Another year has come to an end; and I will attempt to quickly write up some of my thoughts about the last 12 months. It was a year of extremes: a protected cycleway was finally built on John Dobson Street, but was darkly overshadowed by the horrendous road-building plans of the Northern Access Corridor. Campaigning was, more than anything, an emotional rollercoaster this year. Never mind the varying quality of plans, on the whole I simply wished council’s programme would have been clearer, better projected and outlined, as that would have given us more time to properly prepare our position towards individual projects and schemes. Many thanks for the communities who stood up and questioned council’s plan for a road-building bonanza through the communal heart of Newcastle. That fight continues to ripple through communities, and is ripping at our heart strings. Trust in the authorities was lost and grounds must now be regained.
For one thing we could perhaps say that such polarity is at least clearly showing that we are in a phase of transition. Only then can diametrically opposed schemes like these coexist in such a short time space. My worry is this. After seven years of observing the council, I still do not see what Newcastle City Council stands for, or what it wants for its city, communities, citizens and commerce. It is clear that a solid urban future exists when good energy is designed into it: local community and local economy are allowed to thrive. It seems to me that we, too, often lose sight of that and we forget that local economy depends on citizens and local people. Traders and business wo/men are not always wise in their foresight for their city trading ground. Above all, where is a longer term and a more strategic position? A diverse transport systems attracts talents, fresh minds, pulsating lifelblood. Inclusively-designed healthy streets attract families – and keep families, our future, staying – rather than fleeing the city. With this in mind, where lies Newcastle’s future?
We need debate. The future of Newcastle is not written, but more so: there is as yet little vision for the future. Ambition and confidence is lacking too. To me it seems that Newcastle finds it hard to get out of its industrial past. It provides a strong identity but one that is throttling, stifling and choking a future outlook too. It’s clinging on to old times when, now, we need to look into the future. I am looking to Cllr Nick Forbes with his cabinet team and group of directors to clarify this for the development of the city. Personally I am proud of our Northern gritty past and I want to be proud of our gorgeous and gritty future. But it necessitates thinking and imagining, charting and projecting our city’s fate first. Then writing its story.
Let’s make 2017 the year we start debating Newcastle’s future possibilities. Let’s be allowed to dream. Let’s wonder. Let’s put ideas on the table, let’s discuss their (in)differences, their (inter)actions, pros and cons. Newcycling.org can be a partner on that panel. We, as always, have ideas – but even more so: through our years of campaigning we have gained some knowledge, familiarity and acquaintance we love to share.
To a great, debating 2017!