Sign knocked down during traffic review

David Towns photograph of Morpeth Street.
David Towns photograph of Morpeth Street.

A ROADSIDE sign was knocked flat at Morpeth’s controversial traffic lights – just as a consultant was visiting the town to review the junction.

The accident happened at the Telford Bridge traffic lights on Tuesday when the Give Way sign outside St George’s United Reformed Church was hit.

The post was hastily re-erected by Northumberland County Council, but signs of the damage remain and the notice will eventually be replaced.

The incident took place while independent transport and traffic expert Phil Jones was in the area to assess Morpeth’s traffic system as part of a network review.

The study was called in response to fierce protests about the traffic lights and demands for the reinstatement of a mini-roundabout.

Council bosses say the signals were necessary to handle an expected increase in traffic with the opening of a new supermarket off Dark Lane and are working safely and effectively, but campaigners say they are dangerous, unsightly and cause congestion.

Lights Out member David Clark said: “The Lights Out group spent a few hours on Monday with Phil Jones explaining our concerns and he is more than happy to report that he is getting stuck into the review now.

“Quite coincidentally, the Give Way sign outside St George’s Church was knocked over on Tuesday morning by a lorry mounting the pavement – it was knocked flat on the ground.

“There is clear evidence on both sides of the road of large vehicles and others regularly mounting the kerbs to try to get round because of the poor design of the junction. This sign is maybe two feet off the kerb. Had there been pedestrians there we could have ended up with a fatality.”

Reports of the incident and photographs of the sign have been sent to Mr Jones, with campaigners saying it is further evidence that the system is dangerous and must be replaced.

Lights Out Chairman and county councillor David Towns said: “The damage at the lights this week just highlights how these things are a fairly regular occurrence. There are always lots of ifs and buts around the accidents, but that road sign was completely flattened. If someone had been standing at the entrance to the church we are talking serious injuries.

“The timing of this with Phil Jones’ visit was coincidental, but this is happening too often. You can see signs of damage everywhere. When the barriers were put in it was marked out where they should go with fluorescent paint so when they move because they have been hit you can see it.

“The reality is the junction is far too narrow and the turn is far too tight.

“All of these points were made to Phil Jones and what happened on Tuesday backs up what we were saying.”

Coun Towns said the meeting with the consultant was positive.

“We had a very informative, interesting and productive meeting where we made our points about the public concern over the lights, not just congestion, but other issues such as vehicle and pedestrian safety,” he said.

“We went away with a good feeling that we had been given a fair chance to make our points. We were shown information and we were able to ask questions on some of the technical points. We felt it was very productive.”

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Mr Jones is expected to hold a further meeting with interested parties in February.

In the meantime, the Lights Out group is calling on Northumberland County Council to take further action to make the Telford Bridge junction safe.

Coun Towns said: “We have had issues raised by parents of kids at Goosehill school and with the Chantry footbridge being closed many more pedestrians than normal are using Telford Bridge to cross the river.

“This accident cannot be ignored, and next time it could be a pedestrian knocked down due to the tightness of this junction and its inherent design flaws.

“If this leads to another ugly temporary barrier than although regrettable, we’d rather see that than an innocent person injured or killed.

“This junction has been shown to be unsafe and the review can only conclude that it must be removed.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The independent consultant considering transport and traffic management in Morpeth has been in the area this week, speaking to stakeholders in the town.

“A ‘Give Way’ sign was knocked down next to the church at Telford Bridge. This has been made safe and will be replaced in due course.”