Plans to pedestrianise Blackett Street in Newcastle put on hold

The plans would have seen one of Newcastle City Centre's busiest streets pedestrianised. Credit: Newcastle City Council

Plans to pedestrianise a busy street in the centre of Newcastle have been put on hold.

The proposals, which would have seen all traffic banned from Blackett Street, have been shelved following a change in leadership at Newcastle City Council.

A document, which will be presented to the cabinet next week, said the plans will be "deferred until such time as it can be fully funded and brought forward as part of a comprehensive package of measures to promote a connected, clean city".

Earlier this year, Nick Kemp took over the leadership of the council from Nick Forbes, following his deselection. The proposals were a key aim of the previous administration.

The cabinet report says a "revised, ambitious offer" will be drawn up to include upgrades to bus and cycling infrastructure, and that "the political ambition to implement a central pedestrianised zone with pocket parks and green spaces that makes the city more family and child friendly is still held".

It says work on a pedestrianisation scheme could get underway "as soon as possible after the re-development of the northern block on Pilgrim Street", the site of a new HMRC office complex which is due for completion in 2027.

A new HMRC office complex is due to be completed on Pilgrim Street by 2027. Credit: Avison Young

A council spokeswoman suggested that the project could get underway again before then if the HMRC works were no longer impacting on surrounding roads.

Blackett Street has previously been made into a vehicle-free zone during summer events and for the city's Christmas markets in 2019.

The pedestrianisation plans have divided opinion. Supporters of the proposals say the move would encourage more green travel, but concerns have been raised that it would force buses into a loop around the city centre, affecting access for elderly and disabled people.

The bus company Stagecoach, which was the main objector to the closure, claimed it had lost 120,000 passengers when the street was closed in winter 2019.

Of 700 responses to an online survey on the plans, 287 objected, 276 said they supported the proposals, and 137 said they were undecided.

The council said it would now "work with bus operators and other stakeholders" on the revised plans, potentially including a new bus station in the city, but would "still be prepared to go to public inquiry in the future".

However, the cabinet report says that the change in plans means some of the funding already secured for the project - including from the Levelling Up Fund - will be "placed at risk" of being clawed back and will now need to be redirected to other projects.

Councillor Jane Byrne, who has responsibility for transport on the council, said: "We made a commitment to review proposals for the city centre to ensure that the plans remain aligned with our environmental, climate and economic priorities. That review is now largely complete and, after also taking into account the previous extensive feedback in relation to transport changes, we have deferred a decision on closing Blackett Street to buses.

"This means that we will no longer be proceeding with a public inquiry at this time. We think it would be better to bring forward a comprehensive proposal for the city centre and look forward to working collaboratively with residents, businesses and transport providers to achieve this.

"We remain committed to creating a more family-friendly city centre that is easy and safe to get around, is less polluted and has much more green space and biodiversity. We will be sharing our updated proposals in due course and everyone will have the opportunity to let us know their thoughts. Right now, our priority is to help local people through the cost of living crisis."

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