Controversial bollards which 'strongly polarised' opinion in Jesmond removed

The bollards in Jesmond have been the source of a deeply polarised debate since being installed in March 2023. Credit: LDRS

A set of bollards that have dominated debate in a Newcastle suburb have been removed less than one year after being installed.

Newcastle City Council engineers armed with sledgehammers and drills moved in on Monday morning (5 February) to remove the bollards installed in Jesmond in March 2023.

Local authority bosses had installed the restrictions on a series of residential streets between Osborne Road and the Cradlewell area, to block drivers from using them as rat runs to either side of Jesmond.

But the council announced last week that it would be scrapping the bollards and cutting the Low Traffic Neighbourhood's (LTN) 18-month trial short, despite admitting that the project had largely achieved its aims.

It comes after a public consultation showed a significant majority of opposition to the scheme, with critics having claimed it had increased congestion on Jesmond’s main roads and hurt local traders.

For those who have campaigned vociferously for the bollards’ removal, the sight of them being ripped from the ground and taken away on the back of council vans was a relief.

However, on the other side of the debate, supporters of the LTN have been left disappointed by the council’s decision.

The road closure which was in place on Jesmond Dene Road, close to its junction with Grosvenor Road. Credit: NCJ Media

Janet Stansfield, 52, who has lived in Jesmond since 1976, said the scheme had been “horrendous and divisive”.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “All it did was increase traffic on the arterial routes. It affected the swimming pool, it affected businesses.”

Fran Eadon-Walker, owner of Batch Bakery on Clayton Road, said that she was “so happy I could cry."

But David Hardman, a former Labour councillor and a resident of Akenside Terrace, claimed that the removal of the LTN showed a “complete lack of leadership” from the council which he believes has “destroyed its credibility”.

He said: “They have decided that a small increase in the time it takes to drive down Jesmond Road is justification for running all of that extra traffic through residential streets. They have shown that they have no interest in cycling infrastructure, walking or helping people live healthy lives. There is a lack of vision and it is really depressing.

“I drove through that traffic every single day and, whether during rush hour or out of rush hour, it made very little difference to me.”

According to a council report published last week, the restrictions had resulted in a “significant reduction” in traffic within the LTN – including a 2,500 vehicle-per-day drop on Osborne Avenue.

However, journey times on the Coast Road heading towards Newcastle city centre were shown to have increased, with most recent figures showing they were 28% worse than in 2019.

The Jesmond Low Traffic Neighbourhood bollards being removed on Monday. Credit: LDRS

Paula Smart, of Jesmond Dene Road, said she was “relieved” on Monday morning but warned that it would “take years to rebuild relationships” after the deeply polarised debate of the past 11 months.

Friend Jill Winter, of Bemersyde Drive, added: “As a cyclist, I have been in favour of the bollards going. The state of the roads and the number of potholes is the bigger issue for me – I have fallen off my bike because there are so many potholes everywhere.

“The money that has been spent on this could have been better spent making cycling a more pleasurable experience for people.”

But Lindsey Davey, chair of Newcastle Cycling Campaign, said that it felt like the council had “caved in”.

She told the LDRS: “It was really positive for the area and particularly for children, who used those routes to get to school. Now it has been taken out in the space of just a few days, without much notice or warning. The council itself says in its report that the changes made the area safer.”

More than 23,500 responses were received by the city council during a consultation on the LTN’s future, with 73% of those who used the online Commonplace platform to comment being in opposition to it.

The findings from Eljay Research showed that opinions were “strongly polarised” and with “very little middle ground”.

Newcastle City Council said last week that the project “had achieved many of the objectives set out”, but that it was “clear” that it had not worked for everyone.

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