Traffic light plans under discussion

A NEW traffic light threat is facing Morpeth drivers, but a roundabout could also pose problems.

Last week the Herald reported that would-be developers of the St George’s Hospital site were proposing traffic lights in Dark Lane to give access to 375 proposed new homes, as well as the existing health centre.

The news comes just weeks after unpopular signals at Telford Bridge were removed for a roundabout trial.

No decision has been made about the Dark Lane junction, and mini-roundabout and larger roundabout options are also being considered.

But anti-lights campaigners have been warned that in this case a roundabout could also prove difficult as it may have to encroach into Tommy’s Field allotments.

The plots have been in place since the 1940s’ Dig For Victory campaign and 104 allotments are currently provided, with a 40-strong waiting list.

There are also community gardens and the Tommy’s Field Allotment Association, which runs the facility, works with youth groups and disability organisations on the land. It also plays a large role in the town’s Bloom effort.

It is not yet known how many plots could be lost if a roundabout is installed.

Association Chairman Rod Bramald said: “Our view at the moment is that we are opposed to a larger roundabout and we would prefer traffic lights or a mini-roundabout that wouldn’t affect the existing boundaries. We believe there may even be a covenant on the land.

“There is demand for allotments and there are large trees beside the river making some plots ungardenable, so we are getting squeezed from both sides.

“We don’t know how many plots we would lose because it hasn’t been decided how big a roundabout would be yet, but if the roundabout is to be the sole access for getting to the housing development and the St George’s site then we suspect it will have to be fairly substantial.

“A mini-roundabout is our preference, but traffic lights would suit us very nicely

“We are in the early stages of discussions and have had a couple of informal meetings about this, but we need to have more.”

Any loss of allotment land has to be replaced elsewhere and it has been suggested that a small parcel of land near East Mill could be used, but Mr Bramald said it is unsuitable due to flooding and taking land in another part of the town would pose difficulties from having a split site.

He added: “We want to be good citizens and certainly don’t want to be obstructive, but at the same time we have a responsibility to our plot-holders to keep what we have going.

Turn to Page 3

“We are part of the town and we are all inhabitants of the town, but we are not going to roll over just because somebody says they want a large roundabout and not traffic lights.”

Morpeth Town Council is facilitating discussions between the allotment association and county highways officers about the junction options.

Coun Nic Best said: “The county council highways officers have come to thinking that the junction needs increased capacity to cope with both the health centre, and if planning permission is granted, the housing development at the top of the hill.

“The solutions offered are either traffic lights or a mini-roundabout or larger roundabout. The preferred option for the planners is the large roundabout. The trouble is that this takes a bit off Tommy’s Field, which is estimated to be about seven allotments.

“These discussions have just started.”

Coun Bob Robertson said: “The developers’ stated preferred option is traffic lights. That wouldn’t sit well with me, and I don’t think it would sit well with a considerable number of the population in Morpeth.

“The most contentious option is the larger roundabout.

“I would be in favour of having conversations with the allotment association to get this right.”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “It’s too early to say what the traffic management choice will be for this site. We will make the decision once the planning application for the housing development has been submitted and considered.”