A large roundabout in Morpeth that would eat into allotment land has moved a step closer.
The proposed scheme is Northumberland County Council’s preferred option to improve access to Morpeth NHS Centre and a potential housing estate at St George’s Hospital.
It would take up 460sq m, about seven plots, from Tommy’s Field Allotments and Morpeth Town Council’s planning and transport committee has now approved the transfer of land, subject to conditions.
As the allotments received statutory status in 2012, the town council is entitled to replacement land that will be made suitable at no cost to the authority and a site near the East Riding Care Home has been allocated. Its size is roughly 5,000sq m and the area for cultivation would be approximately 3,300sq m.
The other options included traffic lights and a mini-roundabout. The transfer of land will need to be approved by the Secretary of State and the county council will need to put forward a planning application for the large roundabout.
Despite the prospect of gaining more land, the Tommy’s Field Allotments Association – which has looked after the plots for more than 70 years – has raised concerns about the suitability of the alternative site and it has called on the county authority to do more work into all of the options before pressing ahead with the scheme.
Secretary Dorothy Slater said: “We do recognise that townspeople don’t want more traffic lights, but we don’t see why the roundabout needs to be so big. We’ve asked the county council for more details about its reasoning for such a scheme.
“The replacement land identified is up a steep incline, so even though improvement works would be carried out, it would be very difficult for the disabled and some elderly people to access the site and they certainly wouldn’t be able to manage a plot.
“We believe that we’re entitled to compensation for the loss of land if this goes ahead and we would want some help with regaining land at our current site, which has been lost due to overhanging trees.
“This could then be allocated to those unable to use the new site and community groups.
At a meeting of the planning and transport committee, David Rowlinson of the county council said all the potential options for the junction have been fully considered.
He added: “The traffic lights were the developer’s preferred option. We have asked a number of questions about them and technical questions remain unanswered about capacity and traffic management in the town.
“Our position is that we think a roundabout of a larger size is the best option for that site. Unfortunately, that type of junction would require a degree of allotment land. It is something very unfortunate and we don’t take it at all lightly.
“We have looked at ways to move the junction or to align it slightly differently, but this is the only way we can get it to work suitably. We have looked at smaller options for a roundabout, but the proper vehicle turning space for large vehicles wouldn’t be addressed.”