A delay to improvement works at a junction described as ‘an accident waiting to happen’ has been strongly criticised by a patient group.
The Morpeth NHS Centre planning approval included an agreement that the service would fund measures to help vehicle access to and from the facility off Dark Lane, which opened in April last year.
But during the development, proposals came forward for housing on the St George’s site to the north and Northumberland County Council decided to not to introduce the NHS works in isolation as further improvements would be required if a housing estate went ahead.
This change of stance has caused great concern among members of the Greystoke Surgery Patients Participation Group – Greystoke and the Gas House Lane GP practice moved into the centre – as they believe the junction in its current form is very dangerous.
Chairman John Walton wrote to the council to seek clarification on whether the improvements were a requirement of any conditions attached to the planning permission for the health centre and the reasons why no improvements have been carried out.
And after not being satisfied with the response from the authority, the group is now calling for urgent works to make the junction safer, covering the period until a permanent scheme is put in place.
“We were told that a financial contribution for the junction improvements was made and the council then agreed to remove the relevant planning condition for the health centre. It believes that it would be best for works to take place only once and the junction will be monitored in the meantime,” said Mr Walton.
“We’re very concerned with this approach as the junction is an accident waiting to happen.
“The visibility is poor and the right turn in the direction of the town centre can be a difficult manoeuvre, especially at peak times. Also, the kerb layout at the corners makes turning off Dark Lane very tight.
“We’re dismayed that the council doesn’t recognise the danger this junction poses. The health centre should not have been occupied until improvements were carried out.
“It says it is now waiting for the developer of the housing scheme (Linden Homes) to come forward with a planning application, but there is no guarantee that this will happen. Given the present uncertainty over this project, the council should put in place some interim safety measures – at the very least, this should include additional signage and road markings. It would be unacceptable to not do anything at the junction.”
The group has received support from doctors and staff at the surgery, which has also written to the county council.
Practice manager Jonathan Bradley said: “If the junction stays as it is, someone could get seriously hurt.
“The council needs to take action because it could be another five or ten years before the new housing scheme is in place.”
The authority’s preferred option for the junction is a large roundabout. It would take up 460 sq m from Tommy’s Field Allotments and last month, Morpeth Town Council’s planning and transport committee approved the transfer of land, subject to conditions.
A county council spokesman said: “While new junction works were initially a condition of this development, this condition was removed last year in a bid to minimise inconvenience in the area and the council agreed to defer any improvement works as we were aware of further potential development on this site.
“We’ll be looking to work with the prospective new developer to carry out improvements felt necessary at this junction as soon as possible.”