Gosforth 'wealthy clique' war of words breaks out over red lines to stop gridlock

Opponents of a controversial plan to ease chronic traffic jams have been branded a 'clique' of wealthy residents who want to protect their parking spaces

Daniel Thompson, chairman of STURR, hit back at the attack on the group, saying it had 95% of businesses on board with its campaign
Daniel Thompson, chairman of STURR, hit back at the attack on the group, saying it had 95% of businesses on board with its campaign

A war of words has broken out in one of the North East’s most desirable suburbs as traffic campaigners are accused of trying to rule Gosforth as a privileged clique.

The Newcastle branch of the Green Party has waded into a red lines row gripping Gosforth, calling on residents to get behind the planned council changes and stop backing a ‘crazy’ protest group.

In a sign that the battle is heating up, Green Party member and Gosforth resident Sandy Irvine has said it is time for people to get behind the planned traffic changes, rather than listening to “absurd” arguments about parking rights.

Newcastle Council wants to introduce no-stopping red lines along Gosforth High Street, alongside plans which could see cycle lanes and bus only routes added, and parking spaces removed.

The changes are strongly opposed by some traders and residents, grouping together under a Stop The Unnecessary Red Route banner. That group faces claims it is party of an exclusive Gosforth powerbase intent on preventing what the Green Party says will be changes for the better.

Mr Irvine said: “If you have travelled along the High Street recently, you will have seen posters advertising STURR. It is a clique of local residents at the south end of the High Street who have the money to wage a high profile campaign against the council’s improvement programme, especially the proposed ‘red route’.”

The plans will mean major changes along the high street
The plans will mean major changes along the high street

The Green Party member said the changes actually don’t go far enough, with parking regularly blocking cycling along the road.

Calling for people to back plans for better bus and bike access along the route, at the cost of local parking, Mr Irvine added: “The campaigners have splashed out on publicity but it has also been quite clever in its tactics.

“They make their campaign look like one on behalf of the local community when, in reality, it is about the privileges of just a few people. They have enjoyed some success so far on that basis.

“Apparently, for example, over 3,000 people locally have signed their petition. They have also got some local retailers on their side since many of them convince themselves that a bit more car parking outside their premises will transform their businesses.

“There has even been talk of a ‘right to park’, as if it were some fundamental freedom. This is absurd, trivialising the whole issue of what are fundamental rights.”

He added that the anti-red route campaign “represents a very small minority of local people” and that there “is no god-given right to have parking facilities on one’s doorstep.”

The attack did not go down well with the campaigners, who says thousands of residents back their battle with the council.

Group chairman Daniel Thompson said: “We have 95% of businesses on board here, we have 3,000 signatures, maybe a quarter of the people who live here. I am representing businesses here.

“We have 12 empty shops on the High Street, if the council reduces parking here that will double, and that will do no one any good.

“We have to learn to live with cyclists, that’s right, but we have to let people who need parking access to have that access.”

And campaigner Rob Gates said: “Plans to reduce just one lane of traffic in either direction will create gridlock. We are not promoting car use, we want to protect what is here already. We are fighting for the residents, businesses, cyclists.

“This is not just about a privileged few who lose a car parking space, although parking spaces are at risk under these plans. We are fighting for everyone because these changes will affect everyone.”

The cyclist's story - Mick Smith

I recently joined the growing numbers of us who rely on pedal power to commute to and from work each day.

Don’t get me wrong - I’m a big fan of public transport and rarely use the family car.

And so in the past I’d always catch one of the very many buses which pass through Gosforth to Newcastle city centre.

But I found myself increasingly frustrated at being snarled up in congestion from the northern edges of Gosforth High Street onwards.

On occasion it has taken half an hour or more to snake along the High Street during the laughingly named morning rush hour.

Then, once at the southern edge of the High Street, you’d crawl along until you reach the designated bus lane leading to the Blue House roundabout.

Occasionally though, because we don’t seem to have a fully integrated or co-ordinated transport policy, once you’d reach the bus lane you’d find yourself chugging slowly behind a cyclist.

To add to one’s frustration, as here in the North East we use more buses per head of the population than most other places in Britain, this tortuous journey was often undertaken hanging on to a roof strap on a bus jammed with passengers.

Forget about sitting comfortably and reading a copy of your Journal on your way into work - this was increasingly becoming a labour to test the most determined.

Now I fully appreciate the High Street is a working street - after all, it’s full of shops I use daily and bars and restaurants I wish I used even more often than I do.

But clearly, something has to be done about the congestion at key areas of the day.

Now I’m no expert, this is simply an account of my experiences, but I’ve lived in Gosforth a long time, and been as frustrated as anyone at inconsiderate parking, the lack of parking and the use of rat runs.

However, there are car parks and there is legitimate on-street parking, but as I say, I’m not an expert, simply someone who became so frustrated
at the daily commmute I got on my bike.

Now I fly past the snarl-ups, and arrive at work filled with a spirit of smug satisfaction - and who knows, one day, I might even get rid of those stabiliser wheels.

Biking to work is on the rise – but we still have a long way to go

Commuters are increasingly turning to pedal power to take them to and from work in Newcastle, new figures reveal.

The number of people cycling to work in the city has shot up by 81% - one of the largest rises in the country - between 2001 and 2011.

Yet despite just one in 37 workers choosing to travel on two wheels, the increase is being seen as a step in the right direction.

“Newcastle has worked hard to become a city that is more welcoming to cyclists and this is a big achievement for everybody involved,” said Coun Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council’s cabinet member for investment and development.

“Through the Tyneside Travel Partnership we have worked closely with major employers to help them promote cycling to their workforces and this has paid off with big rises in cycling especially to the universities and the hospitals.

“Now we are starting a major programme of reshaping our city to make it a better place to live and work and we confidently expect the numbers will continue to rise. More cycling is good for the environment and the economy, leading to a happier and healthier workforce, easing congestion, and making the city a more attractive place to do business.”

The Office for National Statistics found that the total number of workers cycling in Newcastle increased from 1,781 in 2001, to 3,223 in 2011. Newcastle had the fourth largest increase outside London and the largest in the North East, bucking a national trend in which 202 out of 348 local authority areas saw their numbers fall.

Coun Bell said there were clear economic benefits to Newcastle through investment in cycling.

“The kind of new technology businesses we want to attract to Newcastle value pleasant working and living environments for their employees,” he said. “Good cycle and walking access are becoming factors in choices about relocation.”


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