ANTI-TRAFFIC light campaigners have celebrated the return of a Morpeth roundabout.
Members of the Lights Out group gathered at Telford Bridge on Saturday as the bitterly-opposed signals were switched off.
Champagne corks were popping as council worker Chris Sharp pulled the plug on the lights and staff set to work re-installing a mini roundabout. The system will initially be in place for a six-month trial.
Morpeth town councillor Bob Robertson, a founder member of the campaign group, said: “Everything I have heard so far about the roundabout has been positive. People are delighted to see it back. Journey times are shorter, getting kids to school in the morning is quicker and going home from work is easier. It is working really well.
“It is a victory for common sense, but it is a shame that it has taken so long.
“I now want to hear what the impact is on the rat-runs, particularly through Kirkhill. The traffic there should fall away and return to normal levels, because it is no longer difficult to get through the town by the common-sense route.”
Traffic lights were installed at the busy junction in March last year ahead of the opening of Morrisons’ supermarket in Dark Lane to prepare for an expected increase in vehicles.
However, they immediately sparked protest from residents, who said they had increased congestion, were an eyesore and had caused a safety risk because of the tight junction.
Hundreds of people attended public meetings to complain, thousands signed a petition against the lights and a protest march to County Hall was joined by about 500 people.
Northumberland County Council commissioned independent consultant Phil Jones to review the entire Morpeth traffic network in response to the outcry.
Earlier this month he confirmed that the lights were a problem and urged the trial of the roundabout.
Town councillor and campaigner David Clark said: “The feeling I’m getting from the people of Morpeth is that this is a great success. I’ve been along to Church Walk and people say the traffic volume has already decreased on the rat-runs.
“I do want to know why we need a six-month trial to prove a roundabout works when we have had an 18-month trial to prove that the traffic lights don’t work and prior to that we had a 45 to 50-year trial to prove that a roundabout did.
“The barrier should be coming out within a week, but why have they left three traffic lights up? It is almost like a face-saving exercise for the council, saying this is just a trial.”
A Northumberland County Council spokeswoman said: “Following the installation of the temporary roundabout, the scheme is being monitored to assess the immediate impact during a six-month trial. Having a temporary trial of a mini roundabout will test the effectiveness of this option and help to inform the longer-term permanent solutions.”