Councillor was planning U-turn over traffic lights

Telford Bridge lorry incident.'Photographs taken by Bob Arkle on during the morning of Tuesday the 23rd of October.
Telford Bridge lorry incident.'Photographs taken by Bob Arkle on during the morning of Tuesday the 23rd of October.

A SENIOR councillor was set to call for the removal of Morpeth traffic lights over safety concerns, but backed down after discussions with officers.

Northumberland County Council Executive member Andrew Tebbutt had prepared a draft press statement in August, setting out his change of heart over the controversial Telford Bridge signals to call for their replacement with a roundabout.

However, after ‘considerable discussions’ with the council’s then Director of Local Services Caroline Bruce, Coun Tebbutt decided not to issue the statement and asked for it be destroyed.

When contacted by the Herald this week, he said: “This was a private draft email, which was never released and I don’t want to make comment on it. The position is that we are doing an independent review, which all parties have signed up to, and we await the outcome of that.”

Coun Tebbutt’s August statement, which was unearthed in a Freedom of Information request, includes comments that the lights ‘are unsafe and potentially dangerous, with an increased potential for accidents’.

It also raises concerns about the risks to pedestrians in Bridge Street, confusing signals, the tight right turn from the bridge and the rat-run through Kirkhill.

However, Coun Tebbutt said he takes no heed of claims of increased traffic jams at the lights and slams ‘attempts of local Conservatives to politicise the lights’. He also deplores verbal attacks on council officers by campaigners.

He said a roundabout alone would not manage the traffic, but concluded: ‘I will continue to support officers in the active management of the junction whilst holding an overview that the lights should be removed.’

The next day Coun Tebbutt said he would await the outcome of key meetings before issuing any statement.

The emails were revealed after Chairman of the Wansbeck Conservative Association David Bawn submitted a Freedom of Information request to the county council seeking all correspondence relating to the lights.

Last week, the Herald reported an email from Pegswood councillor David Woodard saying traffic lights protesters ‘should get a life’.

Mr Bawn said: “The closer you look at these emails the murkier the swamp gets. We now know that Coun Tebbutt agrees that the lights must go. His scandalous silence is made worse by the fact that he believes the lights are unsafe.”

This week members of the Lights Out group against the signals took photographs of a lorry struggling to negotiate the turn.

Chairman David Towns said: “This whole situation is a complete farce and it’s time Morpeth’s county councillors acted urgently to clarify matters.”