A thousand names call for lights to go

ALMOST 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for the removal of Morpeth’s new traffic lights.

The signatures were collected by Morpeth Conservatives during Fair Day on Sunday to seek support for the removal of the signals at Telford Bridge and the reinstatement of the mini-roundabout.

A total of 962 people signed up to the campaign and there are plans to set up an online petition to secure further backing.

Coun David Towns said: “There is incredibly strong feeling about this. All we had to say was ‘would you like to sign the traffic lights petition?’ and people were grabbing the boards out of our hands to do so.

“I asked more than 120 people while I was out and only two said they didn’t want to sign it.

“You hear anecdotes and stories third hand and you wonder how accurate they are, but on Sunday everyone was telling us their own experiences.

“One of the things that became clear to me, which has been slightly overlooked, is people are not just sitting in their cars being frustrated because they aren’t going anywhere, but people are saying they don’t bother coming into Morpeth town centre now, they do their shopping somewhere else. It is because of the cumulative impact of the perception of the traffic problems and parking charges in Morpeth.

“When I spoke to a couple of business people they confirmed there has been a notable decline in footfall.”

Coun Towns said some of the fairground ride operators had complained that they couldn’t get their vehicles through the lights because of the tight turn.

He has also hit out at Northumberland County Council for failing to give him enough notice of a stakeholders meeting about the lights, which took place on Monday, as it was too late to arrange time off work to attend.

He said: “I said from the start that I would like to go to that meeting and on a few occasions I have emailed the council to ask when this meeting was being held and I was told I would hear in due course.

“The meeting was on Monday at 10.30am in the Town Hall and I got an email on Friday afternoon saying that following a review of the list of attendees they thought it best to let me know about this meeting and were sorry for the short notice. They really should be sorry because it is an outrage.

“I was only invited after a review of the guest list and I was never invited to a meeting in June 2011 about the lights when all the Lib Dem councillors for Morpeth were there. I represent Hepscott and the people of Hepscott, if they want to go to Morpeth, are the worst affected by the lights because of the tailbacks at Stobhill. I need to be able to tell the people I represent what is going on, but I can’t because I couldn’t attend the meeting because of the short notice.”

A council spokeswoman said: “We invited all elected members that represent Morpeth and the immediate local area to the meeting held on Monday. It was an oversight by officers that Coun Towns had not been invited and we did address this as soon as we could. Admittedly this was at short notice, for which we apologise.”