Morpeth traffic lights controversy sparks review by transport consultant

CAMPAIGNERS hope evidence presented to a transport expert should be enough to convince him to recommend the removal of controversial traffic lights.

CAMPAIGNERS hope evidence presented to a transport expert should be enough to convince him to recommend the removal of controversial traffic lights.

Leading transport planning consultant, Phil Jones, was commissioned to carry out an independent review of traffic management in Morpeth, in the wake of a public outcry over the installation of the new lights and junction next to the historic Telford Bridge.

His review, which got under way in November, is examining the controversy surrounding the lights, but also looking at wider transport issues in the town.

The work is continuing and yesterday Northumberland County Council, which commissioned the study, said it is not yet known when Mr Jones will present his report and recommendations.

He has held meetings with local people and businesses, observed traffic movements first hand and studied evidence, which is understood to include CCTV footage of congestion at the Telford Bridge junction and anecdotal evidence from road users.

The campaign for the removal of the lights and the restoration of the previous mini-roundabout at the busy town centre junction has been led by the Lights Out action group, which organised a petition signed by almost 2,500 people.

Yesterday its chairman, local Conservative county councillor David Towns, said: ”I believe Phil Jones should have seen enough evidence to make him conclude that the traffic lights should come out.

“I know some of the evidence he has seen, and know how compelling it is that this junction is not fit for purpose.

“The county council has given him CCTV footage which shows congestion at unusual times of the day, and the day after he spoke to us the rear end of a lorry knocked down a give way sign outside St George’s Church while negotiating the junction.

“Phil Jones is looking into what is the best solution for Morpeth, and we get the impression he will be making a recommendation about that junction, although clearly we don’t know what it will be yet. We want this review concluded as soon as possible because we don’t want this whole thing being dragged out.”

The traffic lights were installed last April to cope with the predicted extra traffic from the town’s new Morrisons superstore at Low Stanners, and have sparked one of the biggest public protests ever seen in the town.

In September hundreds of people took to the streets on a march in support of the Lights Out campaign, and hundreds packed into two public meetings to demand the urgent removal of the lights.

Yesterday a county council spokeswoman said because of the work involved in the review, it was widely understood it would not be completed until later this year.

“The independent consultant explained at a steering group meeting this week that it is important to evaluate the impact of the new supermarket once it is open, and to allow technical work to be carried out over the coming months.

“More information, including details of a stakeholder meeting to be held on March 4, will be issued soon.”


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