Equality in expenditure? Not so.

A community group once more is getting concerned about the mixed messages on investment, spending and work programmes of an authority carrying out planning and transport duties. It’s been 1.5 years since the group highlighted the confusion about transport expenditure and planning practices to the authorities. Yet the same problems remain to today, and it may even get worse with the arrival of devolution.

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org, says “Newcastle states ambition and says it wants the city to become a Cycle City. Yet it is hard to understand how they are going about it. There certainly is ambition here. Section 5.12 of the NewcastleGateshead’s Local Plan (1Core Plan) reads

[Sustainable development] is to reduce the need for people to travel, minimise levels of congestion, improve road safety and meet climate change reduction targets

“Great aims! But meanwhile, housing developers are riding roughshod over council policy. Development sites to the Northeast of the city are kicking off swiftly, head over heels in fact. And developers are already one wily step ahead… they take the Newcastle cycle map as an excuse to provide no off-site improvements to the very lacking and rudimentary cycle network. The map, of course, is only there for orientation and way-finding, not for planning purposes.

“Of course, the developers are trying to avoid paying their dues for off-site improvements. It’s always in the developer’s interest to show that the current situation is ‘just fine’. It evades paying into the council kitty. We hear Newcastle’s coffers are empty. So income for off-site improvements must certainly be welcome. That’s basic economics.

“And how is Newcastle suggesting we meet the Section 5.12 targets from the Local Plan? Additionally, with the advent of LEPs and NECA this has clear tendencies to get worse, rather than better. As even more dilution of interests, arduous politics and administration will come into this. We must ask the councils and the North East to make decisions on the basis of future needs, and evidence. How are we reducing carbon emission, how will we reduce the need to use the car for short journeys? Where is the dedicated budget to build the necessary cycle network so people of all ages and ability are enabled to cycle? Where is the plan showing the planned network? Where are the design standards to ensure good quality infrastructure?

“We congratulate the council on John Dobson Street. And we would still be delighted to welcome Pat Ritchie for a bike ride along John Dobson Street once it’s open – although it’d only be a very short stretch indeed. We are looking forward to working with the council on the expansion of the cycle routes.”