Campaign sparks pride in our town

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As co-founder and chairman of Lights Out! I’d like to publicly thank everyone who has supported our campaign for the removal of the Telford Bridge traffic lights.

Without the backing of a very large portion of the residents of this town (and others), we might have given up our fight long ago, but they encouraged us to keep going and the end result has been fantastic.

Lights Out! was a mere twinkle in my eye in early August 2012, when I met Bob Robertson, David Clark, David Bawn and James Mee to discuss a non-party political approach to Morpeth’s new junction.

They agreed to form Lights Out! with me, as a focal point for the public’s response to the lights. Although at the time I was a county councillor for the Conservatives, this issue clearly went beyond party politics, and I am pleased that as Lights Out! grew, it was openly supported in its aims by people from all the major political parties.

I always hoped that the public would get behind the aims of Lights Out! and they did – in huge numbers.

After well-attended public meetings, around 450 people joined our protest march on County Hall in early September 2012, sending a significant message to the powers-that-be.

This was followed up with petitions and surveys completed by thousands of concerned residents.

The Chamber of Trade also fervently supported the campaign, as local traders advised that congestion was adding to shoppers’ frustrations, and they were voting with their feet.

When County Hall backed down and proposed bringing in an independent expert to review the junction and suggest any changes, many were sceptical; but our campaign changed pace, engaging in the process fully, whilst maintaining a presence on the streets with surveys and petitions.

The independent reviewer, Phil Jones, has now confirmed that on every single point of concern raised by Lights Out! and by members of the public, we were correct.

The junction was too tight. It did present a degree of danger to pedestrians. It did cause rat-runs around the town.

Crucially, he confirmed that although traffic volumes using the junction had fallen significantly, congestion had actually increased, due to the lights.

When Phil concluded that the lights should be removed, we were overjoyed. Provided traffic flows well during the next six months, and the points are further proven, the lights will not be making a return.

We are confident this will be the case, as early indications show much improved traffic flow.

As a group of us stood on Saturday night and watched the workmen remove the lights, and paint a new mini-roundabout on the Tarmac, we felt an enormous sense of pride in our town – thousands of ordinary people stood up to the so-called ‘experts’ and the county council that treated us with such disdain.

One workman told me on Saturday night that he had been part of the crew that had installed the lights. He joked that he was surprised they hadn’t been back earlier to remove them.

Finally, I’d like to add that the lights weren’t all bad. They have helped a number of us forge new, life-long, friendships and for that we are grateful.

The campaign also inspired Bob Robertson and David Clark to stand for election to the town council in May 2013, something they would not have done before, and they both won seats. They are proving to be effective and popular councillors, and they have lots more to contribute to the future of our town.

So, again, a huge thanks to all of those who helped the campaign, and also to the Morpeth Herald for helping to keep the issue high up the local agenda.

DAVID J TOWNS,

Chairman, Lights Out!