CAMPAIGNERS say the end is in sight for controversial traffic lights which sparked a storm of protests when they were installed in a historic town centre last year.
An action group set up in Morpeth has been told the signals will be removed for a six-month trial period in three months’ time – and claims they wont be returning to the busy junction next to the Telford Bridge.
Independent transport consultant Phil Jones has recommended the trial after carrying out a major survey of traffic flows around the town.
His final report will be submitted in September and it is then expected that the three-way lights will be taken out on a temporary basis, with the junction reverting to the previous mini-roundabout system.
They were installed in April last year as part of plans for the new Morrisons superstore in the town, but sparked an outcry, with public meetings and a protest march calling for their removal and a protest petition signed by almost 2,500 people.
The public anger forced the county council to commission the review of the lights by Mr Jones.
He submitted his interim report to a steering group last week, and revealed that his recommendations include a trial removal of the signals.
Yesterday David Clark, from the Morpeth Lights Out group, said: “We are very confident that the lights will come out later this year and wont return. We believe this is the beginning of the end for the lights and the champagne is now on ice.
“We carried out a survey in Morpeth and 97% of those who responded wanted the lights to come out.
“Phil Jones’s study has shown that the amount of traffic going over the Telford Bridge is down by 15% since the lights were installed – because drivers are taking other routes – but the queues are longer than when it was a roundabout.”
Yesterday the council said evidence gathered from Mr Jones’s study suggested that re-introducing the mini roundabout on a trial basis is better than carrying out extensive modelling - and would help to inform decisions on the longer term, permanent solutions.
Mr Jones says this should only happen after the new Morrisons store, which opens on Monday, has been trading for a few weeks, and further traffic monitoring carried out.
It is expected that the six-month trial will start in October.
Council leader, Grant Davey, said: “We will listen carefully to the options and recommendations provided by Mr Jones in September, and will move quickly to implement any interim proposals.”
Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt, who chairs the local steering group, added: “Given the passion aroused by the installation of the lights, and the recorded difficulties created by their continued existence, we welcome the calm approach taken by Mr Jones to find the right solution.
“The opening of the new store was the original reason behind installing the lights, and it is only sensible to await the results of traffic flow surveys after it has opened before trialling a mini roundabout.”
The steering group will meet again in late September to consider the final report.