Acorn Road celebration event divides opinion
A celebration of the completion of changes to the layout of Acorn Road in Jesmond, held yesterday, has drawn differing opinions from Jesmond’s residents and Newcastle City councillors.
Newcastle City Council invested £350,000 into Acorn Road to make it a more people-friendly retail area.
The modifications, funded via the Cycle City Ambition Fund, changed the street to a one-way system in order to reduce traffic flow and make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists and making the road more attractive for people who shop there.
The event was opened by town crier Marjorie Dodds and included a group photo opportunity for local traders and residents attending the event.
However, the alterations to Acorn Road have been met with mixed reactions.
North Jesmond Liberal Democrat Councillor Peter Breakey told JesmondLocal that the event was unnecessary: “It is typical of Newcastle’s Labour-run council that they should choose to waste council officers’ time and taxpayers’ money in ‘celebrating’ such a mediocre development,” he said. “After spending around £300,000 they have achieved very little. With the benefit of the lavish funding which they received from central government they should have obtained a far better outcome.”
In 2014 Cllr Breakey led a petition, signed by more than 1,000 people, opposed to one proposed option for the shopping street.
Commenting on the outcome of the work, he told JesmondLocal: “The character of the street has not been enhanced. Where there could have been an attractive, truly pedestrian-friendly environment, the council has created a soulless thoroughfare for cars, which is full of clutter. Meanwhile, the one-way system has had the knock on effect of making congestion worse in surrounding streets.”
Disabled model Katie Knowles, who spoke about the provision of parking on the street for people with disabilities when she appeared on JesmondLocal Live in late February, told JesmondLocal this week that she has concerns about the new road layout.
“The changes to the road have resulted in a loss of disabled parking spaces making Acorn Road less accessible for those with a disability if they want to visit the area,” she said.
Cllr Breakey also noted he has received complaints about the revised road layout on Acorn Road, one of which called it “a classic case of exceedingly poor project management by the council.”
These opinions are not shared by everyone, though.
Councillor Ged Bell, cabinet member for investment and development, said that “it’s great to see the difference our improvements have made to the area.
“There used to be a lot of traffic through here with pollution and congestion and narrow pavements which were awkward for people with buggies or wheelchairs to get around. Now it’s a much more pleasant environment for shopping, visiting and working and a real hub in the community.”
Some local traders spoke out in favour of the changes. Steve Robson, proprietor of Acorn Hardware, said: “What a great improvement in the look and easy parking the council has achieved in Acorn Road. After the talk of the loss of up to 10 spaces the traders and council worked together to accommodate parking, people who want to walk, and cyclists, who all love to shop at the wide variety of businesses on and around Acorn Road.”
Tony Waterston, Chair of the Jesmond Residents Association, added that “whilst there have been a few glitches in developing the new Acorn Road – not least some motor traffic ignoring the one way direction – we have received very positive comments from residents about the widened pavements and reduced traffic congestion.”