Concerns that dangerous A697 has been neglected

Coun Glen Sanderson standing at the side of the A697.
Coun Glen Sanderson standing at the side of the A697.

A campaigner who has been fighting for safety improvements along the notorious A697 fears the dangerous stretch is being neglected by a partnership which is designed to reduce road accidents.

And he says there is a growing feeling among residents that easy revenue is dictating the location of mobile speed cameras, instead of targeting areas where accident reduction is crucial.

A fortnight ago, Coun Glen Sanderson asked a Northumberland County Council meeting how many times the Northumbria Safer Roads Initiative (NSRI) mobile speed camera units had been deployed in the county over the past six months to August 1.

He was told that between February 1 and July 31, there were 192 separate visits across 18 sites, resulting in 4,301 recorded offences. However, Coun Sanderson, who represents the Longhorsley ward, says he was very disappointed to discover that only one of these sites had been along the A697, at Milfield.

And now he is calling for answers. He said: “The A697 is one of the most dangerous rural A-class roads in the country and I would like to see more being done, which includes a greater level of policing and a great level of speed monitoring by the NSRI. We need the mobile units at the likes of Heighley Gate, Longframlington, Longhorsley, Powburn, Wooler and other parts of the road, but it seems that the A697 is being neglected and not being given the attention it deserves and that is a great concern to me.”

Last year, a county council-commissioned report looking at improving safety on the A697 found that excess speed played a key role, while signs and road markings could be improved.

Reflecting on the locations of the cameras, he added: “The suspicion among some of my residents is that activity is taking place in areas where there is the likelihood of people receiving fines rather than deterring speeding motorists.

“For example, there are very few speed-related accidents at two of the sites that were visited in Morpeth – at Clifton and Pottery Bank.

“This should be driven by accident reduction and ensuring that speeding doesn’t take place which will help with accident reduction. It should not be a method of picking up fines. I am meeting a representative of the NSRI because I need to be clear on this.”

NSRI is a partnership between Northumbria Police and the six local authorities whicjh fall within the Force area, including Northumberland. It exists to help reduce the number of people killed or injured on roads within Northumbria Police’s patch.

The Gazette contacted the NSRI for comment, but did not receive one by the time of going to press.