Campaigners Launch Bid to Save Newcastle City Centre Street from Pedestrianisation
Blackett Street has been closed throughout November and December for the Christmas market but campaigners fear a permanent closure could cause chaos with public transport.
Campaigners fed up with bus delays caused by Newcastle’s Christmas markets are bidding to “save” a busy city centre route from permanent closure.
The Newcastle Independents group claims that shutting Blackett Street to make way for festive stalls and fairground rides has led to “substantial” disruption to re-routed bus services and city centre gridlock.
They are now urging Newcastle City Council to abandon its long-held ambition to permanently pedestrianise the road, in a bit to cut air pollution from vehicles in an area busy with shoppers and workers.
The local authority has hit back, insisting it is “simply not true” to claim that there have been widespread problems.
Tracey Mitchell, Newcastle Independents spokesperson for Denton and Westerhope, claimed: “Almost all of the bus services from Denton and Westerhope Ward to the city centre have been heavily impacted by the loss of Blackett Street. The temporary closure of Blackett Street has shown that it does not take much to create gridlock on city roads and sending buses through a less direct route through the city is never going to make city centre air cleaner.
“The areas served by buses that go through Blackett Street have no access to the Tyne and Wear Metro so have to rely on the bus to get to the heart of the city centre. Sadly, too few councillors have to use these bus services so do not understand the challenges that the closure of Blackett Street has created for people using these buses at peak times.
“We hope to persuade large numbers of people to sign our petition to save Blackett Street.”
Group leader Jason Smith added that the Christmas market is “cutting off public transport and dissuading shoppers from visiting parts of the city that are already struggling to attract shoppers”.
A petition to keep Blackett Street open now has more than 300 signatures.
It claims that the services affected by the closure include the 12, 32/32A, 39/40, 62/63, and 71/72/87. Bus operator Stagecoach has been contacted for a comment.
Coun Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “We know that the temporary changes on Blackett Street have resulted in some inconvenience for some people as a result of change to their normal bus services.
“However, we have put in place measures to try to minimise any issues and claims that this has been wholly unpopular with shoppers and has resulted in widespread disruption to bus journeys or issues with air quality are simply not true.
“In fact, we have seen a huge increase in visitor number to the city centre during the Christmas markets and feedback from many retailers has been very positive.
“This clearly shows that, far from dissuading shoppers from coming to the city, more people are enjoying spending time here and are choosing to head to Newcastle for their Christmas shopping.
“While there have been some isolated incidents of bus journeys being slightly delayed, on the whole journey times are very similar in terms of getting through the city centre now as they were before the temporary closure.
“We have installed two new temporary bus shelters on Newgate Street for passengers and have carried out works to upgrade and coordinate traffic signals at key junctions across the city centre to help buses get through efficiently.”