A whopping fifty people attended the meeting on Acorn Road at the Cricket Club in Jesmond on the 23rd May. The meeting, organised by or partners Transition Jesmond as part of the Jesmond Community Festival, wanted to promote public discussion about the proposals which have been developed by the Acorn Road improvement group over the last year or so. The meeting was also reported in the Journal on 25 May.
Rev Rob Hawkins of the Jesmond Methodist Church very ably chaired the proceedings and it started off with Alan Morgan, a city guide, speaking on the history of Acorn Road as a shopping street. Earlier he had conducted a tour of the street to point out some of the features and about 15 people had attended this.
The key points of his talk were –
• Acorn Road was originally a public footpath between Friday Fields Lane (now St George’s Terrace) and the village of Jesmond near St Mary’s Chapel
• In 1875 William Temple, a builder, bought 52 acres of land for building houses and his daughter, a botanist, suggested that the streets be given botanical names
• Between 1899 and 1906 the first shops were built on the North side of Acorn Road.
• In 1889, houses were built on the corner where Tesco is now sited (Wm Low, the predecessor of Tesco, was not built until 1971)
• By 1961 there were 15 businesses on the North side
• In 1927 the shops developed on the South side and there were eventually 15 businesses including a garage
• By 1968 there were 30 businesses including 3 bakers, 2 newsagents, 4 grocers, 3 dry cleaners, 2 drapers, 2 butchers and 2 banks plus numerous other individual shops. What a marked contrast to now!
This talk was followed by two presentations Annette Hames who presented the results of the various surveys organised by the group and Sarah Cawrse the proposals for improvement.
Annette Hames is a former resident of Larkspur Terrace in the early 80s, now lives in Osborne Road, and has always shopped in Acorn Road. She joined the Acorn Road group fairly late in the process and is particularly interested in contributing to the surveys.
Sarah Cawrse is MSc student at Newcastle University studying Urban Design. Sarah originally is from the United States and studied landscape architecture there in undergrad. She is interested in Acorn Road proposal because she feels it is a change for the better and will solve some design issues of the existing road. She also lives on Larkspur Terrace, and knows the area well and supports it as a resident of Jesmond.
A wide spectrum of views were expressed by the audience and are presented in temporal order :
(a) Making Acorn Road one-way will have an impact on surrounding streets such as Mistletoe and St George’s Terrace which already suffer heavy traffic
(b) Tesco lorries cause a problem in St George’s Terrace, could they use smaller vehicles
(c) Sanderson and Larkspur Terraces residents are concerned about business parking permits being too many and reducing the available spaces for residents, the possibility of using the British Legion car park is being explored
(d) Could the opinions of St George’s Terrace residents be explored?
(e) Traffic calming measures in Acorn Road would be of benefit and North Jesmound Councillor Peter Breakey is exploring the possibility of installing a raised table at Sanderson/Larkspur junction with Highways officers
(f) Acorn Road is not fit for purpose, when it was built there were very few cars
(g) Incremental improvements (including improving the corners) could be made without adopting a scheme which has ‘little chance of being implemented’
(h) More priority should be given to pedestrians
(i) Rents could increase on the North side if pavement widened there
(j) Funding would possibly not be available from the council for the scheme but could be found if there is a broad-based community group which is properly constituted – this is not an insurmountable problem
(k) Start with bits that are broken and move on from there, using ‘parklets’ to allow spill out onto the pavement
(l) It is important to retain a vision of how Acorn Road might look in the future
The audience perhaps loosely fell into the following groups
(1) Those who don’t think any change is needed (a minority)
(2) Those who would like to change some things such as traffic speed and better appearance but are anxious about the impact of a one way street or reducing parking on the whole area
(3) Those who doubt if a bigger scheme is realistic on grounds of cost and feasibility
(4) Those who are all in favour of the scheme, and view it with enthusiasm and would like it to go further ie full closure to vehicles
For those who at the meeting, the majority were probably in favour of (2) or (3). It was therefore agreed to proceed with incremental change whilst keeping in place the possibility of trialing more holistic measures. These would include traffic calming, using the Royal British Legion for business parking, improving the corners (notably outside Evans optician and Oxfam)
An email group is being developed to encourage communication as the proposals develop.
Anyone who would like to join this please email Tony Waterston on Tony.firstname.lastname@example.org