Store wars

A GROUP of Morpeth residents is set to once again fight new supermarket plans.

Although changes have been made to Dransfield Properties’ detailed bid for a 50,000 sq ft food store in Low Stanners following public consultation, concerns remain among some of the people living in Staithes Lane.

The Morpeth Flood Action Group (MFAG) has also raised its fears about evacuation procedures in the event of flooding in the area.

If approved, a two-tier car park would be built opposite Staithes Lane and supermarket delivery traffic would travel along the street.

The relocation of the Robson and Prescott veterinary practice and T Thompson & Sons garage would, in theory, reduce the amount of vehicles going all the way down Staithes Lane and works such as tree planting would be carried out to ensure there are no overlooking issues from the top-tier car park.

The street itself would be widened and a new roundabout would be installed at the junction with Dark Lane.

But for some residents there are issues that they believe still need to be addressed and among those intending to object is Marcus Hopper.

He said: “In my opinion, Dransfield has done nothing to try to restrict wagons going down our lane and nothing to alleviate traffic along Dark Lane – the congestion at rush-hour times on that road is horrendous at the moment.

“This means that a lot of drivers will not go towards Dark Lane from the underground car park and instead use Staithes Lane as a rat-run and go round to the library to get on the main road.

“The people living in the flats opposite the underground car park entrance and exit are concerned about headlights shining through their windows when cars come up the ramp to get out of it and there is a worry that the tree roots could cause more problems for the surface water drains, which are already full to capacity.”

Mr Hopper added he was disappointed that his alternative proposal for delivery traffic to take it further away from residents’ homes was rejected on safety grounds.

The short-stay car park on the top tier would be operated by the supermarket company and Northumberland County Council would be responsible for the lower-tier facility, something which concerns MFAG members.

Chairman Alan Bell said: “We can’t see how you can have an effective evacuation plan if the two car parks are organised by two different bodies.

“And staff who are meant to be evacuating the store will surely have their minds on their cars parked downstairs.”

Outline planning permission for a supermarket on the site was granted by the county council last year.

The £24million development would provide up to 290 jobs and include a landscaping scheme.

Andrew Malley, Retail Property Director for Dransfield Properties, said: “All of these issues have been looked at carefully in bringing forward the proposals for Low Stanners.

“An evacuation plan would be implemented by one body working with all the relevant agencies and with ample notice to evacuate the lower car park safely and prevent access as necessary.

“The store is above the flood level and priority will naturally be given to the low-level car park in such an event.

“With regard to Dark Lane, traffic is being alleviated by a number of combined measures linking several junctions.

“Car park users will be able to enter the traffic system at this point, which will be much more convenient and expedient than the route suggested, taking motorists down Staithes Lane.”

Mr Malley added: “Our highways engineers did carry out a technical review of the proposals made by Mr Hopper and a full explanation was outlined to him.

“There were serious concerns about safety issues and the capacity of the suggested junction which would not link in with the new roundabout and would have created a dual carriageway arrangement outside properties along Staithes Lane. For these reasons it is not a viable alternative.”

Morpeth town councillors began to talk about the scheme at a special Planning and Transport Committee meeting last week and members will put forward their comments to the county council when it is discussed in more detail at a meeting on Wednesday, May 25.