Ouseburn Futures members set up DIY Streets as a theme group to take up a great opportunity to improve how people get around Ouseburn by making streets safer, more attractive and generally more enjoyable to use. DIY streets logo

Through the Council’s Cycle City Ambition Programme and with support from sustainable transport charity Sustrans, funding was available to make physical changes to certain streets. This project started in March 2014 and ran until June 2016 with the implementation of the work carrying on until October 2017.

With the mix of homes, businesses, family attractions and venues in Ouseburn it makes sense for the Valley to have a people friendly pace – where it’s practical for everyone to get to where they want to be, but with streets that people want to spend time in and explore.

There has been lots of really positive local input into the scheme, and the finished product has some real high spots. Over the last three years the DIY Streets project has created sociable spaces outside Ernest and the Tanners Arms, with seating, planters and bike parking. It has widened footpaths on Lime Street, Stepney Bank and Stepney Road, changed vehicle priority at some junctions, and introduced two speed tables – all with the aim of creating a friendly, safe environment for everyone.

DIY Streets has been a collaboration between Ouseburn Futures volunteers, Sustrans, Roots and Wings, Xsite Architecture and Newcastle City Council, and has been delivered through the national Cycle City Ambition Fund.

Building on the good work of Ouseburn Futures’ volunteers, Ouseburn Trust plan to continue working on transport and public realm improvements in the Valley – if you would like to get involved please contact us.

What we’ve done through the project

In April 2014 we produced two surveys – a general one, and one for businesses and organisations in the Valley. We also chatted to people in the street, carried out a survey of visitors to the Open Studios Spring Salon, and ran two public events. The responses showed us where people felt the main issues were, and from this we agreed that the project would focus on Stepney Bank, Stepney Road and Lime Street. We took a short report to the Council’s Cycle City Ambition Fund Group to sign this off.

In May 2014 we contacted everyone who lives and works on the focus streets plus all the people who provided an email address in their survey response, and invited them to workshop sessions on the 19th and 21st of May. These sessions were facilitated by xsite architecture and involved a walk along the focus streets followed by a discussion of the main issues. These were identified as:

  • Slowing down traffic speeds

  • Creating joined up, safe spaces for people on foot, on bikes and with horses

  • Tackling problem junctions

  • Managing parking to meet local needs

  • Reducing rat-running traffic, possibly with one-way systems

  • Having signage/artwork/planters along the streets

  • Keeping streets tidy and improving lighting

We recognised that the DIY Streets project probably couldn’t address all of these things but we fed information into a number of other discussions too.

In June 2014 we worked with xsite architecture and Sustrans to develop some draft designs that we thought could address the issues raised through the surveys and workshops.

During the Ouseburn Festival weekend in July 2014 we carried out a street trial where we marked out the DIY Streets trial 2014proposed improvements using temporary paint, cones, signage and hay bales. We had a stall on Lime Street and asked visitors what they thought of the trial – the majority of feedback was very positive, and you can read a summary of the comments here. A couple of weeks later we displayed the plans at the Ouseburn Ward Get Together Day, and chatted with people about them there too.

In August 2014 we looked at what did and didn’t go well during the trial, considered the comments we had received, and started thinking about what improvements could be made. The original designs and the proposed improvements were displayed in Ouseburn Farm from the 11th to the 31st August, and we fed comments gathered during this period into the design process. We also received comments from Living Streets  (the national charity for pedestrians) and the Newcastle Cycling Campaign, which were supportive and included some useful suggestions for improvements.

In September 2014 the suggested designs were passed across to the Council to look at the technical details and work out what everything would cost. They also agreed to look into running a one-way street trial on Stepney Bank, so that we could test out whether this could create a better entrance to the Valley, improve footpath links down from public transport connections and nearby homes, and spread parking spaces out a bit more along the street.

In October 2014 the Council continued to consider the designs and processed the legal requirements to run the Stepney Bank street trial.

In November 2014 we ran the Stepney Bank street trial. It was a dull and wet couple of days which meant we couldn’t set things up in the same colourful way that we did for the Festival trial, but we did have lots of useful conversations with businesses, residents, people visiting the area and those just passing through.

We talked to around 40 people over the two days, and received over 80 responses to our online survey. There was a mix of views – the idea of widening the footpaths was popular with most people, closely followed by the creation of extra public space at the top of the bank, but there were concerns about the impact the one-way system might have on local businesses and residents, and how it might increase traffic cutting through Coquet Street and Stepney Road.

In December 2014 we’d hoped to have costs from the Council for each element of the proposals, so that we could discuss what to prioritise, and look for additional sources of funding if needed, however this was delayed. We developed an alternative option for Stepney Bank that kept the two-way operation, and continued discussions with local businesses and organisations to refine the plans.

In January 2015 we continued to wait for information from the Council. They had a lot of other schemes in progress at the time and were short on resources, but they did carry out some technical survey work needed for the final designs when they were able to get on to them. The DIY Streets Project Team carried out an audit of bike parking and started thinking about ways to introduce design into the plans.

In March 2015 we carried out consultation on the final designs.

In July 2015 the Council made progress on the technical designs, and drew up the proposal for Stepney Bank, which we discussed with businesses on the street. We also ran another street trial during the Ouseburn Festival, which went down really well with visitors, and generated some useful feedback from local businesses. We made the latest plans available on our website, and set up an online survey for people to leave their comments.

In August 2015 we talked through final changes to the designs with the Council, based on comments received at the Festival street trial and conversations with local residents and businesses.

In October 2015 the Council finalised the technical plans and sent them out to the emergency services, Ward Councillors, public transport operators and special interest groups, plus businesses and residents on the streets affected by the plans. Some queries were raised at this point, and the Council went out to meet people to talk these through.

In January 2016 the Council prepared the legal documentation for the formal public consultation period.

In February 2016 the Council carried out the formal public consultation period, with details of the proposals displayed on lampposts around the area and available to view at the Civic Centre. The consultation period lasted from 1-22 February.

One objection was received to the proposals, and this was heard at a Regulatory Appeals Sub Committee on the 18 April 2016. The objection wasn’t upheld, so the technical details of the proposals were signed off.

Now we just need to review the budget and agree the design details that will add character to the basic highways works. As previously discussed with the Council we’re hoping these will include:

  • Use of two colours of tarmac to define the footpath and the more general public space outside Ernest and the TannersDIY streets work at Ernest

  • A bench or two, cycle parking, bins and planters (which we’re hoping to be able to paint), outside Ernest and the Tanners, and at other locations on our focus streets

  • Street trees where possible to green and soften things up

  • Leaf and butterfly patterns painted under the bridge arch on Stepney Road to signpost the entrance to City Stadium and the woodland paths, and to brighten up this dull area

  • Round bollards on the widened pavement at the Stepney Bank/Lime Street corner – we will work with local organisations and artists to design and paint these, and they could be refreshed each year

  • A bridge motif across the surface of the Stepney Bank/Lime Street corner raised table – we can’t use bright colours here like we did at the Festival trial but we’ll work with the available materials to create something distinctive here in the heart of the Valley

The project then move on to the actual delivery stage from June 2016. 

It culminated in a streetside art project in the summer of 2017 - colourful cubes painted by four local artists on the corner of Lime Street and Stepney Bank. Local artists Hannah Scully, Luke Sellers, Danny McConway and Ernie Paxton came up with the winning designs featuring dragonflies, bees, balloons and desert storms They have transformed the grey bollards into playful features that brighten up the pavement, act as visual traffic calming measures, and are handy places to sit! 

Cubes and cyclist