TOWN councillors have given their backing to the temporary removal of Morpeth’s controversial traffic lights.
The Herald reported last week that consensus had been reached to set up a trial period without the Telford Bridge lights as part of a wide-ranging review of Morpeth’s transport network.
The proposal was made at a stakeholder workshop earlier this month, which was attended by town and county councillors, the Lights Out campaign group, schools, highways officers and community groups, and Northumberland County Council has confirmed the idea is being considered.
Now Morpeth town councillors have shown their support.
Coun Ken Brown said: “I was pleased that all present at the meeting, regardless of their background, appeared to be in agreement that the traffic lights at Telford Bridge present a safety risk, are not right for the look and feel of a vibrant market town like Morpeth and that they should be removed.
“But a number of other ideas for easing traffic congestion were also proposed as there are a number of other pressures on Morpeth’s transport systems and it is hoped that these will also be considered.
“Highways matters are fully delegated by law to highways officers and the design of safe traffic controls is for experts, not politicians.
“My understanding is that the review will complete its work by the summer.”
Coun Andrew Tebbutt added: “I do not like the lights. I have made my views about real safety concerns at the junction very clear to officers.
“I was instrumental in pressing officers to undertake a full review of the lights in view of the hostile reaction from the public.
“I am equally aware that once the lights were installed, politicians could not influence their future. Conservative promises to remove the lights are not deliverable.”
Coun David Parker, who also attended the stakeholder meeting, said: “We have been saying for some time now that we have listened to the people of Morpeth and that we do not think that the traffic lights meet the present or future needs of this town, either in relation to potential traffic going to the new supermarket, in relation to the street scene, or in relation to health and safety at Telford Bridge.
“We called for action to find an alternative solution to the situation at Telford Bridge that will meet the needs of the town and at the same time, ensure that the needs of pedestrians are met in a way which is safe. We now look forward to the outcome of the review.”
At a meeting of the town’s Planning and Transport Committee last week, members said that data presented at the workshop shows that the junction is tight and that the traffic lights detract from the environment.
Coun Parker also raised concerns that fewer people seem to be coming into the town since the lights were installed, but he said no clear conclusions can be drawn.
He said: “There were figures given which showed that there has been a decrease in traffic coming into the town, if you go back to before work on the new supermarket started.
“There was an increase in traffic on a number of so-called rat-runs, particularly the one through Church Walk, but in terms of cars using the identified other routes, it is not equivalent to the reduction in the number of vehicles coming into the town.
“What the figures don’t show is whether the reduction is from vehicles that would normally be coming into the town for people to do shopping or other business, or whether they would simply drive through the town.
“It is impossible to make that distinction because there is no hard evidence one way or the other.
“The reduction is quite significant.”
Coun Brown said that surveys of car parks would add to the picture.
The Lights Out group is continuing to survey residents on their views about the Telford Bridge junction.
It can be found online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/YQM3MKM and forms are available from the Herald office in Newgate Street.