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Jesmond bollards scrapped: Council confirms it will remove Low Traffic Neighbourhood next week

Jesmond’s controversial Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) will be axed, it has been announced.

Bollards installed last year to block traffic from cutting through residential streets between Cradlewell and Osborne Road are set to be removed next Monday, 5 February – cutting short a trial period that could have lasted until September.

Newcastle City Council said on Wednesday morning that the project “had achieved many of the objectives set out” over the last 11 months, but that it was “clear” that it had not worked for everyone.

The LTN was installed in March 2023, with the aim of making residential areas safer and less polluted for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, the scheme has proved divisive and has been the subject of intense debate ever since.

While supporters have praised the closures for having made streets cleaner and more attractive, opponents have alleged that it has led to congestion on surrounding main roads and harmed local businesses.

It has also emerged that Northumbria Police held concerns about the LTN, with data showing that the force’s response times to serious incidents in areas affected by the bollards worsened in the first months after their installation.

An internal council probe was also launched last year into whether the implementation of LTNs across the city complied with Government guidance, following allegations made at a turbulent audit committee meeting last July, but its findings have twice been delayed and are yet to be published.

The council said it had more than 23,500 responses to a public consultation on whether to make the LTN permanent and that “up to 77%” of people opposed it, while a petition calling for its removal attracted almost 5,000 signatures.

But the authority added that its data “did not show there was any evidence” to back up complaints of road safety issues or increased air pollution on main roads in Jesmond since the bollards’ installation.

Labour councillor Marion Williams, the council’s cabinet member responsible for transport, said:  “Low-traffic neighbourhoods were introduced because communities told us they wanted their streets to be safer, cleaner and greener. The streets involved in the Jesmond scheme have seen significant reductions in traffic and we have achieved many of the objectives of the project.

“However, anything we introduce needs to work for local people and it is clear that some aspects of this scheme have failed to do that. We carried out an open consultation because our residents have a voice. You can help shape our decision making and we have listened to that feedback.

“But it is not the consultation alone that has led to this decision. All evidence gathered, including the data monitoring, has been considered.

“Those residents who supported the pilot will be disappointed. We know you felt your streets were safer with the measures in place.

“I want to make clear that we are committed to making improvements to how people move around Newcastle. There are lessons to be learnt from this pilot, including how we can better engage residents when designing future schemes.

“We want a greener future for our city and we want a safer community for families, but, crucially, we want you to shape what that looks like. In the coming weeks, we will be looking to engage with people in the area to see what future improvements can be made to improve the lives of residents.”

The closures have been in place on Manor House Road and its junctions with Osborne Avenue, Shortridge Terrace, Buston Terrace, and Cavendish Terrace, as well as on Jesmond Dene Road and Akenside Terrace.

In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the council claimed that Northumbria Police, the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, and the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) “all said their response times were unaffected” by the LTN.

That is despite data having been released last year in the police told the council that the proportion of most serious incidents responded to within the force’s 10-minute target in the zones “directly affected” by the LTN fell from a 12-month average of 89% to 76% in the 12 weeks up to mid-June.

A police document published by the council on Wednesday states that there was “no significant impact in relation to response times or increases in crime and anti-social behaviour” as a result of the LTN.

Coun Williams added: “We worked closely with our emergency service partners throughout the consultation period and they closely monitored response data. Data shows their response times were unaffected and no road traffic collisions took place that could be attributed to the pilot.

“In fact, the reduction of traffic on residential streets was welcomed from a road safety perspective and that is an important consideration for future projects. To be clear, we would not have continued to run the scheme for as long as we did if serious concerns had been raised with us on this matter.”

Meanwhile, nearby restrictions to prevent vehicles from rat-running through the Five Admirals Estate to dodge traffic on Matthew Bank and Jesmond Dene Road are to be made permanent.

It will mean that drivers will continue to be banned from turning into Beatty Avenue off Matthew Bank, as has been the case since February 2023, with the council saying that the closure had created an “improved pedestrian environment” and prompted no concerns from the emergency services.

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