Gosforth Terraces Bombshell

January 22, 2017 1:03 PM

East Gosforth Ward's Councillor Dominic Raymont has written to the leader of council, two of his cabinet members and the Chief Executive asking for joint action to protect the Gosforth Terraces area as three key changes threaten disruption and road safety concerns. In addition we are also exploring if the plan to remove the back lane bollards could be stopped, or at least postponed, by tapping into alternative funding streams.

Here is Dom's letter....

Dear Nick Kemp.

Thank you for answering my question at the last Council meeting. As per our conversation after I am writing to you with more details around the risks of this policy, and also how it relates to a recent policy on removal of bollards in back lanes and the impact on safety of residents/school children that this causes.

I'm copying in Cllr Forbes, Cllr Powers and Pat Ritchie, as I feel strongly that the impact of these three policies implemented together specifically in the Gosforth Terraces area has not been fully considered (due to them belonging to different cabinet portfolios) and creates a significant risk of either a terrace resident or a school pupil being involved in a serious traffic accident.

I would therefore appreciate a response from you specifically on the bins issues, and also from someone with a wider policy remit (Cllr Forbes or Cllr Powers?) to address the specific overall risks for the Gosforth Terraces raised here.

Communal bins - Cllr Kemp

I will first cover the issues around communal bins that have been brought to me by local residents, none of which are addressed in the latest impact assessment document:

1 Security

There have been a spate of crimes recently where thieves have entered terraced property over back walls and stolen items from sheds and got into the back of houses. Clearly placing a very sturdy industrial bin next to these walls (they will have to be tethered there as they can't be in the middle of the road) will increase this risk. Have you considered this risk and if so what are the mitigations?

2 Elderly/Disabled people

The premise of this policy is that people will take every bin bag from their property to a large receptacle on the back lane. For able bodied people this (compared to the current system) will be inconvenient, but to the disabled and elderly this will in some cases prove impossible. Many elderly people currently use the green bin in their back yard next to the back door, then have a neighbour or relative wheel it into the back lane for fortnightly collection. This new system will involve them taking every bag out of the back gate, and then operating the door of the communal bin, which to many will be very difficult or not possible. Have you considered this risk, and if so what will be put in place for this group of residents?

3 Access to garages

Many residents have a garage as part of their property, and therefore need access to the back lanes to park cars at night or during the day. During the trials of communal bins it was reported that the large bins affected access, and several property owners locally have raised similar concerns with me. How will access be maintained to those with garages once these large bins are on the back lanes?

4 Actual savings of this move

An e mail from Mick Murphy to Cllr Faulkner stated that £154k per annum was the gross saving of this proposal. Over the 3 year budget period that we will be considering later in the spring what will be the annual net saving over the 3 year period? So if the gross 3 year saving is £154k x 3 = £462k, what are the implementation costs in terms of new equipment and redundancy payments? This would then be deducted from the £462k and divided by 3 to give the figure I'm after.

Wider policy issues/safety - all recipients

I'm against the implementation of communal bins both on practical and financial terms, however I am gravely concerned about the combined impact on the Gosforth Terraces area of implementing this alongside two other policy changes

it has been communicated to ourselves and residents that the lane end bollards that have restricted traffic flow through several back lanes in the terraces are to be removed on financial grounds. These bollards were originally introduced (I'm led to believe) by the pre-2004 Labour administration as a way of improving road safety in the area. The current administration in 2014 then committed in an e mail to maintaining these barriers. The latest letter to residents cites the reason for removal is a cost of £10,000 over 5 years of maintaining these barriers, which have been the subject of vandalism by drivers from outside the area wanting to use these lanes as a short cut to the Great North Road.

In addition this area is close to two schools (Archbishop Runcie First School and Gosforth Central Middle School) whose crossing patrols are earmarked for removal in the 2017/18 budget.

I have two specific safety concerns around the introduction of these three policies together, which need to be urgently addressed:

1 Risk to children walking to school past Gosforth Terraces

For over 2 decades the back lanes have been blocked by the bollards, meaning that the only vehicles entering via Christon Rd have been Council refuse vehicles. School children therefore have become used to these back lane ends being safe, ad there is no car or other traffic using them at school start and finish times. The proposal to remove the bollards will effectively make these into roads, with cars speeding up them and looking to exit onto Christon Road to speed up their journeys. These may also include parents, who see a convenient way of conducting school drop-offs.

My major concern here is that this greatly increases the risk of a child being run over and injured (or worse) whilst crossing a back lane that historically has been safe, with the risk being introduced to achieve a saving of £2,000 per year. The removal of the crossing patrol on Christon Road will compound this risk, particularly in winter when it is darker at school start and finish times.

2 Risk to residents using communal bins in back lanes

The increased traffic in the back lanes combined with an increase of residents using the lanes to take out rubbish bags also gives a risk of a car hitting a resident. Car drivers using the back lanes will know that they shouldn't be using then (but there is no resource to enforce this) and therefore are more likely to speed. The large bins either side and cars passing will be a tight squeeze, and combined with poor lighting creates an unnecessary cocktail of risk of an RTA in these areas.

I feel that these risks have not adequately been considered by the Council, and they should be looked at urgently, as the combination of these three policies gives what is in my opinion an unnecessary and unacceptable safety risk. I would welcome an early reply to these concerns, and would welcome the opportunity for my ward colleagues and I to discuss this with the relevant cabinet member to ensure an alternative solution is put in place so that this continues to be a safe area to live in and travel around.

Many thanks

Dominic.