What do these stages mean?
Newcastle City Council has clarified its process for the development, design and delivery of highways and public space schemes to ensure that all development plans are communicated clearly to the general public and stakeholders.
It is important that the reasons behind why we are proposing changes, and the benefits as a result of these changes are explained. Proposals for change are often focused on delivering the policies of the Council contained within our adopted Plan - a short powerpoint presentation on these transport policies can be accessed by clicking here (powerpoint file, 6.75MB).
Our process is generally comprised of seven stages (a summary of which can be found below). However, on occasion, for example where a scheme will be addressing road safety issues, we will move directly to technical consultation while circulating information on the rationale for a scheme.
Stage 1 - Identify the problems - do early design
Stage 1 involves us identifying the problems associated with the area and setting objectives for projects in order to address them. There are several reasons that could result in us proposing changes or improvements to highways or public spaces. Although it is usually a combination of factors, these could include;
•Concerns over safety or evidence that collisions/injuries are a regular occurrence
•High levels of congestion
•Reliability concerns for public transport
•Environmental factors such as poor air quality levels
•Unsuitable or dated infrastructure that needs updating
•Or it may be that a location is the most suitable for a required piece of infrastructure such as cycle lanes or provisions for low carbon.
We also work with key stakeholders across the city to understand what their issues are and whether highways improvements would help to address them.
As we identify these problems, we set out how we want to improve them and start to consider what can be done. This stage is undertaken within the Council, we work with colleagues from across various departments as part of this.
Stage 2 - Establish the preferred option
During Stage 2 we work through a range of possible solutions and establish our preferred option. This can include several iterations of designs, often with support from independent parties. It can also include engagement with high interest stakeholders such as bus operators and technical advisory groups and we may also take the opportunity to talk to land owners or businesses in the area. The options will be discussed and tweaked until a preferred option for engagement is identified. It is important to note that not all stakeholders may agree with our preferred option, and that this preferred option could change during the public engagement process and consultation that follows.
Stage 3 - Refine the scheme through engagement
Stage 3 involves engaging more widely on the proposed scheme and we attempt to explain to the general public, residents and businesses the reasons for our proposals and then listen to their feedback. It focuses on gathering comments and feedback on the proposals. Even though we have considered various options we usually only release one proposal for comment.
This stage is accompanied by a communications plan and an engagement plan which we use to involve people who might be interested. Generally we have information online, letters are posted to residents and businesses and public events are held for face to face discussions. For larger schemes there are often press releases in local media and a dedicated email address, as well as messages on social media such as Twitter.
Once comments have been received, they are collated and analysed. Where possible, feedback is incorporated into the proposals and our proposals may be revised based on the opinions received. After having decided whether or not to make any changes, we start our consultation process.
Stage 4 - Consult on an option - decide what to do
When introducing a large highways scheme we will undertake two stages of consultation. The first is our technical consultation which is an advisory consultation with emergency services, local ward councillors, other road users such as bus operators and cycling groups. At this time we also consult with any directly affected residents and businesses.
Our second stage of consultation is Statutory Consultation where we formally advertise any Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs or ‘legal orders’) associated with a scheme. Most schemes will contain one or more features which require a legal order and these mostly involve proposed changes to traffic movements. This will include advertising things like speed limits, waiting restrictions, restrictions on movement eg No Entry restrictions, and also advertising any proposed pedestrian crossing facilities or traffic calming like speed humps or speed cushions. The legal orders are advertised in the press and at the location of the proposed changes , and we are also legally required to write to specific stakeholders such as the emergency services and utility companies.
Consultation is another opportunity to provide feedback on the proposals, however at this stage the feedback is more formal. Feedback during consultation should be focussed on the technical elements of the scheme, rather than the principles behind the proposals. Comments received at this stage will be reviewed and where appropriate, changes could be made to elements of the proposals.
At both technical and statutory consultation stages, positive and negative formal responses are welcome from everyone. However, we will only accept representations in writing to the following address; Newcastle City Council, Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH and to the schemes’ dedicated email addresses. Formal responses must be received within the deadline specified (usually 21 days).
Responses at statutory consultation stage can have a serious impact on the progress of a scheme; if an objection is made at this stage, it will be considered by the Delegated Officer for a final decision as to whether the objection should be upheld or set aside and indeed if the scheme should proceed. It is important to note that the person submitting the objection needs to do so formally in writing. Objections to certain types of legal orders may need to be referred to a Public Inquiry held by a representative of the Secretary of State, rather than being dealt with by a Delegated Officer of the City Council.
Even after a decision from the Delegated Officer, those that have objected to the TROs can seek to proceed to a judicial review.
Stage 5 - Inform, promote, plan for delivery
Stage 5 involves us taking the final, agreed proposal and designing it in detail. At this point it is generally handed over to the city's Engineers, who will analyse specifics of the design such as the change in levels of the highway, drainage solutions, utility equipment the best materials to use. Occasionally, the designs can alter slightly from the final proposal due to unforeseen circumstances or physical restrictions that we encounter on site during detailed excavations.
While we are undertaking the detailed design, disruption planning also takes place. We aim to work with partners to proactively manage expectations and minimise the impact of work during construction. We endeavour to inform those affected of the disruption the scheme will cause in advance of the work starting and help them plan alternative routes.
Stage 6 - Deliver the scheme and manage disruption
This is the actual construction work required to implement the changes. In most cases, there is preparatory work required before construction work takes place - for example the relocating of traffic light ducts or the digging of trial holes to check depths.
When the work does start on site, we aim to minimise disruption as much as possible and continue to inform people of progress, providing advice about alternative routes, delays and timescales.
Stage 7 - Evaluate the impact
After the scheme is complete, we monitor its impact and report on its effectiveness. Depending on the size of the scheme or the source of funding, we may undertake a range of reporting to different agencies or funders such as the North East Combined Authority (NECA) or Local Entreprise Partnership (LEP), Department for Transport (DfT), other Government departments or European organisations. Reports should also be provided to relevant councillors and if appropriate the Council Cabinet.