Proposals for Blue House roundabout have reached a new milestone as Newcastle City Council considers recommendations from local residents and interest groups on the future of the Gosforth junction.
Following public backlash to a consultation in July 2016 to expand the junction on to Town Moor land, the council invited campaigners to work with them to develop alternative proposals.
The recommendations are based on a year-long process, with workshops held with community members and overseen by an independent specialist transport planner. The council will review them before a formal decision is made.
Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality said: “I would like to thank the Blue House Working Group for their valuable contributions in collaborating with us on a design for this dangerous junction.
“Blue House roundabout has an appalling safety record that we need to address for the thousands of people who use this junction every day, as well as making it safer and greener for the people who live nearby.
“This is a major junction on a key route into the city centre, which is nestled between the Town Moor and local homes so balancing everyone’s needs in fixing this junction is a complex task.
“I welcome the recommendations from the group and once we have reviewed them, we will make a formal announcement on the future of this notorious junction.”
Built in the 1950’s, the junction’s poor layout and design has resulted in it being a well-known collision hotspot. Over 30,000 vehicles use the junction daily, which suffers from high levels of congestion with queuing on all approaches during peak hours, causing toxic levels of air pollution.
The council has worked with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership to secure over £20m to improve a series of junctions and roads across the north of the city including Cowgate, Blue House, Haddricks Mill double roundabout in South Gosforth and widening the pinchpoint on Killingworth Road.
Independent Chair, John Dales, who facilitated the group’s work said: “I have enjoyed working with the Blue House Working Group. There were, of course, some differences of opinion between group members, and some important questions that are hard to answer, especially to everyone’s satisfaction. With so many issues at stake, and so little certainty about future traffic growth, there simply isn’t a single ‘right answer’. It will be the Council’s role to consider what action is now taken.
“The approach to change that I am recommending, based on the group’s work, is one that tackles the pressing safety issues, sits largely within the existing footprint of the current junction, and will improve conditions for travel by bus, on foot, and by bike.
“These improvements, which will enable local people to leave their cars at home for shorter journeys, will be vital in limiting traffic growth; thereby giving them a direct role in preserving the Town Moor they have fought so hard to save.
“If we manage to reduce the number of vehicles using the junction, especially for short trips, then this solution may last for many years to come. In essence, the group has agreed that it is wiser to try and reduce motor traffic growth than invest in a junction layout that would make growth more likely.”
The recommendations highlight both that current peak traffic flows through the junction are around 10% lower than ten years ago, and that there are important questions about the reliability of the official national predictions of future traffic growth on which the 2016 proposal was based.
The Blue House Working Group believes that, by making walking, cycling and bus travel more attractive, many residents will be influenced by the incentives to change their travel mode on shorter local journeys created by the new design.
While the proposed junction layout sits within the existing roundabout footprint, it is designed in such a way that it could be enlarged, should the impact on air quality or motor traffic levels through the junction increase sufficiently to make that necessary. The recommendations propose that, should the junction need to be enlarged, the historic avenues of trees would be protected, and any land take from Town Moor minimised, were the now-empty Blue House building to be demolished to make room for an enlarged junction.
Newcastle City Council will review the recommendations to ensure it fits with the council’s priorities and meets Government funding requirements. A final decision will be made in early 2018, and if approved a public consultation will follow.