Growing Older Living in Darlington (GOLD) brings together people aged over 50. Members form taskgroups to look at a range of issues affecting older people, such as health, leisure, learning and transport. It has over 450 members, so it speaks with real authority on issues in Darlington.
I try and meet with the transport taskgroup two to three times a year at least - today's session was very lively, with about 20 members present. At other times, the group meet with Town Hall officers, or bus company representatives for example.
Understandably, much of the meeting was taken up with fall-out from the Pedestrian Heart work, and the impact on bus movements. Any major change in a town centre will be controversial - in the case of Pedestrian Heart the Council consulted widely before bringing the scheme in and made some significant changes - adding the Priestgate/Prebend Row/Tubwell Row loop for example, which kept buses in the heart of the town. Members told me today that for older people, these bus movements can cause road safety problems for people crossing. I hope that the introduction of a compulsory 20mph speed limit within the town centre soon will assist.
We also debated the poor bus service in some parts of the town, particularly the west end. The Council has increased its budget from £200,000 to over £400,000 in just four years, so services the bus companies wanted to withdraw could at least in part be maintained. There are still some destinations poorly served, if at all however (the Memorial Hospital and West Cemetery are two examples). I promised the taskgroup that our review of supported services would look at all these issues.
More information about GOLD can be found at http://www.darlington.gov.uk/Living/gold/GOLD.htm