BRIDGE CLOSURES: Councillor wants ‘speedy’ decision on bridge saga
Stoneyhurst Bridge in South Gosforth, Image: LDRS
A top-ranking councillor has demanded a “speedy resolution” to the saga over a series of bridge closures in Newcastle.
Ged Bell, the city’s Labour transport chief, says he wants to deliver a final answer soon on whether the series of traffic bans will be made permanent.
Since August 2020, vehicles have been prohibited from crossing Salters Bridge in Gosforth, Castle Farm Road Bridge next to Jesmond Dene, Haldane Bridge in Jesmond, the Argyle Street Bridge near Manors Metro station, and Stoneyhurst Bridge in South Gosforth.
The measures were designed to stop rat-running and give more space to cyclists and walkers, but have sparked vocal opposition in some corners.
On the one-year anniversary of the low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) last month, Newcastle City Council said that a decision was due “in the coming weeks” on the scheme’s future, though a legal order allows the trial to run for up to 18 months.
There has also been no update on the prospect of new LTNs coming to Arthur’s Hill, Fenham, Heaton, and Jesmond, which the council announced back in June would be “progressed imminently” before similar measures are rolled out across the entire city over the next two years.
Liberal Democrat councillor Wendy Taylor asked for the latest on the plans on Thursday, saying that the divisive Stoneyhurst closure in particular was “causing a lot of concern” on both sides of the debate and “pitting one section of the community against the other”.
Coun Bell responded that he wanted “to get a speedy resolution and decision on this”, with civic centre transport officials still deliberating over the results of a six-month public consultation and data on the closures’ impacts.
The Labour councillor, who took on the council’s transport portfolio after former councillor Arlene Ainsley lost her seat in May, told the council’s overview and scrutiny committee: “I have asked officers to see if there are any resources required to speed the process up.
“They are in the final stages but I don’t have a time as yet, I have asked that question again today [Thursday].
“I want the decision to be out sooner rather than later.
“But because of the circumstances, the five bridges and the number of neighbourhoods involved, I want to make sure that there is a robust decision with the evidence behind it.”
Coun Bell also said that he was receiving more emails from residents who support LTNs and want them in their neighbourhood than those opposed to the measures.
A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “Creating safer, cleaner and greener neighbourhoods by reducing through traffic in neighbourhoods is a key commitment of the council.
“The six-month public consultation on the closure of five bridges to traffic generated a wide range of views and it is really important that we fully consider the evidence on the impact of the closures on local communities before making a long-term decision. This review is being finalised, with a decision due in the coming weeks.
“We’re also finalising new schemes for Arthur’s Hill, Fenham and Heaton which we will outline imminently.”
Words: Daniel Holland, Local Demcoracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV