Jesmond Road, Sandyford Road, Osborne Road and Jesmond Dene Road are no-go areas for cycling with kids. These need protected cycle lanes. Acorn Road should be pedestrianised with cycle access. This has been shown time and again to give a major boost to shopping streets, with more footfall and sales.
We have to reduce traffic, to enable people to feel safe cycling with their kids. It’s unbelievable that in 2021, motor traffic is still allowed past West Jesmond School. There is no need for it for access. By allowing traffic through here we encourage people to drive their kids to school and discourage them from cycling.
Stopping traffic here would allow a play area and pocket park to be created outside the school. This would also drastically reduce traffic on Forsyth Road, improving the SR4 cycle route, and having a knock on benefit for motorists on the Great North Road as there would be less delays at the lights.
3. In a recent survey, 23% of people said they were not willing to make any lifestyle changes to help take action against climate change. As a councillor, how would you ensure national policies such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can be implemented when there is resistance?
Answering (3) and (4) together:
Talk to people! Where the LTNs have gone wrong is that they were implemented suddenly and without enough communication, so people felt they weren’t listened to and it was being imposed. If there’s going to be a significant change, the Council need to go literally door to door setting out the plans, canvassing people, getting opinions – not just put it in and see what happens.
In addition there needs to be monitoring before and after the change is made. Traffic levels and speeds on all surrounding streets should be counted for the weeks prior and after the change, and the results presented to residents.
Laurence:If elected, how would you build alliances across with other Jesmond councillors to ensure positive changes for walking and cycling could be delivered for Jesmond residents?
Outside of the campaigning period, I would hope that all councillors, whatever their party, would be working together for the good of the ward. That’s certainly the approach I would take.
Even if not elected, every vote for the Green Party counts, as it will add weight to these issues and encourage the other parties to listen.
We’ll be publishing more responses as we receive them