Newcastle’s key streets will not switch to pedestrian access only, claims the man behind a multi-million pound transport proposal.
City councillor Ged Bell said a new report into the biggest redesign of Newcastle’s roads in 30 years would not involve pedestrianising vast parts of the city centre.
His comments came as report Let’s Talk Transport - Re-Newcastle was called in for closer scrutiny by Liberal Democrat councillors after cabinet decided to spend £1.4m on researching a new road network.
Council proposals, which are in a preliminary stage, include redesigning Barras Bridge and St Mary’s Place, a re-modelled route between Cowgate and the A191 at Haddricks Mill in the east of the city as well as a new junction at Scotswood Bridgehead for better access to the A1.
Seventeen other city centre roads are also proposed to be the focus of future traffic plans. Work on some of the projects could start in 2015 following public consultation.
However the cabinet’s decision to spend £1.4m on initial development work before a full public consultation gets underway was debated for two hours at a special council meeting today .
While scrutiny committee members gave the green-light for the council to plough on with creating new road designs, Liberal Democrat councilor Greg Stone said he still had concerns over a ‘marked lack of clarity’ on the council’s vision for the city centre.
Labour councillor Ged Bell, Newcastle City Council cabinet member for Investment and Development, said: “I’m delighted that the scrutiny committee agreed to support the cabinet’s report unanimously and I look forward to consulting with Newcastle residents, businesses and road users.”
During the meeting Coun. Bell said it was key that Newcastle kept up with other local authorities levels of investment in transport and described concerns over wide-spread pedestrianisation as scare-mongering and speculation.
During the meeting held at the Civic Centre yesterday afternoon, he said: “We will talk to people and then determine where we need to do further work and where the traffic might back up. The pedestrianisation of the city is absolute nonsense - none of that is in the report whatsoever.”
Coun. Stone, who requested the cabinet’s decision be called in for further scrutiny, said: “The call-in wasn’t carried but there is clearly significant public interest in what the council plan for the city centre and the impression has been created that they are looking at a scheme for major streets like Percy Street, Barras Bridge and John Dobson Street and there’s a marked lack of clarity about what they plan to do there.”
During the meeting the North Heaton ward representative said it could be argued that the report includes elements of a large scale pedestrian plan, however Coun. Bell said that was not the agenda but that there was a case for creating public spaces, as seen with the success of the Central Station portico.
The committee agreed to keep the Re-Newcastle report and further developments on its scrutiny meeting agendas and it was also suggested that a separate working group should be created to specifically follow the transport plans in the future.