People travelling into Newcastle from Jesmond, Gosforth and further afield will have noticed that the construction works have now started on Brandling Park. This follows a physical trial at the junction with Clayton Road a few months back. It is not unfair to state we think, that there is more than a real chance of the money not being used to the best, or even a good, effect. A sum of over £100,000 is thrown at the construction phase.
Newcastle City Council has been working, on and off, on the design and consultation for options on Brandling Park for the past three years (see our statements at the end). To avoid any confusion, we perfectly understand that change does not come in a linear fashion and sometimes takes time and deliberation. However just recently another reiteration reached our inbox. Overall we are rather unhappy with what has happened recently. It is two aspects, in particular, that have us gravely concerned for the future of designing cycling infrastructure in Newcastle:
1. Technical grounds
What we have seen in the latest drawing does not look like a good technical solution, especially when much cheaper options have not been truthfully investigated. Transport planning solutions, ie better managing motor traffic flows around the Brandling Village area, would be a lot cheaper as these would not necessitate moving kerbstones. We are worried about the narrow useable width of the two-way track and its many pedestrian conflict points which lead to unsatisfactory provision for both pedestrians and cyclists. We also hold concerns about the convoluted junction design at Clayton Road. In addition we question the pedestrian provision, which we feel is now lacking.
2. Procedural grounds
Procedurally council dealt with this in an abysmal manner. The very least we could have hoped to see for the finalisation of the plans is the involvement of the Technical Advisory Group, which we are trying hard to be part of and contribute. These drawings should have been passed through the Technical Advisory Group for a final sense checking. It appears however that good-practice procedure has been breached once more. With sadness we must note, that under such conditions our volunteers find it increasingly difficult to collaborate with council. We have ideas about how the Technical Advisory Group could be run more effectively with regards to sharing rules, timescales and the group’s composition – we of course would be happy to talk to council about those ideas.
We must ask
Why did Newcastle City Council not trial this new design first? Just a few plastic upstands bolted down for a three months period would have enabled collecting a good array of vital information on the planned operation of the street. The outcome would been a good check whether an expenditure of £100,000 and more is warranted.
To us it starts to look as if council just want to spend money – regardless of the chance of a scheme’s success, or its design resilience and quality. We, in contrast, believe any money should be spent well and considered wisely on good and sound interventions, and linked strongly to policy and delivery programmes. To make sure designs are effective, a street trial should be carried out before construction. For these reasons we have consistently asked council to
- enshrine the Strategic Cycle Routes into transport and spatial planning policy
- requested to see progress reports delivery programmes and budgets
- adopt the London Cycling Design Standards into council technical practice ensure the routes’ design quality
Our previous offical communciations
NB this excludes our substantial verbal involvement and regular attendance at the Technical Advisory Group
- July 2014, raising concerns http://newcycling.org/scr4-gosforth-brandling-park-and-clayton-road/
- July 2014, proposing an alternative plan July 2014 http://newcycling.org/scr4-jesmond-our-proposal/
- June 2015, commenting on another council plan http://newcycling.org/brandling-park-plans-including-village-and-school/