Concern over plan to remove Cooks Hill traffic barrier near Darby Street

New flow: After this traffic barrier is removed on Council Street, the car pictured leaving the car park behind Hotel Delaney would have to turn left into the Cooks Hill residential area rather than right, towards Darby Street.
New flow: After this traffic barrier is removed on Council Street, the car pictured leaving the car park behind Hotel Delaney would have to turn left into the Cooks Hill residential area rather than right, towards Darby Street.

Cooks Hill residents fear their neighbourhood will become a rat run for traffic from one of the city’s busiest eating and shopping precincts.

Council Street has already been transformed in recent weeks, as contractors for Newcastle City Council removed several large fig trees that lined the street ahead of major road upgrades.

As part of the plan, the traffic barrier near the intersection of Council and Darby streets - next to the car park behind Hotel Delaney - which was installed in the 1980s will be removed, with one-way traffic flowing west from Darby Street.

The Newcastle Herald has spoken with several Cooks Hill residents in recent weeks who fear the change will lead to a dramatically increased traffic flow through their neighbourhood.

A Newcastle council spokesperson said a plan that involved keeping the road block had been investigated. But she said leaving it in place would encourage continued “unsafe u-turns” at the Darby and Council street intersection and wouldn’t address the problem of a poor turning circle for large vehicles.

The spokesperson also said upgrading the barrier would eliminate 13 planned parking spaces. 

Cooks Hill resident Michele Knight believed council should instead keep the road block but replace part of it with bollards that could be removed to give large vehicles westbound access. She also argued that a traffic island on council street, at the Darby Street intersection, would stop drivers performing u-turns.

Cooks Hill residents the day before removal of the Council Street fig trees began.

Cooks Hill residents the day before removal of the Council Street fig trees began.

“Under the new plan [traffic is] being forced to go down Council Street and head into residential streets, even if they don’t want to,” Ms Knight said.

“Even if they want to get back onto Darby Street, they’ll have to go around the block.

“The car park is still there. Traffic coming out of the car park is still going to come out. It’s creating this thoroughfare. If the current plan goes ahead, they will be forced to go one-way into Cooks Hill.”

When asked why the traffic barrier was no longer required in the busy area, the council spokesperson said it had not been installed as a safety measure and had limited traffic circulation in the area.

“Community feedback in 2015 indicated traffic management was a high priority for Cooks Hill residents,” she said.

“In response, Council Street traffic management was investigated as part of the stormwater drainage renewal project, which is now underway.”

Council plans to replaced the figs with 17 new trees, of different species.

After the upgrades, there will be a cycle path, 45 degree parking on the north side of the street and parallel parking on the south side.

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