Several Newcastle businesses claim they have suffered a drop in trade due to controversial road closures.

Numerous independent firms in shopping areas at either end of the village say they have been negatively impacted by the contentious Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) installed earlier this year, with some even fearing they could be forced to shut as a result.

The scheme was put in place in March, with bollards installed that stop motorists from cutting through residential streets connecting Osborne Road and the Cradlewell in order to make them safer and less polluted.

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But it has become the subject of furious debate, with critics complaining that it has worsened traffic jams and pollution on surrounding routes.

At a Newcastle City Council meeting last month, top Labour councillors called on opponents of the LTN to show them proof of complaints that they branded “hearsay” –  including traders handing over financial figures to prove they have lost customers.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has since spoken to businesses around Jesmond, several of whom asked not to be named in this article because of the level of conflict that the LTN has caused.

Gill Reeve, who runs Dene’s Deli in the Cradlewell, said that her sandwich shop had suffered a year-on-year drop in trade of between 8% and 15% for every month since April – other than in June, though that was affected by the business being shut more last year due to celebrations around the Queen’s jubilee.

She said: “We are running a survey in our shop now, asking our customers how many visits they made prior to March and how many now. There are a lot of names going on that and not one says their visits have increased. And of course it does not include people who do not come in at all anymore.

“We are gathering evidence to send to the council, but I am very disappointed that they are not reaching out to us and coming out here to listen to businesses and to the people of Jesmond who keep us running.”

Something Good, a sustainable grocery and lifestyle store that helps the community to reduce its impact on the planet, told the LDRS that they were strongly in favour of the principle of greener neighbourhoods and liveable streets – but since the implementation of the LTN they had experienced such a severe drop in footfall that it threatened the viability of their business.

The Posh Pups dog groomers said that its customers travelling from the other end of Jesmond were now finding it “too stressful” to make the journey, while Colleen Todd-Smith of Fern Avenue Antiques reported that there was “no passing trade for us at all”. 

She added: “People have less time on their hands because they are stuck in traffic and when a lot of customers arrive with us they are all riled up, when this should be a nice, tranquil place to come to.”

The One Jesmond campaign group calling for the council to remove the bollards and go back to the drawing board with the LTN says it has conducted a survey of its own, in which 49 of 50 businesses wanted the scheme scrapped.

A public consultation on the LTN, which has been installed as an 18-month trial, is due to end on September 10 – and the council said it was “urging everyone to get in contact with us directly” to share their views.

The authority has said that the LTN has taken 2,500 vehicles per day off one street, Osborne Avenue, while also leading to increases in travel on foot or by bike.

It also pledged earlier this month to collect more detailed evidence itself – including on congestion on main roads, air pollution, crime, and the impact on local businesses.

David Hardman, a baker and ex-councillor, started delivering his homemade bread to businesses in Jesmond and Gosforth during lockdown.

He has now switched to using a cargo bike for his journeys instead of a car and has urged others to make similar changes if they are able to.

Mr Hardman said: “It is really easy and actually really nice. Yes it is a bit less convenient to drive now – but it maybe takes five minutes more for a journey, or 10 at rush hour. I think people forget that during rush hour the traffic was always very difficult.

“People don’t like change and are conservative, they like the status quo. It is easy to think that life was better in the past, but it just wasn’t.”

Mr Hardman lives on Akenside Terrace, one of the roads where the closures are in force, and says he has seen a “massive difference” – particularly a reduction in noise from traffic and the fact that his children can now safely play out in the street.

Moz Murphy’s Cradlewell cheese shop Grate is one business that already takes deliveries via cargo bike, but she said she was “not happy” with the LTN – though is trying to “make it work as best as we can” while it remains in force.

She added: “We campaigned to the council to get new seating and planters installed to make the area more attractive to people, and that has happened. If you are going to make people walk to us, then you should give them somewhere to sit – and they have proved really popular.

“But that is just us trying to make the best of a bad situation. It is a real shame that the community has become so divided.”

On Acorn Road, at the other side of the bollards, several shop owners also spoke out. 

Katherine Cockburn, of Gourmet Gifts, said it was “too early” to know how trade was being affected, but she worried about an increase in her carbon footprint and that of her customers – claiming it now takes her half an hour to make what used to be a five-minute drive to work.

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Another Acorn Road trader, who asked not to be named, added that they were having to organise deliveries either early in the morning or late at night to avoid traffic jams.

They said: “I think if they maybe left one or two streets open, like Grosvenor Road and Osborne Avenue, that would be better just to keep the flow of traffic going.

“A lot of our business clients have said that it can now be a 40-minute round trip for them to come here. It does make a lot of difference to us, I think we are probably about 10% down.”

Barry Hopper, of Lowes Financial Management, said the traffic problems had made his staff late for work and clients late for meetings.

He added: “I can’t say we have lost any turnover, but it has absolutely impacted us in terms of the management of our diaries and lives.

“I will give the council their due, the roads they have blocked off on the school side of [Osborne] road were a bit of a rat run – I get what they have done for the health and safety of children there. 

“But I don’t get closing the routes towards the Cradlewell. All it has done is put more cars on the main roads in standing traffic, putting more pollution into the air.”

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “Public consultation on the neighbourhood low traffic zone trial in Jesmond ends on September 10 and we’re urging everyone to get in contact with us directly so we can understand the impact the changes have had on people and businesses within the zone.

“As part of the trial, as well as feedback from the public consultation, we’re also gathering data and evidence to inform our long-term decision-making on the scheme.”