Gosforth High Street Consultation Report

Picture of Gosforth High Street with a bus in the bus lane and delivery van parked in the opposite cycle lane.

The Council haven’t published a report on the Gosforth High Street ETRO consultation that finished in September 2023, so we thought we would have a look at what people said.

  • Overwhelmingly (66%) responses were negative or mostly negative and wanted the trial to be removed. This increased to 74% if ‘likes’ were also taken into account (similar to Jesmond).
  • The biggest reasons people gave for not wanting to make the trial permanent were the need for better cycling facilities, traffic congestion and the design prioritising through traffic over the High Street’s role as a destination.
  • The one main positive reason given was that it was good for buses.

We shouldn’t read too much into any percentages however, as the purpose of consultation is to identify rather than quantify issues. Residents already have a say over policy via local elections. If Councils want a view on what proportion of residents support or oppose a trial then they would have to poll residents, and they haven’t done that.

Unlike Jesmond however, which was shared across national media, we believe the vast majority of comments on the Gosforth High Street trial were from residents or other users of Gosforth High Street.

Overall sentiment

Overall 66% of 452 responses on the CommonPlace survey website were negative or mostly negative about the trial layout, while fewer than a quarter thought the trial layout should be made permanent.

Sentiment analysis of Gosforth High Street comments showing 24% positive or mostly positive and 66% negative or mostly negative

This is based on individual responses and does not include ‘likes’ or other feedback the Council may have received e.g. via email. Including ‘likes’ takes the negative / mostly negative figure to 74%.

Opposition to the Gosforth High Street Trial Layout

Six main reasons were given for disliking the trial layout. These included a mix of concerns including the poor environment for pedestrians, lack of safe cycling facilities and congestion for motor traffic. Other concerns shared were that the layout made the road more dangerous and polluted and that it is not appropriate for a destination like Gosforth High Street.

Reasons why people opposed the Gosforth High Street trial No improvements for pedestrians 11% Increased air pollution 12% More dangerous 16% Not appropriate for a destination 17% Increased traffic congestion 19% Needs better cycling facilities 21%

20% in the above graph equates to roughly 90 responses in the consultation. When counting responses we have included all mentions of the concern regardless of whether the response was negative or positive overall, though the vast majority were negative or mostly negative.

The fact that people have raised these points as concerns doesn’t mean they are actually issues, but they should be assessed objectively by Council officers. Our assessment of each of these is included below, based on information already in the public domain.

Support of the Gosforth High Street Trial

Only one reason for liking the trial layout was mentioned in over 10% of responses – that the trial layout was better for buses.

Reasons behind support of the Gosforth High Street trial. Bus lanes are better for buses 19%.

As with comments opposing the trial, we have counted all positive mentions of buses regardless of whether the response overall was positive or negative.

What better cycling facilities did people ask for?

The need for better cycling facilities were asked for in 21% of responses. Many of these comments expressed a view that Gosforth High Street was dangerous for cycling. Some included specific requests, which ranged from general support, more cycle parking, protected lanes on Gosforth High Street and improvements in the surrounding areas.

  • “The measures are not safe for cyclists and there are way too many buses. Give cyclists a properly segregated cycle lane in both direction.”
  • “It’s so dangerous to ride down there with buses giving no space and crowding up behind you.”
  • “I don’t cycle to the high street and I wouldn’t want my kids doing so currently, sharing bus lanes with the largest vehicles on the road.”
  • “I often have to cycle along and across the high street with my children, as implemented these changes have made this feel much more dangerous than the temporary bollards that were there before. The changes fall well short of the LTN 1/20 guidance.”
  • “At the very least it needs to be safe for all users including families to walk or cycle to the shops…  If you want shops at either end of the High Street to be viable you need to make it possible to cycle between them.”
  • “I am VI but also a cyclist. I feel this is no better to provide a safe and accessible cycle lane. It’s imperative that cycling is kept segregated from the road and pavement. I have had too many near incidents on the road.”
  • “These proposals make it clear that pedestrians and cyclists are an after thought and will only help cars and buses get through gosforth as quickly as possible. It will put off the local people like me who spend money at the high street.”
  • “What the High Street really needs are protected cycle lanes like Heaton Road has got (and look at what’s happened to that street – can barely move these days for tapas, sourdough and people having a nice time).”
  • “Segregated cycle lanes on the High Street would encourage those who would like to cycle but are too frightened, including parents and children on the school run, and help reduce private car use.”

A much smaller number (~4%) thought the trial had improved cycling “At least, the sharing of space with buses is better than having to share a single lane with all traffic.” Some of these comments mentioned positively the cycle lane defenders north of Salters Road, though these are not in the trial area.

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment:  Based on the Government’s LTN1/20 Cycling Design Guidance, which Newcastle City Council has adopted, the new layout on Gosforth High Street doesn’t comply with standards and is only “suitable for few people and will exclude most potential users and/or have safety concerns“. The drawings for the plan confirm that Council leaders were aware the proposal didn’t comply with LTN1/20 when they approved it.


Traffic Congestion and Pollution

Increased traffic congestion was mentioned in 19% of responses, increased air pollution in 12%. 8% of responses mentioned both.

This comment sums up the sentiment “Traffic throughput has fallen significantly. There are now queues during the day, not just at rush hour, and air quality is worse. Changing from two northbound lanes to one at the Salters Road traffic lights (with the added bottleneck caused by buses merging in there)has caused congestion.”

People commenting made some suggestions for how to reduce congestion including reducing traffic levels (7% of all comments), rerouting buses (6%) and diverting people cycling along Moor Road South and Moor Road North (6%). A few people called for a toll e.g. “Introduce a toll system for non-local traffic and combine it with a park and ride system around Gosforth Park.

Some suggested buses should stop at Regent Centre “The high Street needs to have less traffic, especially buses. Redevelop regent centre to provide the hub it was meant to be. More buses should stop there rather than going down the High Street.” This would be possible within the powers of the new NE Mayor.

A much smaller number (3%) said “traffic flow” either would or had improved.

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment: People often associate increased congestion with increased air pollution. Our tracking of air pollution on Gosforth High Street suggests air pollution is correlated with traffic volumes rather than traffic queues.  Congestion discourages more people from driving so while emissions per vehicle are increased, overall pollution levels are lower because there are fewer vehicles.

As traffic counts in 2023 are similar to 2022, we expect air pollution will remain within legal limits at a similar level to 2022. The last time air pollution exceeded legal limits on Gosforth High Street was 2019, when it had two vehicle lanes in each direction outside Gosforth Shopping Centre. This, along with the need to improve safety and design for a destination, is why SPACE for Gosforth opposes a return to the pre-Covid layout.

Map of central Gosforth showing air quality measurements on Gosforth High Street and at Haddricks Mill.

In 2022, air pollution measurements taken in Gosforth were within the legal limit for the third year running.

We also know from the Council’s news article that journey times did not increase when Gosforth High Street was reduced to one general traffic lane in each direction, so we don’t expect the new layout will have negatively impacted vehicle journey times.


Design prioritising through traffic over the High Street’s role as a destination.

17% of responses said the road layout should support Gosforth High Street as a destination rather than prioritising through-traffic.

  • “The scheme is focused on moving traffic especially buses through the High Street. The scheme should instead focus on improving the High Street to reinforce its primary function as a District Centre for the wider Gosforth hinterland.”
  • “This scheme isn’t suited to the way Gosforth High Street is used. It is a local shopping hub, which benefits from a lot of custom from pedestrians including a lot of people and students on their way to and from school.”
  • “The Council have been talking for years about how Gosforth High Street should be more of a destination but this seems solely focused on getting people through as quickly as possible.”
  • “The street is so busy with motor traffic it is an open sewer of dangerous vehicles and the pollution they create. Please create a new design that puts local people who walk and cycle to the high street first and that supports local businesses by creating a pleasant place where people want to spend time.”
  • “More emphasis needs to be on making GHS a destination for visitors by discouraging through traffic and improving the experience for shoppers on foot. At the moment walking along the shops is unpleasant because of motor vehicles, narrow pavements and frequent obstacles.”
  • “Gosforth High Street should be a destination not a through route. You should be encouraging pedestrians (either make it mostly pedestrianised with only bus routes going through) or at a minimum give more priority to pedestrians crossing – currently you can wait ages for the lights to change.”

A few comments suggested driving to Gosforth High Street had been made harder.

  • “The restructured traffic system is having a negative effect on Gosforth High Street shops as shoppers avoid the area due to the congestion on the High Street and the fact that it is now much more dangerous to drive there.”
  • “Most motorists would rather visit the metro centre or cramlington to avoid going to the high street. By bringing in these measures the high street will die.”
  • “You may as well block it completely to traffic. I wish all the businesses success in 2023, however NCC clearly don’t have any consideration for local businesses.”

The ‘no loading’ restrictions were also mentioned, mostly negatively. However, one business owner said the restriction was good in that it “removes unwanted delivery drivers from blocking sight of my expensive window displays”.

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment: In November 2022 Councillors unanimously supported a motion that the road layout should support the development of Gosforth High Street as a thriving local destination. It has not achieved that objective. SPACE for Gosforth has looked at this in its blog Gosforth High Street has been designed like a bypass rather than a shopping destination. In that blog we described how priorities for a shopping street / community hub would differ from what is currently being trialled.

Current Trial Design Priorities Priorities for a Shopping Street / Community Hub
  • Designed for vehicle through-put
  • Journey speed
  • Passing through
  • Functional
  • Cycling only for confident adults
  • Traffic distributor
  • Long distance vehicle travel for journeys passing through Gosforth without stopping
  • Pollution within legal limits
  • Designed to maximise customer experience
  • Customer dwell-time
  • Stopping & spending money at local shops
  • Attractive, welcoming and accessible
  • Cycling for all ages and abilities
  • Community destination
  • Local walking and cycling to and between shops and services
  • Pollution as low as possible


More Dangerous 

16% of responses cited safety concerns with some saying they believed Gosforth High Street was more dangerous as a result of the new trial layout.

  • “The road itself now feels dangerous – it’s a slalom course with lanes converging on more than one occasion which will lead to more accidents.”
  • “The number of incidents and ‘near misses’ the bus lane has caused when turning left into the street are countless
  • “The bus lane is not needed at all. It has already caused a collision near the old Barclays Bank.”
  • “The bus lanes are a danger to cyclists and cars and I feel it just doesn’t work.”
  • “Currently very scary to cycle in a shared lane with bus drivers trying to make the most of their new ‘fast lane’. Many of the drivers are deliberately intimidating.”
  • “I also believe the measures are over complicated and make the high street more dangerous for vulnerable users of the space cyclist and pedestrians.”
  • “I rode my motorbike along the High Street yesterday, heading North, and it was the scariest section of rode that I’ve ridden in 45 years of motorcycling.”
  • “You have made a perfectly good road into a dangerous, overly complex traffic flow. The road is stop, start with a ridiculous new chicane and intermittent bus lanes.”
  • “This has made the high street more dangerous, particular for children crossing.”

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment:  Between April 2023, when the trial layout was installed, and the end of February 2024 there were nine traffic collisions on Gosforth High Street between Elmfield Road and Salters Road. The equivalent for the previous ten years was 3.4.

SPACE for Gosforth recently wrote to Council leadership about this Gosforth High Street rethink needed after dramatic jump in injuries. We also sent the Council a list of safety concerns prior to the trial being implemented, which we documented in our blog Gosforth High Street – Safety Concerns.

These concerns were also covered by Chronicle Live.


Improvements for Pedestrians

11% of responses complained that the new layout either made Gosforth High Street worse for pedestrians, or at least did nothing to improve it.

  • “The current carriageway crossings are too wide to enable adequate crossing time for disabled people.”
  • “At the moment walking along the shops is unpleasant because of motor vehicles, narrow pavements and frequent obstacles. I would like to see wider pavements, pedestrian areas and fewer private cars.”
  • “You should be encouraging pedestrians (either make it mostly pedestrianised with only bus routes going through) or at a minimum give more priority to pedestrians crossing – currently you can wait ages for the lights to change.”
  • “Declutter the pavement and trial removing the black bollards which take up over half a metre of pavement space on each side. 5) Reduce pedestrian crossing wait times, and ensure that there is time for people to cross.”
  • “Pedestrianise side street-ends so people walking along the High Street have priority over turning vehicles in line with the new Highway Code.”
  • “It should be semi-pedestrianised, in the same way the bus lane next to monument used to be. This would provide a quiet, clean high street, more space for businesses to expand seating areas onto the footpaths, an opportunity for weekend markets, food markets, etc”
  • “The high street would be far more enjoyable if there was greater space for pedestrians. Gosforth has lots of great businesses, cafes, schools, yet pedestrian access is hindered in favour of using the route as a thoroughfare”

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment: On 20 March 2023, Newcastle City Council said they “will be developing ideas to share in the coming months to make it safer, easier, and better for people to get around on foot and on bike”. Over a year has passed and we still haven’t seen any proposals.

SPACE for Gosforth has shared a number of suggestions with the Council that could have been introduced as part of the trial, but none have been acted on. These suggestions are set out in our blog Gosforth High Street – Small Changes.


Other Comments

Other concerns that fewer than 10% of responses mentioned were

  • Concerns about high levels of traffic using side streets (6%).
  • The removal of residents’ parking at the south end of Gosforth High Street (3%).
  • The layout being confusing, especially the stop-start nature of the bus lanes (3%).

SPACE for Gosforth’s Assessment: We have been concerned with high levels of traffic in side streets for a very long time. Whether this trial has increased volumes or not, and regardless of the changes on Gosforth High Street, this is an issue that needs dealing with. See for example this blog from 2016 1000 Speeding Drivers – A typical day on Gosforth’s back streets.

Residents parking was removed when the bus lane was installed. If parking is ever to be re-installed at the south end of Gosforth High Street then it should be done in a way that keeps the pavement clear and enables people to cycle safely.


Previous consultations

Residents have been consulted multiple times on the future of Gosforth High Street.

When residents were consulted in 2013, over 70% said it was important to make cycling improvements in and around Gosforth High Street.

Newcastle City Council Facebook. When surveyed, over 70% of residents felt it was important to make cycling improvements in and around Gosforth High Street. We’ve drawn up plans for changes based on this feedback, as well as other views. Read details of the full scheme on our website: [old link]

Following that consultation, in April 2014, a petition signed by more than 3,000 people was handed into Newcastle City Council calling for a reduction in traffic to one lane each way, protected 24 hour cycle lanes, as well as opposing the reduction in spaces at Salters Road car park.

We hear-by call for: NO REDUCTION IN CAR PARKING AT ALL. PROTECTED 24 HOUR CYCLE LANES THE REDUCTION OF TRAFFIC TO ONE LANE EACH WAY STOP THE RED ROUTE

In 2018, SPACE for Gosforth sent its Your Streets – Your Views survey to residents of East and West Gosforth and Parklands wards, including a question on Gosforth High Street. The greatest concerns then were too much traffic and poor air quality.

Bar chart showing residents' concerns on Gosforth High Street. Too much traffic 56%, poor air quality 51%, traffic noise 40%, dangerous driving 32%, streets not child-friendly 32%, speeding vehicles 31%.

While air quality has improved compared to 2019 due to a reduction in traffic levels, much more could be done to make Gosforth High Street a safer, more welcoming environment.

Conclusion

The Council has a clear mandate from the unanimously supported November 2022 City Council motion on the future of Gosforth High Street. It is clear the current plan does not achieve the objectives set out in that motion.

Looking at the responses, we also see significant opposition from residents to the trial layout on Gosforth High Street.  These objections include well-founded concerns about the danger the new layout poses to those who use the High Street, and its failure to support the High Street as an important local destination.  Newcastle City Council must act now and remove the bus lane, reverting to the previous layout of one traffic lane in each direction while consulting on a future permanent layout that achieves the objectives Councillors voted for.

We are still waiting for a response from Cllr Kemp and Williams to our open letter. We hope they will act promptly rather than waiting for more people to be hurt.

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