Will through traffic return to Heaton’s safer streets?

Safe Heaton Option 2, before and after

Since October 2022 various trials have been in place to look at how Heaton’s streets can be made better, particularly for people who don’t drive. We have written about what has changed in a previous post.

Those trials are due to come to an end in the next few month and the City Council to look at what to do next.

The Council has written to residents and businesses in the area covered by the Safe Heaton trials that have been running for the last year with two options for the future of the scheme. Recipients of the letter are invited to some drop in events to discuss their views on the options given.

The options are as follows:

Option 1

Re-open Heaton Park View and install a new permanent crossing to the park at Stannington  Grove over Heaton Park View. Other potential measures could include closing Cardigan Terrace at Heaton Park Road.

Option 2

Remove all through routes by closing all the side roads off Heaton Park Road (Heaton Park View, Wandsworh Road (already closed), Cardigan Terrace, Falmouth Road, Heaton Grove). Other potential measures could include re-opening the Heaton Road end of Falmouth Road.

In both options, South View West remains closed and Bolingbroke Street is re-opened.

Our View – Option 1

Heaton LTN option 1
Option one proposed by the Council – reopening Heaton Park View to 3000 vehicles per day.

In our view Option 1 removes any benefit that the scheme was intended to create. Heaton Park View has been a through route for many years, with thousands of drivers using it each day to drive to and from the city centre and Central Motorway from the Coast Road.

Residents have been calling for through traffic on this route to be addressed for at least 49 years, and it was welcome to see the Council taking the bold move of trialling the removal of through traffic in 2022, 47 years after residents first called for it.

A petition to the Council calling for traffic on Heaton Park View to be addressed 49 years ago.

Reopening the through route would see the return of thousands of drivers trying to get along a narrow street lined with parked cars.

Back in 2017 when traffic counts were initially taken on Heaton Park View, peak times in the evening saw as many as 66 vehicles were heading east in a 15 minute period, with another 24 trying to go west, leading to long queues while people negotiated the narrow road. A large part of that traffic was coming from Warwick Street and going to or from Heaton Road and towards the Coast Road.

Since Heaton Park View has been filtered the number of vehicles using Warwick Street, and by extension continuing in to Heaton has reduced. As all the streets in Heaton remain accessible by car, it is reasonable to conclude that the drop is a result of fewer people using the area to avoid main roads. Indeed, traffic on Warwick Street has been lower almost every week compared to the previous year since the trials were implemented.

Weekly percentage change in traffic compared to the same week in the previous year before the trials were installed.

The ten months to the end of October 2023 saw  approximately 144,000 fewer vehicles using Warwick Street compared to the same period the year before the changes were made – almost 500 fewer vehicles each day. This is positive for the people who live there, as well as people using the No 1 bus, which frequently gets held up by traffic clogged streets.

Traffic counts on alternative routes (Cradlewell Bypass and Byker Bridge) haven’t see any increase during the trial period.

Removing the filter on Heaton Park View would most likely have the effect of increasing the levels of traffic to what they were before the trials. That wouldn’t just effect Heaton Park View and Warwick Street, but have a knock on effect on Heaton Road and beyond too.

The option one map with the through route that saw up to 3000 vehicles per day before filters were installed on Heaton Park View.

Doing something that would see a potential increase of 144,000 vehicles over a 10 month period would have nothing but negative consequences.

With future plans to make changes to the Coast Road likely to make more drivers seek alternative routes (a mainly futile activity), and the numbers of vehicles on the road increasing every year,  the problem will become a lot worse in the future.

Our View – Option 2

Option two proposed by the Council – addressing back lane issues.

While the Safe Heaton scheme as currently implemented has seen through traffic reduced there have been a number of side effects. As the area wasn’t made fully impermeable to through traffic some people have persistently made use of back lanes rather than use the main roads. Additionally, due to the slightly confusing nature of the filters installed it’s not that clear to people from outside the area how to get around in a car. The current filters lead to the appearance of through routes were there isn’t one leading to confused drivers going up and down back lanes.

Option 2 would address both of these problems. All streets would remain accessible to vehicles as they are now, but having all access from one side leads to a much more logical and understandable layout  from everybody.

Through routes using back lanes would be eliminated, as would residents weaving though back lanes to avoid the filters. There would be multiple routes on to Heaton Road, two with traffic lights, meaning local traffic in to and out of the area wouldn’t be concentrated on one street and the lights would make turning in all directions easy at peak times.

The area would be protected from the effects of traffic trying to divert off the Coast Road when there are incidents or, in the future, road works to make changes for bus priorities, while all streets would remain accessible.

For people wanting to drive eastwards North View then Byker Bridge provide an easy option, or Heaton Road and the Coast Road if people are heading north. Anybody still wanting to use Warwick Street will be able to, although if heading beyond Shieldfield any route would end up on New Bridge Street or Jesmond Road anyway, so would be unlikely to prove quicker that using the main roads in the first place.

Overall, we feel this option addresses the issues that have arisen during the trial, without undoing the main benefits.

Safe Heaton Option 2, before and after
The wider Heaton area showing low traffic areas and filters before the trials, and what it would be like after option 2.

Next Steps

If you are one of the residents that has received a letter, we urge you to express you view and have your say in the future of the area. Let the Council know if you want to see a return of 3000 vehicles per day queuing to get along Heaton Park View, with even more likely in the future, or seeing the current gaps plugged so everybody can have safe streets, free from through traffic that has been experienced elsewhere in Heaton for many years.

The letter you will have received tells you how to do this.