Councillor Jane Byrne is the cabinet member for “Connected, Clean City” in Newcastle City Council. We wrote to Cllr Byrne on the 20th July 2022 following the unprecedented heatwave which swept across the UK and other parts of the world, driven by human-caused global heating. That letter calls for prompt delivery on Low Traffic Neighbourhood plans in Jesmond, and is published below.
Dear Coun Byrne,
We are greatly relieved to hear you speak out in support of measures to address climate change in yesterday’s Chronicle article after the record breaking temperatures driven by climate change.
Those of us who campaign for action to fight climate change are constantly disappointed by delays, backtracking and watering-down of schemes that can deliver real change. We get it – some of the changes mean people will need to change things in their day to day life and this can be a political challenge – but we cannot wait for a universal consensus and our leaders must recognise this.
We have been involved with council consultations and working groups for quite a number of years now, with very little change apparent. Some £430k of the £1 million allocated to Jesmond as part of the 2015 Cycle City Ambition 2 allocation (Streets for people) remains unspent. When the news that Jesmond was to be upgraded to a Low Traffic Neighbourhood with a School Street was announced, we were delighted. We know that LTNs can and have delivered real change for residents in other areas. We were advised that these schemes would be consulted on and rolled out in 2022, but we have not heard from the council since. We’re very worried about this.
We believe that all changes are local, and that addressing the climate crisis requires a union of thousands of small local actions. Space for Jesmond are therefore asking you to push ahead with a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Jesmond in 2022. With 24% of private car journeys being under 2 miles, the scope is there to make a dent in our emissions, as well as make a safer, cleaner, greener environment for the residents of Jesmond.
Under a new City Council scheme, Jesmond, alongside other neighbourhoods across the city, is set to become a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. The aim is to reduce the volume of non-local traffic in Jesmond, while still allowing access for motor vehicles. This will enable more people to use active modes of transport such as walking and cycling.
Initially, any changes made will be temporary, with a view to making them permanent at a later date should they prove successful.
To support this, SPACE for Jesmond team have submitted a proposal for the redesign of Jesmond as a Low Traffic Neighbourhood.
Our proposal, which covers North Jesmond and South Jesmond wards, was submitted to Newcastle City Council as part of their call for ideas from local residents to shape and implement the scheme.
What is a Low Traffic Neighbourhood?
A Low Traffic Neighbourhood, or LTN, is a residential area with no through traffic. This is normally achieved with bollards and planters which allow cycles to pass through, but not motor traffic (these are known as “modal filters”).
No one loses access: all residents and businesses maintain full access to all properties.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood are quieter, safer streets, and when our neighbourhood feels safe it becomes a more sociable, friendly and fun place. The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic gave us all direct experience of how our neighbourhood felt with less motor traffic and how much nicer it was to walk or cycle for everyday trips to the shops or parks; children played with siblings in the street, families cycled around the neighbourhood and neighbours chatted, albeit at a distance. The UK government have made funding available to councils to make that change permanent. Even as businesses return to normal and people return to office working, there is no reason that motor traffic has to cut through residential areas instead of using the main roads, and this is an opportunity to make nicer neighbourhoods our “new normal.”
Children benefit in a big way from Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Playing in the street no longer has to be a thing of the past and we could once again see groups of children walking themselves to school without a parent in tow, freeing up time for parents too. Local businesses benefit; neighbourhoods which are more pleasant encourage people to shop local, rather than hopping in the car to go to a soulless business park.
Jesmond already has Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – but we can have more
23% of Jesmond is already a Low Traffic Neighbourhood. Reid Park Road and the streets to the north had bollards placed along Jesmond Dene Road when the road was closed to motor traffic in 2015, creating a quieter, safer neighbourhood for local residents. There are other other area of Jesmond which enjoy these benefits too, such as Jesmond Vale.
The remaining area of Jesmond however, is open to through traffic. The widespread availability of satellite navigations systems and smartphones in the last decade has meant many more vehicles are avoiding main roads and working their way through back streets in the name of saving a minute or two on journey time. This increase is apparent across the UK with the government reporting a massive increase in traffic on residential streets, and the side effect is that our neighbourhoods feel less safe to get around by foot or cycle.
There are other areas of Newcastle which are home to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods too – most post World War 2 housing developments are residential estates consisting of cul-de-sacs with no through traffic, and these areas remain popular with families, despite the fact they lack the shops, swimming pools and cafes of older suburbs like Jesmond. When low traffic measures are added to an area like Jesmond, you get the benefit of lower traffic levels, but much better walkability and local services than a modern estate – a winning combination.
A Low Traffic Neighbourhood will work well in Jesmond
A Low Traffic Neighbourhood will work well in Jesmond. Our area is extremely walkable with nearby shops and services but also has several main roads around its perimeter which are designed for motor traffic. This means that short trips within Jesmond are typically a 5 to 15 minute walk or a 5 to 10 minute cycle, and motor traffic can easily access the main roads – the Coast Road, Great North Road and Osborne Road – without any difficulty.
When through traffic is removed, access to the neighbourhood is generally by the nearest main road. Our analysis, provided to Newcastle Council, shows that the increase in journey time for trips that would previously have been made by cutting through Jesmond’s residential streets is only a few minutes – and that “going the long way round” makes little difference except for the shortest of trips which could be walked in under 15 minutes anyway. One of the aims of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods is to discourage very short car journeys and encourage people to walk or cycle instead, which becomes much easier and more pleasant with the greatly reduced traffic.
What we’re asking for
We believe the best way to implement a Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Jesmond is to do it properly, and not by half measures. What we’re asking Newcastle City Council for is:
Stop through traffic – don’t just try to slow it down
Make space for children – it should be safe for them to get around
Visually nice – adding greenery to our streets
Be clear – this will mean changes for some people’s usual routes
Be confident – even though changes can be difficult, people love Low Traffic Neighbourhoods once they’re in place
How you can show your support
Newcastle City Council’s consultation will be opening on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods in due course, and we encourage you to engage in this process.
You can email your ideas and thoughts about making Jesmond a safer, nicer place by reducing motor traffic to North Jesmond Councillor Wendy Young – email@example.com – who is collecting initial ideas from the community.