Gosforth High Street has been designed like a bypass rather than a shopping destination

Gosforth High Street has been designed like a bypass rather than a shopping destination.

Bus lanes designed to get buses through as fast as possible. Customers wanting to cycle to the shops forced by heavy traffic to go elsewhere. Dominated by traffic passing through without stopping and no real improvement to the pedestrian environment.

The new trial layout on Gosforth High Street has been in place for five months, with just a few weeks left for residents to comment, and pretty much it is working (or rather not working) exactly as we predicted.

It doesn’t create any extra space for pedestrians because bollards are still needed to separate people walking from traffic. It doesn’t work for the vast majority of people who could cycle because (unlike the bollards) paint doesn’t provide any separation from traffic. It doesn’t work for deliveries which inevitably end up blocking either the bus lane or a cycle lane, and it doesn’t work for buses because there’s little or no enforcement to stop people parking in the bus lane. 

If you want a better, more ambitious, plan for Gosforth High Street, you need to respond to the Council’s consultation ASAP. See below for our suggestions. Please also be clear you don’t want a return to the pre-Covid layout as that was no better!

A Better Alternative

SPACE for Gosforth wants a design for Gosforth High Street that prioritises its role as a shopping street and community hub: a street where all of the community feel welcome, a street that is safe, attractive and accessible, a street that prioritises movement to and between the shops rather than non-stopping passing traffic.

The table below describes how priorities for a shopping street / community hub would differ from what is currently being trialed.

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

If you agree and want Gosforth High Street to be designed as a community hub / shopping destination please let Newcastle City Council know by 21 September. We have included some specific, practical suggestions for how to do this below.

Newcastle City Council’s consultation on Gosforth High Street ends 21 September 2023. You can make your views known here: https://gosforthhighstreet.commonplace.is/

Target market

We have mapped Newcastle’s District Shopping Centres showing that people who will use Gosforth High Street, rather than one of Newcastle’s other District Centres, will mostly live within about a mile and a half of Gosforth High Street – a 30 minute walk or a 10 minute bike ride (where there are safe low-traffic routes). 

District Centres are classified in the Council’s Local Plan as being a “focus for a wider range of convenience goods and services which serve a wide catchment area. They usually contain at least one supermarket / superstore, offer a range of non-retail services (for example, shops, banks, cafes, restaurants and public houses), have good public transport links, strong walk-in catchments and some contain local / community facilities, such as a library.” The Local Plan also designates local centres like Ashburton Road, Station Road and Acorn Road, which “contain a smaller range of shops and services which support the daily needs of a smaller catchment area.”

The purple dashed line in the diagram below shows the main catchment area for Gosforth High Street compared to other District Centres. That’s not to say people won’t travel from further away, but most likely the majority of customers will likely live in this area.

Overlaying travel times shows:

  • about a third of the people in this area (within the purple dashed line) could walk to Gosforth High Street in 15 minutes.
  • about two thirds could get to Gosforth High Street in 15 minutes by bus.
  • everyone in this area could get to Gosforth High Street in 15 minutes (most likely much less) by cycling.

If local streets were safe for people to cycle to the shops then that would enable many more customers to access the shops and services on Gosforth High Street with no additional noise or air pollution and no additional congestion. It would also free up parking spaces for those that need to drive, whether for health or any other reason.

Goods and Services

Gosforth High Street is unlikely ever to be able to compete with the internet or giant out of town stores on range, price or volume/bulky goods.

Gosforth High Street will have a competitive advantage when it comes to:

  • Convenience – if you need something quickly
  • Service – if you need in-person advice or support
  • Entertainment and experience – especially pubs, cafes and restaurants
  • Other in-person services like opticians or medical services
  • Perishable goods like fresh bread or flowers
  • “Top-up” shopping – if you need a few extra bits and pieces rather than a big shop
  • Having a mix of shops and services, including a mix of independent shops and national chains.
  • Unusual or specialist goods.

Local independents like Carruthers and Kent, Jump, Yumlush and Thorpes are successful (in our view) because they take advantage of multiple of these, especially service, convenience and experience, and together they are part of Gosforth High Street’s unique character that sets it apart from the city centre and other local district centres.

From a design perspective, it is important to note that none of these require a customer to own a car and, while you can buy a fridge (at Argos) or lawnmower (at Thorpes), stores selling larger goods will deliver if needed.

What does this mean in practice?

These are the main changes that would support Gosforth High Street to be a community hub and shopping destination, enabling as many customers as possible to access the High Street safely and without adding to existing congestion and pollution.

  1. Returning the central section of Gosforth High Street (about 500m) to a single minimum-width vehicle lane in each direction. Narrow lanes are both safer and mean more space for other uses.
  2. Retain the north-bound bus lane up to Elmfield Road. This will be sufficient to ensure consistent bus journey times.  In future look to using Regent Centre as an interchange for long-distance buses, as it was designed for.
  3. Install safe cycling facilities usable by all ages and abilities as committed to at the November 2022 City Council Meeting, both along and to the High Street.
  4. 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. 
  6. Pedestrianise side street-ends so people walking along the High Street have priority over turning vehicles in line with the new Highway Code
  7. Reduce non-local traffic using streets either side of the High Street to make it safer and more pleasant for people to walk or cycle to Gosforth High Street.
  8. Look for opportunities to improve the pedestrian environment e.g. for street cafes, planting or benches, including at ends of side streets. 
  9. Extend the 20mph zone north past Gosforth Academy, west past Gosforth Junior Academy and south to the Little Moor.

If you support these changes you need to make your view known to the Council.

Newcastle City Council’s consultation on Gosforth High Street ends 21 September 2023. You can make your views known here: https://gosforthhighstreet.commonplace.is/