I met with the Newcastle Great Park Consortium and representatives of Newcastle City Council recently and thought it would be helpful to update you on what was discussed at the meeting.
As ever, please do let me know if you have any comments on any of these issues – or if there are concerns that you would like me to take up on your behalf, either locally or in Parliament. Despite the immediate need to address the current public health crisis and the difficulties it is causing, my team and I continue to work on the broader issues affecting our communities.
Town Centre / Supermarket
- For many years I have made representations on behalf of residents about the Newcastle Great Park town centre. While recent months have seen the welcome opening of two more shops, I know the very slow progress over the years remains the number one issue for many residents.
- I pressed the Consortium for updates and was told they are in advanced discussions to have another two “community friendly” businesses open before the end of the year, while they said in the longer term the Great Park is looking at a further influx of retailers.
- We are all keen to see the long-awaited location of a major supermarket to the Great Park’s town centre. When I pressed the Consortium on this matter, I was told they hope to make an announcement next month, with a view to construction beginning next year and opening before the end of 2021.
- I made clear that although these developments sound positive, residents have been left disappointed before by the many false-starts we have seen over the last ten years. I will be closely monitoring these deadlines and will continue to hold the Consortium to account for the promises they have made.
- Residents will know from previous updates that I have raised concerns with Newcastle City Council before about the lack of progress on school provision at the Great Park.
- I understand that planning permission has now been granted for Broadway East First School to relocate to Cell A at the Great Park. Unfortunately, the delays brought by the Save Newcastle Wildlife legal challenge and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on construction mean it is now unlikely to open before early 2022.
- The Middle/Secondary School – Great Park Academy – which is being progressed as a free school under Gosforth Academies Trust, is at a less advanced stage. There are ongoing meetings and contact between the Department for Education (DfE), the Education Skills and Funding Agency, the Local Authority, and the Trust.
- A permanent building is now set to open in 2023. However, the Council have now confirmed the school will open in 2021 in a temporary council-funded building at Gosforth Academy. The new middle/secondary school will cater for Year 5 to Year 11 pupils. Parents of children currently in Year 4 who want to apply for their child to join the Great Park Academy in Year 5 at its temporary home from 2021 now have until 31st December to apply (an extra two months).
- I stressed that I would be keen to assist in any engagement with the DfE to ensure this is made a priority.
- I have over several years highlighted on-going concerns regarding the availability of adequate healthcare provision to the northern communities and villages within the Newcastle North constituency. The matter has clearly become more pressing with the rapid development of the Great Park creating an urgent need to boost capacity to ensure adequate primary service provision for residents and their families.
- I understand that the consortium continue to work with the council, CCG and other agencies to establish both current healthcare demand and to consider future growth as further planning applications are passed. I will continue to monitor this matter to ensure that work progresses and that residents voices are heard to achieve essential services locally.
Speeding issues on Roseden Way
- Vehicles travelling at dangerously high speeds on Roseden Way unfortunately remains a problem and I have recently contacted the police on this matter. There is of course a 20 sign as you enter the estate, but this seems to be intermittently out of service.
- When we discussed this I pointed out that although Roseden Way may feel like a main road, people live on it, there are schools, sports facilities, and – we hope – there is soon to be a thriving town centre.
- I said in terms of planning and future developments some thought needs to be given to how traffic and speed is managed, as clearly, we have not got this quite right.
- The Consortium said they continue to receive complaints about speeding on this road and recently undertook an audit of traffic speeds throughout the day. Around 40% of cars were found to be travelling above the 20mph speed limit and, shockingly, there were isolated incidents of vehicles travelling at over three times that limit in late evening and early morning.
- They agreed there was a need for intervention as these kinds of speed are clearly a recipe for disaster, and said they would work with the Highways Department at Newcastle City Council to look at more effective ways of reducing speed and traffic volume.
Engagement with the Consortium
- Residents continue to report difficulties in communication with the Consortium, and a major complaint remains that while the standard of maintenance is acceptable in cells that have not yet been ‘finished’ or where potential buyers may be looking to purchase their homes, they feel it is much lower in ‘finished’ cells.
- The Consortium recognised there had been communication issues as the Great Park expanded and said they are keen to pick up residents’ issues and concerns proactively going forward. They are set to launch a new website next month and have recruited a new manager with responsibility for the management and maintenance of the open spaces and strategic issues.
- I welcomed this news and stressed that the Consortium should create some genuine engagement with residents and be upfront about the timeframes for what is planned and what is happening so that residents are not left in the dark.
- I said that I would be keen to set up a meeting with the new manager once they are settled into their role but in the meantime would continue to forward correspondence from constituents where there have been issues with communication so that we can receive responses where they are outstanding.