Gosforth Councillors slam deafening silence in response to High Street feedback

October 6, 2020 10:58 AM

Gosforth High Street autumn 2020Opposition Councillors in Gosforth have slammed the Council's absent response to constructive feedback on controversial changes to Gosforth High Street, as the so-called consultation period on new social distancing measures comes to a close.

As it emerged that the Council has performed a remarkable reverse ferret on all but one of their flagship district social distancing schemes, Gosforth Councillors have questioned why it is only the scheme located in an Opposition ward that has appeared immune to meaningful changes arising from feedback.

Opposition Councillors wrote to the Cabinet Member for Transport and Air Quality, Arlene Ainsley, three weeks ago, offering constructive feedback on how her ambitions to facilitate social distancing on Gosforth High Street could be improved. An open letter was sent to Cllr Ainsley despite widespread local concern, local representatives' disappointment at the quality and coherence of the changes being implemented, and no attempt to take on board local knowledge in the development of the scheme. No response or acknowledgement to the open letter was received.

Cllr Phil Hall, Councillor for Gosforth, said: "We want to see improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure around the High Street, but what has been imposed on us is mishmash of contradictory cordoned off sections and poor signage that works for no-one. Drivers are furious at long tailbacks and delays, because no attempt has been made to signpost alternative routes or divert traffic.

"We have a strategic cycle route running parallel to the High Street, on Alwinton Terrace, Moor Road North and Moor Road South, that is crying out for investment; it needs to be properly joined up with cycling infrastructure North of Christon Road. Instead we have a temporary cycle lane that appears to blend into the extended pavement on the Northbound side of the High Street, inviting a collision between pedestrians and cyclists."

Cllr Colin Ferguson, the Opposition Deputy Leader and a Gosforth Councillor, said: "Many of our residents rightly have an interest in ensuring that they can get from A to B by car, but an increasing number of residents want to cycle and walk about the local area and tackle the Air Quality crisis, too. This scheme seems designed to please nobody and push progress back for anyone by years.

"It feels like Gosforth is the guinea pig for these changes. We can't help but notice that Labour-represented areas had their schemes reversed when social distancing rules were relaxed. Don't we all need improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, right across the City?"

Cllr Woodwark, Councillor for Gosforth, said: "Is it too much to ask that the Council properly engages with the local community to devise a scheme that can receive broad consent? You would have thought they would have learned from the debacle at Blue House roundabout and the disastrous Red Route affair how to project manage and consult properly."

UPDATE: A response from the Cabinet member was received shortly after this statement was sent to the media. Gosforth area Councillors will be following up on the matter to repeat their concerns.