TRADERS, shoppers and residents in a market town are facing the prospect of six months of traffic problems and disruption because of the combined effects of major roadworks and controversial new traffic lights.
A storm of protest has erupted in Morpeth since the new lights were installed at a key town centre junction last month, just as work was finishing on the roadworks, which started in January and required the introduction of a temporary one-way traffic system.
Almost 200 people crammed into the town hall last week for a public meeting organised by local Conservatives, which demanded the immediate removal of the lights and a revised junction layout installed next to the Telford Bridge.
Critics claim the new system is causing delays and confusion, while also posing the risk of accidents.
Virtually everyone at the meeting gave their backing to a return of the mini-roundabout which it replaced. Yesterday Northumberland County Council said it plans to continue monitoring the operation of the lights, and will hold another public meeting on July 12 to review the situation.
Morpeth Chamber of Trade chairman, John Beynon, said this would mean the town suffering traffic disruption further into the busy summer season.
“We have to ask how much more harm do they want to inflict on Morpeth,” he said. “I believe the county council is just hoping people will eventually get used to the lights, so they can keep them.
“We have been working our socks off, and spending a lot of time and money, to promote the town during the roadworks, but every time we do we seem to get knocked back.
“Surely the council could help us out with something like free parking while all this goes on?”
The new system was introduced to cope with the extra traffic which will be generated by a Morrisons superstore being built at Low Stanners.
Yesterday the county council said further discussions will be held about the way the junction is working, and the July meeting will review its effectiveness after three months of operation. Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt, executive member for corporate resources, said: “We appreciate the high level of concern expressed by residents and visitors regarding the traffic lights, and are in the process of collating information and evidence of traffic flows and delay.
“When the lights were installed it was the council’s belief, based on the advice of traffic consultants working on the new Morrisons store, that it was the best possible option available.
“We have always said that if, after an initial settling down period, the lights were proved to be making traffic conditions worse, we would review the situation. However, we are very conscious that before making such a major decision to remove the lights, all possible alternative solutions will need to be carefully thought through for this extremely busy junction.”
Surely the county council could help the town out with something like free parking?