Pedestrians’ lives at risk at junction

The Give Way sign outside St George's which was struck and flattened again on Friday night, photo  by Cllr Dave Herne
The Give Way sign outside St George's which was struck and flattened again on Friday night, photo by Cllr Dave Herne

CAMPAIGNERS have warned that pedestrians’ lives are at risk after a second accident at a Morpeth junction in a matter of days.

Last week, the Herald reported that a Give Way sign at the Telford Bridge traffic lights had been felled by a lorry last Tuesday, just as consultant Phil Jones was visiting the town to assess the traffic system as part of a network review.

Members of the Lights Out group, which is campaigning for the removal of the signals and the reinstatement of a mini-roundabout, warned that had a pedestrian been in the area at the time there could have been a fatality.

And now their fears have been heightened after the same sign was knocked flat again on Friday evening.

Northumberland County Council has said a safety bollard will be erected at the junction, but critics say it is not enough, particularly when surrounding footpaths are busier than ever due to the closure of the Chantry Footbridge for structural repairs.

Lights Out member David Clark said: “We have genuine concerns and fears that there could be a pedestrian fatality, citing the fact that the junction is poorly designed combined with the many hundreds of extra pedestrians, many of whom are schoolchildren, who because of the extended closure of the Chantry Footbridge are currently forced to use the narrow footpaths of Telford Bridge.

“We have highlighted what are real road safety concerns based on actual evidence and believe that Northumberland County Council has a duty of care to all road users to negate or remove these risks.

“We have also been contacted from worried parents of children at Goosehill School who don’t feel safe in the vicinity of the junction, given the close proximity of large vehicles to narrow footpaths.

“These risks have been compounded by the badly-damaged kerbstones on both sides of the road, caused by heavy vehicles mounting and clipping them. Our group fears that a pedestrian could trip and fall into the path of traffic.”

The group says that a temporary safety barrier already in place has repeatedly been struck by large vehicles trying to negotiate the tight turn at the lights and the new bollard could suffer the same fate.

Chairman David Towns said: “As far as Lights Out is concerned, we really do see this accident as the last straw.

“The roundabout, while by no means perfect, at least let traffic flow naturally. It also allowed room for manoeuvre for larger vehicles and allowed for minor driver error from time to time. This new junction has no such redeeming features. It holds up traffic throughout the day and is far too tight on both the right turn off the bridge and the left turn onto it.

“The flattened road signs, broken paving slabs, dented lighting columns and scarred barrier are testament to this fact. The junction does not allow any room for manoeuvre or slight driver error and it is a miracle that there has not yet been a serious injury to either a driver or a pedestrian.

“While Lights Out will fully engage in the traffic review being undertaken by Phil Jones, the only sensible conclusion regarding the Telford Bridge junction is to rip it out and we will continue to keep pressure on the council to do just that.”

St George’s United Reformed Church Minister Ron Forster is also concerned about safety in the area and says that the issue of bollards being installed outside the church was raised at a meeting with the county council a couple of months ago.

He said: “Although we need to allow space for hearse vehicles and wedding cars, we believe that bollards can be accommodated without affecting their access to and from the church.

“They will offer protection to pedestrians coming round the corner and the pavement from drivers who put part of their vehicle up onto the kerb.”

Morpeth Town councillors have also been calling for safety improvements at the junction and there was fresh criticism for the county authority at their Planning and Transport Committee last week.

Coun David Parker said: “Despite this committee bringing up the need for bollards by St George’s Church on numerous occasions and the county council saying months ago that they were looking to put some in place, it has been very dilatory in responding to the matter.”

Committee members also discussed the review being carried out by independent transport and traffic expert Phil Jones on behalf of the county council.

Coun Parker said he was ‘uneasy about the potential conflict of interest’ his report could have with the ongoing Neighbourhood Plan process in which residents