THE strongly criticised Telford Bridge traffic lights in Morpeth are gone for good.
Northumberland County Council has confirmed that the mini-roundabout at the junction will permanently replace the signals.
They were installed in March 2012 with the intention of managing the extra traffic that was anticipated with the opening of the new Morrisons store in Low Stanners, but hundreds of residents said the lights made the traffic flows much worse and demanded that they be removed.
A Lights Out campaign group was established and its members organised petitions and protest marches. There were also two public meetings about the issue.
Following the complaints, a Managing Morpeth’s Transport Steering Group including representatives from Lights Out, Morpeth Town Council and Morpeth Chamber of Trade was set up to review transport issues and independent consultant Phil Jones was commissioned to produce a report. His key recommendation was to remove the traffic lights and implement a six-month temporary trial of a mini-roundabout.
After members of the group said at a meeting that it is working extremely well, the county council was asked to consider making the temporary solution permanent before the end of the trial period and it announced yesterday that it has agreed to the request.
Lights Out chairman David Towns said: “This has been a long time coming, but the experiment which did such damage to Morpeth has now finally been ended.
“We’re delighted with the outcome, not just because it fully justifies and vindicates our campaign and everything we’ve been saying about that junction since March 2012, but also because it will help Morpeth by encouraging the return of lost shoppers and lost business. “It’s just a shame that it took ordinary townsfolk to point out to so-called experts something that was obvious from the outset – the traffic lights could never have worked.”
Morpeth North county councillor David Bawn said: “Finally, common sense has prevailed.
“It was clear just 24 hours after the lights went out that the mini-roundabout was 110 per cent better, so it’s great that it will stay in place permanently. This news will be universally welcomed across the town.”
Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said that the final removal of traffic lights and erection of new roundabout signing will happen during February whilst the footpath repairs in Bridge Street are still being carried out to minimise disruption.
Morpeth town councillor Bob Robertson, who stood for election as a result of the Lights Out campaign, said: “We’re delighted with this decision, which draws to a conclusion a long and sustained campaign.
“A big thanks to all the people who have supported the campaign – we really appreciate their efforts and we couldn’t have done it without them.
“We also thank those council officers who have been helpful since the steering group was formed.”
In a move to help local businesses, the authority has also announced that the one way system currently in place because of the footpath works will be taken off at weekends from the evening of Friday, February 7.