Campaigners welcome traffic congestion pledge

CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed Northumberland County Council’s pledge to re-examine all options in an attempt reduce congestion at the Telford Bridge junction in Morpeth.

Calls for the new traffic lights to be removed and replaced with the old mini-roundabout have been growing in recent weeks, with a 2,500 signature petition and a 500-strong protest walk firm evidence of the strength of feeling.

Members of the Lights Out protest group had been concerned at a recommendation from transport bosses to delay a traffic management and public realm study on the issue until the Morpeth Northern bypass is open in 2015.

However, the authority’s North Area Committee was informed on Monday night that the review is going to be undertaken immediately.

Mike Scott, Head of Sustainable Transport, said: “The decision to install the traffic lights was made with the best information available to the council at that time. It was seen as the best answer to a traffic problem in a congested town centre.

“We are open to suggestions and ideas that could make the junction better still in the context of the extra traffic from the new supermarket that is due to come on stream in the new year. We are now proposing to take forward an independent study drawing together stakeholders in Morpeth to look at short, medium and long-term solutions to the traffic problems in the town centre.”

David Bawn, Deputy Chairman of Morpeth Conservatives, said he was ‘heartened’ that there was going to be an immediate review with stakeholders including the ‘Lights Out’ group.

He added: “It’s quite clear that the status quo is not acceptable to the people of Morpeth.”

Bob Robertson from the Lights Out group called for the removal of the traffic lights and reinstatement of the roundabout on a trial basis before the opening of the new supermarket.

He said: “The lights could be physically detached for a period of six weeks and put back to being a roundabout during which time the council could monitor performance at that junction. That would allow the people of Morpeth to have their own test before the supermarket opens.”

Coun David Towns said: “The suggestion of waiting to see what the effect of the Northern bypass has when it opens in 2015 is not a good one. If there is a better option available it should be done as soon as possible.”

However, Coun David Moore argued: “I would suggest leaving the lights until the supermarket is built. There is also going to be a big change once the bypass is open. It may be by that time that the lights aren’t even needed.”

Coun Andrew Tebbutt pointed out that development schemes at St George’s and Northgate would also impact on town centre congestion over the next 12 months.

The traffic signals were installed by Dransfield Properties in March as part of a package of off-site traffic measures that were designed to try and alleviate the impact of the new superstore being built by the developer at Low Stanners.