Saturday, 28 August 2010

CM in Ncl

I went on my first Critical Mass ride on friday . It was intermittently raining so not ideal. If you count a tandem as 1 , there were 24 on the ride.  This time  it went down John Dobson Street, Market Street, Pilgrim Street, ended up going round the front  of Central Station adn then came back past the Gate, back along Market Street , JD street and back to Haymarket. 2 1/2  miles, about 45 minutes,

This is the link to the the Newcastle bit of the CM wiki

Waiting at the lights at Market Street


So someone came along on Wednesday afternoon/evening and removed the tomato, sweet potato and melon plant.  I wonder if  they know what to do with them ?

We will need a different approach to greening the back lane

Friday, 20 August 2010

Monday, 16 August 2010

Student housing update - but for all ?

There has been an article in the Guardian  about private equity going into building student accommodation. There  are new student accommodation blocks going up in various parts of Newcastle. It seems to me that this sort of build is being touted as way of rejuvenating some of the more deprived and run-down areas of the City. Liberty Living have built a block in Elswick.

In the past ive been to meetings where this has been discussed  by the local Council.  The developments seem to be a mixture of University- built ( and presumably managed)  Halls and privately built and owned. I've seen a mailshot, not sent to me , I may add,  from one of the Companies putting money into this is Brandeaux . They quote a return of approximately 7%  on a minimum investment of £100,000, so there  would seem to be good money in this. The accommodation is targeted at the more expensive end of the market.  A quick internet search found  that for 2 of the new blocks in Newcastle Northumbria University and Newcastle College are in partnership with the private developers.  So the Universities and Colleges can say they are doing something about the numbers of students that they just dump on the local communities. Its not going to help the larger numbers of students looking for reasonably priced accommodation  that is an acceptable standard, so wont do anything for equitable , affordable access to higher education.

These developments have been encouraged  by the Council. Undoubtedly it is getting money into some of the more under-developed areas of Newcastle.  The Council says it will increase student choice. The landlords have been  against  the developments. What will it do for the student accommodation that blights some areas of Jesmond ( and Heaton and Gosforth) ?
Jesmond has traditionally been one of the   more expensive areas for student lets due to the size of the houses and convenience for the University, so this is potentially competition. Those that can afford it - many from overseas - may take up the new accommodation. Some of the students currently renting in Jesmond may go .
 Student numbers are unlikely to increase over the next few years, and may fall. So what will happen to properties in Jesmond ? 
Some landlords may sell off some of their portfolio. Rents may fall due to the competition. Money spent by landlords on maintenance may fall (but they spend as little as they can now, so I don't think that will happen) If rents fall students who previously could only afford Heaton may move into Jesmond . One landlord has suggested to me that we are better off 'with the devils we know' , rather than a different bunch of  students. I think he's wrong.  the new students wont have cars , so parking will be easier, and they may not have as much disposable income to go partying in Osborne Road.

So overall I think we will be better off.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Doing something about alcohol

The Government has announced it wants to do something about the problems caused by excessive alcohol consumption. They have announced a consultation and a document with a very long title -Rebalancing the Licensing Act - a consultation on empowering individuals, families and local communities to shape and determine local licensing
There have been a number of meetings around the country, and I went to the one in Newcastle. there were about 50 people there, randomly sitting in groups of 8 at tables. Each table was given three questions relating to the consultation to answer.
There were several of the police there, but , other than names, it was difficult to identify who was who and what they were representing.

It went on for 2 1/2 hours and was more constructive than I thought, Whether it achieves anything is another matter.

Some observations

  • The on -licence trade was very well represented

  • There were quite a few public health sorts of people there

Some personal conclusions

  • For the on-trade representatives the off-licences and supermarkets selling alcohol at less than cost are a problem, and they want something done about that

  • The on-trade are against tightening up the rules under which they operate - for instance the sanctions against selling to under-age customers

  • Minimum unit pricing would seem to have quite a lot of support

Monday, 9 August 2010

Cycling through treacle

I went to the Newcastle Council Cycling Forum. I thought attendance was good - about a dozen cyclists and the council people. There were the regulars from Sustrans and CTC and a smattering of interested others - hopefully urban cyclists .

The good news - we have a new cycling officer. She's going to get a bike and go on a cycling training course.

There is a budget to fix some things and a list of 'quick fixes' - some problems that should be easy to fix - drop kerbs that don't drop, missing signage , confusing road markings and some remedial work. At the last meeting a request was made for the council to be informed of any more. - so there are now 2 lists . It appears that some of the issues are duplicated.

There is a cycle route planner - the transport direct site, recommended by Cycling England ( an offshoot of Department for Transport, i think. I've just tried it , putting in my route to work. Can't say I'm impressed. I asked for the quickest route, not the safest, so it took me along the length of the dual carriageway and it would take 33 minutes. No it doesn't, it takes me 28 minutes and i only do a little bit of the Coast Road. And there is no where on the transport direct website where you can tell them they got it wrong.

There was also some discussion about the use of Advance Stop lines and green boxes to let bikes get to the front of the queue , and obvious to cars. The green boxes are often ignore byu cars . So why isn't it enforced ? Well its not that easy . There was an article in the Guardian that explains that enforcement is not straightforward . Its probably worth the Council tarting up some of the boxes around the place , as its still a useful resource for cyclists.

2hr 20 mins of meeting. Concrete Achievements ? hmmmmmm. but never mind , lots of action points, and several dead trees .

As an aside , I've come across Copenhagen Cycle Chic and some of the derivatives. Strange , there isn't a Newcastle Cycle Chic . I wonder why not ?

Monday, 2 August 2010

Critical Mass

Katya Leyendeker has got the bit between her teeth as far as cycling in Newcastle is concerned. She organised a petition to the Council about encouraging cycling.

There are Critical Mass rides in other parts of the UK and CM has its wiki . Apparently about 25 cyclists took part in the ride. 25 is certainly enough to have some 'safety in numbers'. There are pictures and a video of the Newcastle rides. there has beena legal case , i think in London. Organised protest need police permission. Is a CM ride 'organised' . I didn't think it was. It goes wherever the people at the front think it should, so it doesn't really have an organiser.

I might go on the next one if I'm in Newcastle and free