City Walk MEA House - John Dobson Street - Thursday 5th February, 2015

Newcastle City Council has plans to change the traffic flow and look of John Dobson Street (** See link below for Newcastle City Council information on this). The Elders Council was invited by Newcastle University's Culture Lab to participate in a "City Walk" centered on John Dobson Street.

The "City Walk" is a programme, nurtured and developed by the Culture Lab, with the purpose of making urban planning an earlier and more practical dialogue between planners and citizens than is usually achieved. A "City Walk" brings to the early attention of citizens a particular planned urban scheme. Through briefings and guided participation walks around the planning area, the knowledge gained empowers the citizens to give informed views to the planners before mistakes get set in concrete.

So on this particularly cold Newcastle Thursday morning, some 12 hardy members of Elders Council joined 5 expert members of the Culture Lab at MEA House for a very organised and stimulating day which finished around 4pm. The day's programme was as follows:

• Briefings on:
o The John Dobson Street scheme,
o The objectives of "City Walks",
o Suggestions for conducting a "City Walk"

• Tasty sandwich lunch

• Organising into three walk parties ; walking John Dobson Street ( with flash cards, cameras and audio recorders)

• Debriefing of the three walk parties

• Discussions on the possible feedback to planners

• Briefing Elder Council (EC) Members on the location and timing of the Newcastle Council's consultation sessions. (The opportunity to put directly to planners citizens individual views on the John Dobson Street proposed scheme).

The participating EC members were able to bring a wealth of local knowledge, disability experience, goodwill , sensible and constructive suggestions about the John Dobson scheme. All EC participants were very complimentary about the City Walk programme and appreciative of the energy and skill put into it by the Culture Lab.

As a follow-up to 5th of February, EC participants were invited to see and hear records of their individual walks. Several EC participants went on to attend the Newcastle Council's consultation sessions to make well informed comments. Hopefully these will be taken into account. The City Walk scheme is well worth supporting as it certainly does help inform citizens about selected urban schemes and empowers them to have better input into the future of our city and locality.


 Alan Gowers