Norma Redfearn secured a first-round victory in the North Tyneside Mayoral Election, but there was an increased turnout across some key battle areas in Borough, mainly along the coast where the Sunrise Cycleway and pedestrianisation took place during the summer last year. Here’s a reminder of what all the Mayoral candidates put forward, in advance of the election.
What happened in the Wards on the Coast?
Cullercoats saw the former Conservative Party Mayor Linda Arkley take the seat from Labour’s Karen Lee. The Liberal Democrat and Green Party votes in this area, whilst not statistically significant in terms of taking the seat themselves, did show that there was an appetite for more walking and cycling in their area. It is likely that the Conservative Party and Labour Party in Cullercoats will need to establish the motivations for Liberal Democrat and Green Party votes, as those voters would hold the key in how that seat swings in the next election.
In Tynemouth, the Conservative Party took the seat from Labour with an increased turnout, but saw their majority reduce. The Green Party took just over 400 votes, again, whilst not statistically significant to threaten either Conservative or Labour Party here, it’s a possibility that there is an appetite to see more walking and cycling opportunities in the Ward. Like Cullercoats, we see an opportunity for both Conservative and Labour Parties to establish the motivations for the Green Party votes, as it is likely these voters will hold the key to retaining/regaining the seat in the next election.
The Fish Quay sits within the Tynemouth Ward, and appears to have been largely forgotten about, whilst the heated views of the Park View pedestrianisation and the Sunrise Cycleway were ongoing. From what we understand, more businesses than not would like to see something repeated again this year. We hope the Councillors in Tynemouth factor this into their thoughts in the coming weeks.
Whitley Bay, however, saw the Labour Party incumbent Sandra Graham retain her seat, but Alan Steele of the Green Party finished second with over 1000 votes. Given the level of ambition of the schemes that the previous administration put in place, and subsequently removed, it is likely that people in Whitley Bay want to see positive change in walking and cycling in their Ward. The Park View pedestrianisation had mixed reviews from businesses and residents at the time, but it could be argued that rather than abandoning the pedestrianisation attempts, the council should be looking at repeating the car-free Saturdays and using them to kick start a co-design process with the residents and business owners about making positive change to the area which could feed into the wider town centres’ consultation. The status quo, in our opinion, doesn’t appear to be an acceptable option going forward.
It is highly likely that Cllr Graham has been given the Environment Portfolio as a way of showing those people who voted Green that there will be more focus on environmental issues. Whilst a lot of the issues we’ve pointed at are the responsibility of the Transport Portfolio, we would expect Cllr Graham to be working hand-in-hand with Transport, to review the environmental impact on policy in the Borough.
What about the rest of the Borough?
Whilst there were no changes to seats inland, there are two trial School Streets at Hadrian Park Primary School in the Battle Hill Ward and Denbigh Community Primary School in the Ward of Howdon.
Whilst a lot of the focus, in terms of walking and cycling has been predominently focused on the Coast, we have been raising concerns about the lack of joined up, safe, walking and cycling routes that can be accessed by all. We’re hoping that the strategy from the newly-appointed Cabinet, look at lessons it’s learned on the Coast, and bring the rest of the Borough with it.
Carl Johnson retains the Transport Portfolio, and has become the Deputy Leader. We were disappointed, and frustrated, about the removal of schemes last year, but as Cllr Johnson still has the Transport Portfolio, we look forward to further communication and discussion, so that we can help shape progressive Transport Policy, plans and programmes which can lean more in favour of those walking, wheeling and cycling in, and around, the Borough.
So what’s next?
We are aware that the North Tyneside Council leadership did advise that the summary evaluation of the schemes last year would be made available in June 2021, and that there was an alternative Sunrise Cycleway in design phase, but there are still questions about how viable that could be, if two-way traffic was to be retained. We hope this will be released soon and will have depth and details as it will allow us all to analyse the successes of all the schemes, where improvements could be made and learn lessons about how to communicate and run trials. It is encouraging to hear that Labour has “learned a lot from these trials” but in the spirit of openness and transparency, can this learning be published and shared with the public?
With international holidays abroad this year looking like a game of chance, it looks like this summer is going to be another busy one along the Coast. Mayor Redfearn, and her Cabinet, are going to have to make preparations quickly so that successes from last year can be implemented to allow space for everyone to enjoy the Coast.