Labour councillor says red route protesters should hang their heads in shame

Newcastle City Councillor Ged Bell has blasted Gosforth red route protesters after a 3,000 name petition was handed in

STURR- Stop The unnecessary Red Route signposts outside homes in Gosforth
STURR- Stop The unnecessary Red Route signposts outside homes in Gosforth

Some people in Gosforth “should hang their heads in shame” over protests about a controversial traffic scheme, a defiant council investment boss has said.

Protesters fighting parking changes in Gosforth were told that some of them had been confrontational when discussing proposals with council staff.

The claim was made at a Newcastle Council meeting by Ged Bell, the Labour councillor tasked with pushing through more than £6m worth of road changes on Gosforth High Street.

As protester Daniel Thompson handed in a petition more than 3,000 names strong, Newcastle Council said it had to bring in no-stopping red lines alongside bike lanes and remove parking spaces in order to make the road safer.

Mr Bell said: “I want to place on the record my thanks to our staff who have worked on the consultation. I think they have been very professional.

“Some of the residents who have come in as part of the consultation have not been of a polite frame of mind. Sometimes they have been downright rude.

“I will discuss this with other Labour councillors with responsibility in this area. I think that the staff can lift their heads high but some of the residents should hang their heads in shame over the way they have treated our staff.”

Red route opponents from Gosforth were outraged when Mr Bell refused to say if a final decision on the scheme would be made at a public meeting or behind closed doors.

Mr Bell, a fireman outside of his council role, said the safety statistics along the roads meant there was no choice but to act.

Saying that he had seen too many horrific accidents, he told opponents the only way to prevent further injury or death was to make the changes to the route.

He told councillors at the Civic Centre that Gosforth High Street and the Great North Road make up the slowest of all the main routes in Tyne and Wear during the rush hour, with an average travel time of 7.3 minutes per mile.

“In Gosforth the accident record speaks for itself,” he said. “Between 2004 and 2012 there have been 54 accidents along the High Street, with more accidents at nearby roads and once every two weeks someone goes to hospital as the result of an accident on these stretches of road.

“In the last five years 19 car drivers and 15 cyclists were hurt, meaning that you are 20 times more likely to be injured as a cyclist than in a car along the High Street.”

Robert Gates of the Stop The Unnecessary Red Routes group said after the meeting: “Labour councillors seemed not to listen to a single word that was said and arrived with preconceived expectations and prepared speeches which did not address any of the issues we raised.

“We found Labour’s refusal to even acknowledge 3,312 residents’ views to be extremely rude and ignorant. Instead of implying that our supporters had behaved inappropriately towards consultation staff, a totally ridiculous idea, maybe they should instead take a hard look at themselves first.

“Bouncing statistics around about accidents and experiences Ged had as a fireman pulling people out of axles of HGVs were highly inappropriate. Our suggestions were all based upon improving the safety of the council’s own dangerous proposals, so we don’t need lectures on safety.”

A city council spokesman said: “Gosforth High Street is a vitally important route which has an impact on how traffic moves around the entire city. At present, the congestion levels are hampering traffic movements across Newcastle and are unsafe for local residents and visitors to Gosforth.

“A consultation is under way and no decisions will be taken until the feedback from local people has been analysed and understood. The final decision will be taken in the best interests of the city.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer