Couple feel like 'prisoners in their own home'

A couple in their 70s who ‘feel like prisoners in their own home’ and now dread leaving the house are frustrated at how nobody seems to want to help.

Brian and Mo Halliday have lived in their cottage in Birling, on the northern outskirts of Warkworth, for more than 41 years.

Brian and Mo Halliday outside their home in Birling, Warkworth.

Brian and Mo Halliday outside their home in Birling, Warkworth.

Their home is not connected to the village by footpaths and, as they rely on public transport, they have to walk along the edge of this busy road to get anywhere – including their numerous hospital appointments.

This is a risky enough undertaking, given the range of vehicles that use the A1068 and the speed at which some travel – despite being within the 30mph limit, but it is a far bigger challenge for the older couple with their health issues.

“We love it here and never want to leave, but I think we might be forced to,” said Mo, 70, who has arthritis and fibromyalgia.

Brian, 75, has had Parkinson’s for more than 20 years and was diagnosed with dementia several years ago, which meant he lost his driving licence, while Mrs Halliday never learned – ‘a big regret, but there’s nothing I can about it now’.

“I honestly feel we are becoming prisoners in our own home,” she said. “We only go out now when we have to. You certainly don’t do that walk for pleasure.

“The winter coming on is just going to make things worse. If the road has got ice or snow on, I don’t know what we will do.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen, it really is.”

The Hallidays have even been shouted at and threatened while walking the 50-metre-plus stretch without pavements.

“The way we are treated with road rage is unbelievable,” Mrs Halliday said. “They toot their horns and frighten the life out of us.

“Our neighbour recently took me down to the village for a belated birthday treat and her husband took Brian to Amble. Walking back, there were two incidents, it was very scary.

“One guy pulled up in front of us and started waving his fist at us and shouting at us to get off the effing road.

“Just after that, a white van man did exactly the same and, not exaggerating, came within an inch of running over my foot when I couldn’t move back any further.”

The couple, as well as their middle son Graham, have been trying for a couple of years to get something done and have spoken to the parish council, county council, Arriva Buses and MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, to no avail.

Mrs Halliday said: “I just feel that no one is willing to listen to us, they are sitting at a desk, looking at a computer and saying ‘no, we can’t do anything’. How would they feel if it was their parents?”

While footpaths, signs or a 20mph speed limit may help, it would not necessarily get to the heart of the issue and the Hallidays’ suggested solution appears to be an inexpensive one.

There used to be a request bus stop at the bottom of their drive and the reinstatement of this would really make a difference to their lives.

It would enable them to get to the ‘ridiculous’ number of hospital appointments they have to attend on a weekly basis as well as the dementia support group they attend at Dry Water Arts Centre in Amble, which Mrs Halliday described as a godsend.

The family says health and safety has been cited as a reason for the bus not being able to stop there – ‘we obviously don’t matter in that’.

But Mrs Halliday questioned this given that the bin lorry stops in the same place, waiting for around five minutes while the bins from a number of properties are emptied.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “While we have every sympathy with this family, the constraints of where they live mean there are very limited options.

“They requested a formal bus stop at the end of their driveway, but the location is problematic, as there is no footway or verge to provide a safe waiting area, and the alignment of the road is poor, with both bends and rises.

“We have discussed the matter with the local bus operator who advised they wouldn’t stop there because they consider it unsafe to do so. This was confirmed by our own safety audit which was shared with the family.

“We are now looking at possible alternatives, such as providing a footway link into the nearest bus stop in the village.”

A spokeswoman for Arriva said that they too sympathised with the Hallidays, but decisions on new bus stops had to be approved by the county council.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service