Ombudsman clears council for pursuing red routes scheme

The Local Government Ombudsman has exonerated Newcastle City Council of any wrong doing about its proposals for red routes in Gosforth High Street. 

In her final decision report, Ombudsman Investigator Kim Burns, said: "I have completed my investigation and found no fault by the council." 

The council plans to introduce a traffic management scheme to reduce congestion and improve safety on and through Gosforth High Street. The proposed red route would ensure no stopping during peak hours, and would also provide flexibility for local retailers by enabling parking in off-peak hours. 

Cycling improvements to and through the High Street would also feature as part of the scheme, which would help deliver the council's ambitions to promote safe cycling. 

Due to the high level of public interest, the results of the consultation and the proposals for the High Street went through full council process, including approvals by the council's Cabinet, and its Overview and Scrutiny Committee last year.  It was also debated by Full Council in January 2015 when plans were given the green light.  

In response to the council's final decision, the complainants then escalated the matter to the Local Government Ombudsman for further investigation. 

That investigation has now been completed, and the Ombudsman has found in all cases that "the council was not at fault for the way in which it decided to go ahead with a traffic management scheme." 

Councillor Ged Bell, Cabinet Member for Investment and Development, said: "We were always confident that we conducted our actions properly and we have been open, transparent and fair throughout the entire process.  

"We co-operated fully with the Ombudsman and after a lengthy review, we are pleased that this matter has now drawn to a close and we can proceed with our plans.  

"We consulted widely with residents, businesses, commuters and public transport operators, with a large number of competing demands which we worked hard to balance up. 

"This is one of the cases, where the loudest voices were not representative of the majority, so it is good news for the people who supported the scheme, but felt their voices were drowned out. 

"This is an example of one of the complex transport routes we have a duty to manage. It is strategically important for people on buses, bikes, and in cars, whilst also being a local retail centre. It connects the A1 at one end right up to the city centre at Haymarket at the order end, and has increasingly had issues with congestion, pollution, traffic noise, public transport reliability and safety that we aim to resolve.  

"The Gosforth Corridor has the worst road safety record of any transport route in the city. Over the past five years, three areas namely Hollywood Avenue, Church Road / the High Street, and Blue House Roundabout - feature in the top 10 for clusters of injuries caused by road traffic accidents. We must act to address this. 

"We have plans ready to go which will alleviate these issues, while preserving the vibrancy of Gosforth High Street. 

The planned changes for Gosforth include:  

  • the creation of a traffic management scheme on Gosforth High Street that includes cycle lanes on both sides of the carriageway from the Town Moor to West Avenue, including bus stops, freight loading and disabled access at controlled times in relevant retail areas.
  • the introduction of experimental single or double red line no stopping restrictions where appropriate; single red lines indicate time limited restrictions will be applied where off peak parking will be allowed, enabling parking on the High Street at certain times to help local businesses capture passing trade.
  • the realignment of the junction of Salters Road/Church Road with the B1318 Gosforth High Street, including the removal of a set of traffic signals and approximately 40 car parking spaces from Salters Road Car Park.
  • the alteration of current Residents Parking Permit Zones on all streets to the west of Gosforth High Street from Graham Park Road to Woodbine Road to include limited stay non-residential parking from 09:00 to 15:30 for approximately 150 metres of the street or first named crossing (whichever is furthest). 
  • the creation in principle of limited stay bays from the junction of Moor Road North and St Nicholas Avenue northbound on Moor Road North to Church Road and on Moor Road North from The Grove northwards for up to 150 metres to assist in promoting cycling along the route and provide alternative short stay parking. The parking bays are to be positioned on the western side of the carriageway. 

The council will now undertake further consultation on the proposed detail of the scheme on Gosforth High Street. This consultation will start in September and last for three weeks. Residents and local stakeholders will be able to have their say on these final proposals. 

The feedback we receive will then be reviewed, and if appropriate, changes may be made to the scheme to reflect consultation. Following this, any Legal Orders that are required to implement the proposed final scheme will be advertised, and consultation on them will then take place. 

On Church Road / Salters Road, BT are undertaking some targeted work within the car park in the next month. In early October the council's contractors will start work and this will continue into November. During this time a small number of parking bays in the car park will be lost, and some limited lane closures will be in place between 09:30 and 15:30. 

From mid November, work on the junction will stop and the car park will remain in its current form over the Christmas period. 

In January 2016, the council will recommence work to realign the junction, and work will be completed in Summer 2016. 

The changes in Gosforth are part of a much bigger transport plan with other schemes around the city. The council is investing £60 million to ensure traffic moves smoothly within, across and around the city centre. 

Planned improvements to routes through Gosforth are intended to link junctions and traffic lights through connected intelligent signalling, helping to smooth traffic flows and enable those on buses, bikes and in cars to have safer and more reliable journeys. Historically, this has not been the case, with more than 14 sets of traffic lights or roundabouts working in isolation, with little or no integration. 

More details on our wider proposals will be published in the coming months, including proposed changes to address issues within the city centre and at Blue House and Haddricks Mill roundabouts.