UNPOPULAR Morpeth traffic lights are set to stay for at least another two months, despite angry calls for them to be scrapped now.
Around 200 people crammed into Morpeth Town Hall last night to voice their frustration at the signals at Telford Bridge, which were erected at the end of March to replace a mini-roundabout.
Residents have repeatedly complained that the lights have increased congestion, cause confusion and are a road safety risk, as well as criticising a lack of consultation about them.
But despite a show of hands at the start and close of the meeting displaying almost unanimous support for the lights to be removed as soon as possible and the roundabout to be reinstated, council officials insisted they need more time to settle in.
Now a further meeting is to be held in July to see if public opposition to the lights remains as strong.
If it does, and the problems persist, highways chiefs say they will consider taking the signals out.
County Executive Member for Corporate Resources and Morpeth councillor Andrew Tebbutt said: “Yes, I’m listening. We have all heard about the traffic lights and whether they should come out, but as I said at the start, we have to give them a little bit of time because that junction has always been suffering from over capacity.
“I will give a commitment here and now that we will review this by July 1. I’m quite happy to reconvene this meeting in July. If it is then recommended that they come out, I will recommend that, but at the end of the day the officers will make a judgement based on all the evidence.
“I have the commitment of the Corporate Director of Local Services that she will order them to be taken out and that the developer will pay for that if they are wrong.”
However, Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade Chairman John Beynon said that urgent action is needed now if local businesses are to survive.
“Please listen to the public, listen to the traders and do something about it. Don’t say ‘wait another three months’, do something now. Put your hand up and say you could have been wrong and you will be congratulated for that,” he said.
The meeting was called by local Conservatives to give residents a chance to put their concerns direct to Northumberland County Council officers and members.
There was standing room only as people took that opportunity, and many spoke passionately about their own experiences of the lights.
Officers were jeered as they said the lights had improved peak time congestion in the town and amendments to the junction were improving the situation, while those speaking against the system were warmly applauded.
The meeting heard that the signals were introduced to ensure the town could cope with the expected increase in traffic from the development of a new Morrisons’ supermarket by Dransfield Properties.
For further details and a full report of the meeting, see next week’s Morpeth Herald.