Town council's re-think call as more traffic lights set for Morpeth

Morpeth councillors have raised fears that motorists will experience more traffic lights misery in the town if works go ahead as planned.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 3:40 pm
Traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre. Picture from Google.
Traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre. Picture from Google.

Huge tailbacks were caused when signals were installed next to Telford Bridge in 2012. They were removed 18 months later following a Lights Out! campaign that was supported by thousands of residents.

Now more traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre as part of planning permission for 158 properties on land south of Bluebell Court, East Cottingwood, which comes under the St George's housing scheme.

It was provisionally granted by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee and planning officers formally signed off just before the election campaign period in the spring.

This meant that last week’s Morpeth Town Council Planning and Transport Committee meeting was the first opportunity this committee had to comment on the formal award of planning permission.

Chairman Alison Byard said: “This is extremely disappointing, especially given the fact that there were detailed discussions about putting a roundabout at that junction, which we prefer. It even got to the stage of this council gaining permission from the Secretary of State for extra land to allow the roundabout to be put in place.

“Putting traffic lights at that junction will be a disaster like it was in 2012 and 2013. The county council seemed to be working with us on the roundabout plan, but at some point its position has changed.”

According to the planning report, ‘(for the whole St George’s scheme) the occupation of the 165th dwelling will be the trigger point for the implementation of the interim improvement measures and the 278th dwelling for full signalisation of this junction.

‘This dwelling threshold includes the completion of Phase 1A (14/02750/FUL) but also needs to take into account the potential development of the Cushman and Wakefield and Phase 1C (care) developments (18/03650/OUT and 19/00903/OUT respectively).

‘As Phase 1A has permission for 119 dwellings, the two thresholds for the delivery of the highways works associated with this development will be 46 dwellings for the interim priority junction improvements and the 159th dwelling for the full signalisation scheme.’

Coun David Bawn, also a county councillor, said this does mean there is time for the county council to go back to the drawing board and work out a roundabout solution with the housing developer, Linden Homes.

He added: “The developer has gone for the cheaper option and so the county council will need to look at providing funding for a roundabout.

“The alternative is putting the lights in, having about six months of traffic chaos and removing them and putting a roundabout in place, which is not in anybody’s interest.”

A county council spokesman said: “Accessibility and highway safety were all looked at in detail by the council’s highways and planning teams as part of consideration of this application, with the concerns of Morpeth Town Council fully taken into account.

“The original application for this site was approved on the basis of a traffic signals junction and it was only in subsequent discussions that a roundabout was considered.

“It was, however, never fully designed and the latest assessments, which are based on more up-to-date surveys carried out before Covid, show that traffic lights are acceptable, given predicted traffic flows.

“Improvements will be made to the junction before the traffic lights are installed and there are conditions attached to the permission that address access and traffic issues.”