A neighbourhood divided: inside Jesmond's traffic transformation

An investigation into the Jesmond community's reaction to the LTN.

Sam Norman
23rd October 2023
Image Credit: Peter McDermott
Following the continuation of the controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood in Jesmond, The Courier explores the root cause of the new restrictions and its impact on Jesmond's student and wider community.

On 6 March, Jesmond became the fourth neighbourhood in the City of Newcastle to be designated a low traffic zone. Measures were installed with the Council citing aims to restrict rat-running and create safer, cleaner and greener neighbourhoods. These restrictions included blocking traffic from cutting through residential streets between Osborne Road and Cradlewell. The trial scheme, that has run six of its expected 18 months, has ignited a wave of outrage leading to a circulating petition opposing the move that has garnered over 4,000 signatures.

SPACE for Jesmond is an organisation, with counterparts in Heaton and Gosforth, consisting of residents of the neighbourhood who support the LTN. SPACE have campaigned and called for stricter measures in Jesmond since 2020 where their first meeting occurred; a detailed timeline of their work can be found on their website. The Courier reached out to SPACE in order to gain further insight into their stance on the LTN. SPACE expressed “as campaigners for active travel we do support the trial;” the group have consistently urged the council to improve the traffic standard within Jesmond.

Divisive opinions have continued to emerge, leading to the public consultation on the scheme extending five weeks, now ending 15 October. Councillor Jane Byrne said: “we want to make sure everyone who wishes to comment on the scheme has had a fair opportunity to do so. There’s already been a great deal of feedback, which we welcome, and a significant number of requests for information, which we are continuing to respond to.”
Residents will be curious to see if the Jesmond scheme follows a similar path to its Fenham counterpart, where the scheme did continue for the full 18 months trial, but was scrapped following. Imogen, a Newcastle University postgraduate, told The Courier “I moved from Jesmond to Fenham a few months ago […] I was glad to move to an area without these unnecessary restrictions.” Imogen continued: “traffic flows well through Fenham and everywhere is very easy to navigate. Jesmond became hectic and difficult to navigate and I was glad to move to an area without the unnecessary restrictions.” She noted “new students moving [to Jesmond] were unaware of changes” due to SATNAVs having not being updated, leading to several cases of confusion. The Courier enquired SPACE’s perspective on the Fenham case: “like many Fenham residents we were disappointed that the scheme didn’t work out.” They added “as we understand the council can only legally modify a scheme like this in the first six months and it can’t extend it past the 18-month trial.” SPACE summarised “if a scheme doesn’t work as intended, they are legally required to remove it, and if they want, restart the process.” There has yet to be any updated on a revamped Fenham scheme.

The Jesmond scheme has attracted controversy surrounding the Northumberland Police, after One Jesmond’s, a campaign group against the LTN, freedom of information (FOI) request to the police. The revelations outlined the police’s belief the “implementation is likely and has increased the time taken to deploy to incidents in the area of Jesmond.” The FOI highlighted concerns around Operation Oak – the police-led initiative which is funded by both Newcastle and Northumbria Universities in order to combat student-related anti-social behaviour. The FOI disclosed “due to restrictions in place, this is adding additional traveling time to officers who may need to travel from East to the West of the area and to do this use the main arterial roads as opposed to utilising the previous through roads. Not only will there be added time attending incidents due to the restrictions, but our fuel consumption will be greater.”

A common reoccurance from the survey was the sentiment the scheme is a starting point, but requires some development.

The concerns of Northumberland Police are echoed through residents of Jesmond, with the circulating petition of 4,000 signatories demanding the removal of the bollards. Responding to an open survey created by The Courier students expressed strong views towards the LTN. Olivia, a third year at Newcastle, stated “it’s caused more traffic on the main Jesmond Roads that cause other roads around it to be blocked up. A five minute journey has took me over an hour to complete – that is not environmental.” Similarly, Araminta, a third year, answered “it’s increased traffic at rush hour and caused traffic at off peak hours, which in turn creates more carbon emissions. Also, the barricades have caused Uber prices to increase, and they refuse trips because of the inconvenience.” Nonetheless, multitudes of students have expressed support for the scheme. Anthony, a fourth year, responded to The Courier’s survey stating: “there will be a net benefit to residents, providing extensive research and thoughtful planning are followed.” He adds his “hope is the scheme is successful to act as an example to other neighbourhoods around the city that they can be a positive thing.”

A common reoccurance from the survey was the sentiment the scheme is a starting point, but requires some development. An Anonymous third year agreed the LTN is “a good scheme” that “needs to be made bigger.” SPACE’s envisionment of these improvements include “the potential to get some planters installed or to create more social spaces like pocket parks.” Though added they added “[planters] need looking after though” and keenly expressed “it would be great to see Newcastle University adopt one or two of them.”

In communication with The Courier OneJesmond - a resident group opposed to the Low Traffic Scheme - expressed how they are "strongly against" the current measures. Lyndon, the spokesperson for OneJesmond, stated "even though we support moves towards Net Zero, this is not a good one." OneJesmond stands firm in its objective "for the council to remove the bollards immediately and to work with the community towards a just and viable solution."

SPACE remain optimistic following the six month trial – “we don’t think it’s realistic to expect decades of car-centric management of Jesmond’s streets to be reversed in a short trial, but the Council’s interim monitoring data showed a noble uptick in walking and cycling and we’d expect that to increase as the measured bed in.” SPACE noted “the West Jesmond Primary bike shed is now full every morning” as well as the “council’s consultation page reporting that the neighbourhood is much safer and more sociable feeling.” Recognising the petition, SPACE told The Courier “it’s not clear how many of the signatories of the petition are local, but there are 20,000 residents in Jesmond. The silent majority may not be in favour of the scheme but nor do we think they want to rip it all out and go back to thousands of cards driving down residential streets every day.” Notably SPACE, acknowledged the importance for the Council to “listen to all voices” and are “waiting for the council’s monitoring data for a fuller picture.”

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AUTHOR: Sam Norman
Head of Current Affairs 23/24. Campus Comment Sub-editor 22/23. BA English Language and Literature Student.

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