Meeting hears recommendations from Blue House Working Group

The Blue House Working Group recently made recommendations to Newcastle City Council about the Blue House Roundabout and a public meeting was arranged on 12 March 2018 so that local residents could hear more from the working group.

John Dales, Independent Chair of Blue House Working Group, invited local residents and other stakeholders to a meeting to find out more about the Group’s recommendations about the Blue House junction and the principles that underpin them.

Residents filled the senior school hall at Newcastle School for Boys – photo courtesy Katie Dickinson from Twitter @KatieJDickinson

There was a packed room in the senior school hall at Newcastle School for Boys on The Grove, Gosforth for the meeting which started at 6.30pm.

John Dales introduced the proposals and other members of the Working Group explained how they had been involved with the process of developing the recommendations.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for some questions from the audience, which were responded to by members of the Blue House Working Group and a representative from Newcastle City Council, Graham Grant who is Head of Transport Investment with the Council.

Representatives at the meeting

A number of community groups were represented at the meeting who spoke including:

  • Nick Moore, Chair, High West Jesmond Residents Association
  • Veronica Stoner, Chair, West Gosforth Residents Association
  • Tony Waterson, Chair, Jesmond Residents Association
  • Peter MacDonald, Space for Gosforth
  • Sally Watson, Newcastle Cycling Campaign
  • Andrew Lambert, Gosforth Traffic

Speakers also included two of our local councillors:

  • Stella Postlethwaite, Cllr North Jesmond (Lab)
  • Nick Cott, Cllr West Gosforth (Lib Dem)

Recommendations made to the Council

Current view of Blue House Roundabout, High West Jesmond – from Google Maps

John Dales explained that the working group had made recommendations to the Council.

It was noted that traffic flows at the Blue House Roundabout in 2016 were 10% lower than they had been in 2008 and that this equated to approximately 400 less peak hour vehicles.

Drawing A – proposed by the Blue House Working Group

Drawing A sets out the scope of change recommended at the Blue House junction in the immediate future. This involves limited work.

Drawing B – proposed by the Blue House Working Group

Drawing B sets out how this could be further built upon in the future to increase traffic capacity if this was required. This is more major work, a bigger roundabout and demolition of the Blue House itself.

Download the BHWG presentation

You can download the 52 page pdf slide deck used for the 12 March 2018 presentation here – Blue House Working Group 12 March 2018 presentation

You can read more about the recommendations from the Blue House Working Group here – Blue House Working Group makes recommendations

Council not able to respond to recommendations before purdah starts

The audience was interested in knowing what the next steps would be and when Newcastle City Council would respond to the recommendations it had received from the Blue House Working Group. And when Newcastle City Council would publish its revised plans for the roundabout.

Graham Grant, Head of Transport Investment at Newcastle City Council said that Newcastle City Council would not be able to respond within the next two weeks and then, after 27 March 2018, the ‘purdah’ rules on the run up to the local government elections on 3 May 2018 would prevent the council from making an announcement until after the elections.

This means that local residents will not know the council plans as they go to the polls to elect their local councillors.

Following changes to the ward boundaries in Newcastle upon Tyne the local government election on 3 May will be an ‘all-out’ election with every seat being contested at the same time, rather than the normal third of the seats being up for election. All 78 seats will be up for re-election with electors voting for up to 3 candidates.

Residents were shown recommendation Drawing A – for potential development at Blue House Roundabout – photo courtesy Oliver Ross Assogna from Twitter @OliverR_Assogna

Council to undertake work

Graham Grant explained that the council was undertaking work following receipt of the recommendations from the Blue House Working Group.

He also noted that the council was keen to keep the Blue House Working Group involved as the council develops its plans.

Graham announced that the council’s work would include:

  • Reviewing detailed plans;
  • undertaking a ‘micro simulation’ model;
  • undertaking modelling using air quality software;
  • sharing the results of work with the Blue House Working Group;
  • discussing matters with the Stewards’ Committee of the Freeman of the City of Newcastle;
  • discussing with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) how criteria for funding can be used; and
  • considering the impact of changes in the public’s travel behaviour.

Graham Grant also committed that representatives from the Blue House Working Group would be invited to meetings with both the North East LEP and the Steward’s Committee.

Questions from audience

Following questions from the audience about openness and transparency, Graham Grant also noted that he was more than happy to give access to the council’s modelling information so that those who were interested would have the opportunity to study the details.

A member of the Blue House Working Group noted that they had challenged some of the outputs from earlier data models as not making sense and when the Council reviewed these again different results were obtained.  John Dales acknowledged that traffic models were always challenging.

Another audience member asked why comments/questions previously left on the Blue House Working Group website had not been responded as not responding did not fulfil the definition of engagement. 

Whilst the Blue House Working Group website had been set up by Newcastle City Council and Open Labs at Newcastle University, a volunteer member of the Blue House Working Group offered an apology that the resources had not been deployed to respond to comments that had been left.

Going forwards, anyone who wishes to receive future updates from the council was asked to leave their email address with Ali Lamb. The council plans to send an update email within the next 2 weeks.

As well as local residents and stakeholders the meeting was also attended by reporters from the Newcastle Chronicle and Jesmond Local. The meeting closed at 8.30pm.

Background reading

You can read more about the recommendations from the Blue House Working Group here – Blue House Working Group makes recommendations
You can read the response from Newcastle City Council here – Council welcomes residents input into Blue House junction proposals