On 9 April, we contacted all the candidates for the North Tyneside Mayoral Elections to introduce ourselves and find out what they will do to support active travel and space for people over the next four years. If you’d like to see changes in your ward and value quality space for walking, cycling and wheeling for healthier, greener and more vibrant communities, you can use our questions or pick one or two of them to contact your local ward candidates and get their views before voting on the 6th of May.
Here is our letter:
“We are writing to all mayoral candidates in North Tyneside to get their views on active travel and how to create healthy, sustainable and attractive space for people who visit, live and work in the Borough.
We are North Tyneside Living Streets, the local group of Living Streets, the national charity for everyday walking.
Our group, set up last summer, is run by local residents volunteering to campaign to make walking, cycling and wheeling in North Tyneside safer and easier for people of all ages and abilities. You can find out more about us on our website: https://ntynesidelivingstreets.org.uk
We invite you to answer the following 5 questions by 18 April 2021. All replies will be published on our website.
1. What are your plans to provide a tourist offer, especially along our coast, which is based on space for people to enjoy sustainable visits rather than traffic congestion? What measures will you introduce this summer and in the longer term?
2. What measures will you deploy (in short and longer terms) to enable local people to enjoy their streets and public space for their own wellbeing and to support the economic recovery? How will you consult with people on these measures?
3. How will you create a built environment which enables outdoor play and active travel for local journeys (walking, cycling and wheeling) to unlock health and well-being benefits for all ages and abilities?
4. How will you prioritise the needs of children on our streets, by rolling out school streets to all possible primary schools, middle schools, and some secondaries and committing to proactively supporting and expanding the number of play streets across the borough?
5. How are you planning to work collaboratively with Living Streets North Tyneside to develop and build a network for walking, cycling and wheeling? What will you do to improve the quality of urban design?
We look forward to hearing back from you.
Many thanks in advance
North Tyneside Living Streets Team”
Responses in alphabetical order (posted on 21 April 2021):
John Appleby, The Liberal Democrats:
Thank you for this opportunity to share some ideas about improving the Street Environment in North Tyneside. I am making this a focus of my campaign to be the Elected Mayor of North Tyneside, and I’m a member of the local Living Streets group, as well as being a member of local, regional and national committees concerned with the Environment, and a keen supporter and promoter of car-clubs.
- The North Tyneside coast is very attractive, and brings visitors and economic benefits to thewhole borough. However, tourists can also bring traffic (congestion, parking) and litter, and the benefits don’t necessarily transfer to the rest of the Borough. The Sunrise Cycle route should be re-established, but with more re-routing of traffic, possibly an ‘ends-to-middle’ scheme to allow car access to the coastal route but not a through-route end-to-end. Thus through traffic would be moved to the Broadway etc. For this summer, if feasible, I’d want to re-establish the coastal cycleway, possibly in sections rather than continuous, as some parts have sufficient footpath space. I’d also propose weekend-only pedestrian schemes for shopping streets. In some cases, widening pavements and reducing street parking might be sufficient, if a more ambitious scheme were not possible. Discussions with Metro might reveal ways of bringing in more visitors without cars, and bus- timetable information and special deals on fares and local vouchers might be considered too.
- People want good health, clean air, safety, convenience, and low cost. Not all are compatible in all places, and adjustments take time, both practical (funding, engineering) and psychological (habits and choices). I’d increase the budget for street repairs and cleaning – fewer trip-hazards, more bins. Following research into areas where ‘low traffic neighbourhoods’ have worked well, I’d favour more LTNs or partial schemes to increase footfall at local shops, increase pavement space for bars and cafes, and (see below) schemes to make children’s travel cleaner, safer and more enjoyable.
- Safe pavements, with far fewer trip hazards, trimmed hedges and reduced parking will encourage walking for young and old, especially for buggies and wheelchairs. Careful planning for traffic routing is needed to accommodate current needs (people can’t suddenly stop using cars!), whilst reducing risk and improving utility and pleasure for walkers and cyclists. Parking on pavements can’t be suddenly banned, but on a case-by-case basis, could be gradually reduced where it makes pavements too narrow or damages surfaces. Residents’ schemes should be expanded (with visitor permits) wherever possible. Far more extensive cycle-parking/storage is needed. More cycle routes, and speed limits where roads are shared, would encourage cycling. Realistically, enforcement of sensible cycling is also needed! I’m opposed to the Government’s proposals for major road-building schemes, but local adjustments to make walking and cycle routes better and safer would justify selective road improvements.
- Children’s health and safety should be a very high priority, and the ‘school streets’ plan is a good start, as it improves air quality around school gates, and might also increase walking and reduce accidents when children are dropped off. Every primary school should have a plan for such a scheme, if possible, or some alternative to improve conditions if the full concept isn’t possible there. Safe routes to school also need to be planned for every school, though to different degrees depending on local layouts, and good cycle parking at schools too (especially secondary/high). Play streets are valuable, socially and psychologically as well as for health, but a range of schemes will be needed, from traffic-free, low-traffic, speed reduction, pavement widening, chicanes, etc. to make children more free to enjoy outdoor activity.
- New and improved schemes for walking, cycling, shopping, etc, can work well or be a massive failure, depending on both local layouts and on the level of real consultation with businesses as well as residents. I’d want to learn from areas where LTNs (low traffic neighbourhoods) have worked well and been shown to increase footfall to local shops, and be very flexible (fully-pedestrianised, partly, improved pavements, speed limiting, weekends only, etc.). Living Streets and other interested groups will be central to this – I’d hope they can do some of the necessary research and assist with effective consultation and evaluation. Car-clubs (hire by the hour) can be of great benefit to this area, by reducing the need for parking-space, and reducing the carbon-cost of producing and maintaining so many vehicles. I’d like Living Streets and others to help inform and encourage residents to use car-clubs as their only car, or instead of a second car. Reducing parking space would improve the street environment, and maintenance costs too.
Norma Redfearn, The Labour Party:
- We are rightly proud of the work we have done to regenerate our coastline, when we came into power in 2013, residents told me they were embarrassed to bring friends and family to our coast, we’ve worked hard with partners to regenerate our coastline and make it a place where people want to spend time, this has quite clearly been successful but with the huge growth in the number of people visiting has brought with it many conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and motorists as the number of people using all 3 modes on the coast has increased significantly. We need to reimagine our coastline as a place for people and future scheme to make the coast a better place for cyclists and pedestrians needs to be hand in hand with other elements such as our plastic-free pledge and our climate change targets. We implemented a very ambitious road space reallocation scheme on the coast last summer, which was very successful, however, it was not without issue with one of these issues ultimately being the reason it had to be withdrawn. It is not as simple as putting back in the scheme we had last summer, we have been working with partners on a scheme that makes our coastline a better place to be for pedestrians and cyclists and we believe we have a feasible scheme and have had various conversations with funders and have received commitments to work towards putting a scheme in place which segregates pedestrians, motor traffic and cyclists. This summer we will implement changes which make the coast a better place to be for all users and next summer we will have the permanent solution in place. Across the borough, as Living Streets will know after conversations with senior councillors and council officers, we will be consulting on a wide range of schemes that will reallocate space for safer cycling and walking. We are also working on schemes on our wagonways to make those an even better place to walk and cycle with better surfaces a more open feel and better lights.
- Online retailers are not going away and will continue to grow, we need to reimagine our high streets as places people want to spend time in to ensure our retailers get the footfall they need. Last summer we trialled 3 schemes that reallocated space on our high street to varying degrees of success, we learnt a lot from these trials and will work with local residents and retailers to make high streets a much more attractive place to be. We are looking at not just those areas where we had trials in place last summer but right around the borough to see where would benefit from a scheme to make being on the high street more attractive. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are an area where many people have strong opinions, while not designated LTN’s we have a couple of places around the borough where historic modal filters have essentially made them into a LTN and if you ask residents in that area if they want us to rip out that filter, I imagine we would get a resounding no! LTNs need to be community-driven, as we’ve seen elsewhere these are the most successful LTNs, I will implement a process to make communities the decision-makers on whether or not an area should have LTNs.
- We will refresh all of our Transport policies after the elections which give us the opportunity to put active travel and outdoor play at the heart of our transport policies, we will then use these policies to invest in our streets and make them a much better place for active travel and play. We have to this as we know that “Streets and roads make up around three quarters of all public space. Their appearance and the way they function therefore have a significant impact on people’s lives. Well designed, accessible streets can encourage people to walk or cycle more as part of their daily routines, leading to a healthier lifestyle. Streets that encourage people to linger and spend time can also provide economic benefits, for example for local retail.” (Working Together to Promote Active Travel: A briefing for local authorities, 2021).
- We were the first authority in the region to introduce school streets and we plan to go further, we will commit to continue to grow the number of school streets right across the borough and continue to lobby for powers to make it easier to enforce them. We will work with parents and schools to establish school streets at suitable locations. We have always tried to support Play streets where possible and will continue to support them to expand even further, they offer a fantastic opportunity to reclaim the areas in our streets temporarily and bring neighbours and communities together.
- As the Mayor we made living streets a consultee on all of our schemes and our cabinet member has had many meetings with Living Streets to discuss cycling and walking. All of our transport policies are due for renewal after the adoption of the North East Transport plan so I will commit to the next Cabinet Member for Transport to discuss these policies with Living streets to improve design quality.
Penny Remfry, The Green Party:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide you with details of my plans regarding active travel and enabling North Tyneside residents to enjoy our outdoor areas. If you would like to discuss them further with me please get in touch.
- The Sunrise Cycleway along the coast during the summer of 2020 was a great success, attracting lots of new cyclists and making walking along the promenade a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience. I would re-instate this on a permanent basis, having had consultations with local residents to find solutions to the access problems the one-way traffic system created. I would also encourage an independent organisation to provide electric scooters for hire so that people with limited mobility could also enjoy the coast between Tynemouth and the Lighthouse during summer months.
- During the summer of 2020 North Tyneside Council created some car-free streets in our town centres. This allowed people to browse the shops in a relaxed fashion and meet their friends for a coffee in one of the outside coffee shops. The Fish Quay was also traffic-free allowing people to relax over a drink and/or a meal outside without having to breathe in polluted air. I would re-instate these during the summer months in consultation with local traders and residents to find solutions to any problems which emerged. There may be other areas in the borough which would benefit from a similar scheme; I would ask ward councillors to identify potential areas within their wards.
- There has been a great deal of new housing development in the borough recently and more in the years to come. Housing developers tend to want to maximise the amount of housing on-site. As Elected Mayor I will insist on designing in footpaths to enable easy access to bus stops, cycleways for longer journeys, wildlife areas and corridors wide enough for wildlife to use in safety and open sites for recreational activities – along with community facilities. We need to use existing policy instruments better and act quickly to incorporate re-instatement of key design guidance such as the National Design Code and forthcoming follow-up to the Dept for Transport ‘Manual for Streets’. I would set up a group to develop clearer guidance for developers and planners on this and the adoption of Homezone streets. I also want to see secure bike storage pods provided adjacent to apartment blocks so that those living there can keep a bike to use.
- Much of our housing in the borough was built before most households owned cars, or cars of the modern size. This means that there is a lot of on-road parking. This creates dangers for children playing outside and cyclists when non-residents use these roads as short-cuts. There is already provision for residents in a particular street to close it during school holidays and as Elected Mayor I would support and encourage this. I would also encourage more schools to close the streets around their entrance to cars during key hours in order to promote the safety of our children and reducing air pollution at busy times. This would also encourage more children to walk or cycle to school which is good for their physical health. As part of my policies in relation to local democracy I will be asking Cabinet members and local ward councillors to hold meetings with local residents to listen to their suggestions and concerns and discuss possible developments. These meetings will help to identify areas where residents would like to create school streets and play streets.
- The local Green Party did collaborate with Living Streets on social media with support for the Sunrise Cycleway and as Elected Mayor I would certainly want to work with you on developing a borough-wide network of paths for walking, cycling and for wheelchairs. See above for comments about new housing estates. As Elected Mayor I will work with neighbouring authorities to improve building regulations so that all new buildings have greatly improved energy efficiency and the surrounding environment is more conducive to walking, cycling and outdoor recreation.
A response was received from Jack Thompson’s agent on behalf of Jack, UKIP:
We in UKIP are dedicated to consultation and cooperation when developing policies for the good and benefit of the entire Borough – which contrasts starkly with the conflict and condemnation adopted by NTC . All Parties need to work together, by suggesting solutions to challenges that face us all, discussing and debating those ideas (but only after reliable research has been carried out and solid facts determined) then eventually reaching agreement about the policies. It is inevitable that disagreements ad differences of opinion will arise in many cases – but that’s no reason to fight over them: fighting wastes resources.
The prime source of ideas lies with the residents of the Borough and there are examples from other authorities that could be valuable. There is, in North Tyneside, an immense reservoir of talent, knowledge, experience and understanding of practically every subject under the sun so it makes sense to use that reservoir to maximum effect. Jack believes that the best way forward is truly extensive consultation, across the widest possible range of people and views, bearing in mind that, even though we all (deep down) want very much the same things, we often disagree about the way to reach a target. We neither want nor need NTC’s approach, whereby “consultation” is telling us what they’ve decided to do then asking for comments on their proposals.
Jack’s ideas are all very well and, used sensibly, this method can achieve a great deal – but it is not specific to your five questions. The answer to each single question lies in that consultation and cooperation mentioned, along with collecting ideas from all of us. It all takes time, though, and that will impose a certain amount of delay on policy development. Your first question referred to tourists, and this has been addressed (with very variable success!) for decades. For example, the Chamber of Trade should be brought into some form of partnership with the Council – and their views given true consideration.
Question 2 concerned streets and public spaces. Several £millions have been spent on some parks and the like – but the most effective actions have been taken by voluntary groups such as the Red House Farm Association, Friends of the Brierdene, etc. They should be given every encouragement and a lot of practical help, such as acquiring seeds and tools at the best prices. There are existing networks of bridle ways, cycle paths and footpaths in the Borough, but they need active surveillance and effective maintenance – and that can be assisted by residents of the areas affected. This applies to Question 5 as well, whilst we have looked at the possibility of encouraging and rewarding some Council employees (refuse collectors, traffic wardens are two likely groups but there are others) to act as Wardens in the areas where they work. Education of children, in all schools in the Borough, about duties as a citizen, dangers of vandalism, damage created by litter – especially plastics – goes a long way to solving these challenges, while Jack is especially keen of expanding Youth Groups and services etc within our towns. That is one of his main targets for great improvement and his detailed ideas are too long for this letter.
Children in play streets, and outdoor play/active travel, follow on naturally and seamlessly from the policies mentioned above. They are not separate items but make up a coherent, mutually dependent and beneficial group. Much of the groundwork has been done in the past but rather neglected of late, so it is time to go back to more sensible uses of resources such as the cycle network that permeates the entire area. Another outstanding example was the team of police officers and Council employees who worked together to locate and prevent harm to young children in the Whitley Bay area: no arrests were made, the Council provided a minibus and driver to take the kids home in safety. That scheme was intended to become a nation-wide facility, until financial crises and Central Government policies hammered nails into the coffin. Alas, it is no more.
Steven Robinson, the Conservative Party candidate did not provide a response.