Town matters to community

TRAFFIC light campaigners are widening their focus in a new community group.

Morpeth Matters has been set up as a Facebook group to build on the success of the traffic lights’ forum.

The social media lights campaign helped to pile the pressure on council officials to remove the Telford Bridge signals and ensured a huge response to public meetings, petitions and a protest march.

The lights have now been removed for a six-month trial of a roundabout, but the group has carried on.

And now a sister site has been created for people to discuss wider issues in the town.

Already around 600 people have signed up.

Founder and town councillor David Clark said: “There were a lot of people in Morpeth who were bothered enough to come onto the traffic lights’ site and give their opinions so we thought it would be nice to keep that community input going.

“It is called Morpeth Matters because that is exactly what it is about. We have now got 600 members. All of them are Morpethians, there is not a single person who is an ex-Morpethian or from elsewhere.

“It stimulates some interesting debates about a lot of the things that matter to Morpeth.”

The group is non-political, but Coun Clark said it is helpful for politicians to take part.

“It certainly helps me as a local councillor because it acts as a bit of a barometer for public opinion. There are debates about issues that affect us all,” he said.

“It is like an informal council. There are a lot of intelligent people in Morpeth, who are very perceptive about what is going on, and it is important that councils should listen to them.

“It is obvious that there is an awakening in local government that social media is very powerful and councils do now recognise that you ignore it at your peril, as has been shown by the traffic lights. It just gathers momentum.”

While the group aims to stimulate debate of important local issues, Coun Clark said it also has a lighter side and people can use it as they choose.

“A lot of people do like to come on and have a bit of a moan about something, but it is certainly not all doom and gloom,” he said.

“I’m interested in local history and I’ve found that what creates a lot of interest is when I put a photograph up of Morpeth from the past, whether it is 20 years ago or 100 years ago. People reminisce and that can also lead to debate about how things are now compared to then.

“Members don’t even have to participate in conversations, they can just use it to see what’s going on and what people are talking about. Sometimes it can be a bit colourful, other times there could be debates going in different directions and diverse conversations going on at the same time. Some people use it as a kind of chatroom.

“The good thing is it is Morpeth people taking about Morpeth matters.”

To join the group search for Morpeth Matters on Facebook.