Don’t disrupt our lives

ISLANDERS will not accept anything that inconveniences them to deal with the issue of cars becoming stranded on the Holy Island causeway.

At a meeting on the island on Tuesday to discuss possible solutions, Simon Bevan, clerk of the parish council, stated in no uncertain terms that residents would object to anything that affected their access for the sake of 15 ‘idiots’, who ‘deliberately drive into the North Sea’.

Presenting a petition signed by nearly 150 people, he said: “The residents will not accept any measure that will inconvenience them either directly or indirectly.”

He was backed up by local ward member Coun Dougie Watkin, who said: “People in an environment they have never been in before can act in a strange way.

“The one thing we don’t want is an over-reaction.”

He also pointed out that since the causeway opened in May 1954, as far as he knew, there had never been a serious injury or fatality.

Both Coun Watkin and Mr Bevan also suggested that the issue had been over-hyped by the RNLI and Coastguard.

But the busy meeting at the St Cuthbert’s Centre heard that the RNLI has a duty of care and each time a lifeboat goes out it costs about £1,200.

If the RAF Boulmer helicopter is involved in a rescue, each flying hour costs £12,429.

And one resident blamed the media for over-exaggerating the issue, saying it was getting ‘out of hand’.

Northumberland County Council had called the meeting as 15 people have so far been rescued from the causeway this year.

It was attended by council officers, councillors, leader of the council Jeff Reid, north Northumberland MP Sir Alan Beith and representatives of the RNLI, Coastguard and Northumbria Police as well as residents.

The point was raised that the RNLI and Coastguard should ignore anyone stranded if they aren’t in danger, for example, in the refuge box.

Sir Alan Beith said: “There’s always a danger of taking an exaggerated view of health and safety.

“It might be a useful warning if people did have to spend the rest of the time in the refuge box, expecially in the summer.”

Mike Scott, head of sutainable transport at Northumberland County Council, put forward several options for discussion including barriers, interactive signs, fixed penalites and smartphone applications.

But residents felt that the problem was that the signs, tide timetables and other information were not clear enough.

Mr Bevan said: “It’s water on the road that matters not predicted tide times.”

Other suggestions included having red and green lights to control traffic, and putting times and information on the back of the car park tickets.