Holy Island causeway group's views on changes

A GROUP set up to find ways of stopping cars getting stuck on the Holy Island causeway has ruled out any major changes to the road after opposition from local people.

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A GROUP set up to find ways of stopping cars getting stuck on the Holy Island causeway has ruled out any major changes to the road after opposition from local people.

Calls for barriers to be erected at the ends of the causeway have been dismissed by the working group set up by Northumberland County Council after a summer in which cars have been submerged after ignoring warning signs.

The group ruled that barriers would be “unreliable and impractical.”

Visitors to Holy Island regularly try to drive across the causeway when the tide is in, despite signs advising them of the safe crossing times.

Cars suffer serious damage once they hit the water, often having to be written off, and passengers have to be rescued.

There have been calls for barriers to be erected at either end of the causeway, and lowered when the tide is in.

But earlier this year islanders got together a petition opposing the idea, claiming no villager has ever been stuck on the causeway but they would be most affected by barriers.

Islanders said the measure would impede them “far too much” and fear there would be “havoc” if the barriers broke down in bad weather.

Villagers also say vehicles could still get stuck between the barriers, meaning rescues would still be necessary.

The petition was signed by 148 people and handed to the county council.

Shortly afterwards, the authority launched the working group to explore solutions.

It is made up of representatives from Northumbria Police, HM Coastguard, the RNLI, county and parish councillors and officers.

A report prepared by officers from the county’s sustainable transport and highways officers says barriers would cost around £40,000, and lists their negatives as “highly invasive, could create bad feeling, adverse effect on tourism.”

The working group says no action should be taken.

It says: “All present recognised the strength of feeling against barriers.

“However, the decision not to progress this option focussed as much on issues of reliability and practicality, and the possibility of heightened risk from people trying to avoid barriers.

“The unique issues of trying to manage traffic across the causeway were also considered a strong argument against barriers.”

The group adds that barriers are considered a “major risk” as there are no examples of reliable barrier systems working in a tidal, saltwater environment.

Group members meanwhile recommend a mobile phone application should have a “high priority” for being pursued due to its low cost and ease of implementation. Support was also given to a variable message sign which would cost £12-16,000 and which the party felt would be “the most high impact solution.”

A practical experiment may be conducted next year.

It was agreed displaying tide tables on ticket machines should be pursued, being relatively low cost and likely to inform visitors, although placing all machines would be too expensive.

Officers have been authorised to further explore rationalisation of signs, likely to cost £10,000, while support was given to simplifying tide table displays.

However, the group agreed no further action be taken on the possibility of installing bollards, which it was deemed would cause parking problems, or use of penalties, with the practicalities of enforcing the latter and availability of police counting against them.

Work to improve the accuracy of the tide times was deemed not to be a priority while there was concerns over the benefit and costs of redeploying existing CCTV cameras.

Party member Ryan Douglas, station officer with Holy Island Coastguard, said: “There is progress with the working group and they will have some of their ideas implemented by next summer.”

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