Anger that plans for new lights means new allotments plan will not go ahead

Traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre. Picture from Google.Traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre. Picture from Google.
Traffic lights are set to be put in place on Dark Lane by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre. Picture from Google.
A housing developer has come in for criticism from Morpeth councillors over a loss of “promised allotments” at a site where new traffic lights are set to be installed.

The lights are set to go up in Dark Lane, by the junction with the Morpeth NHS Centre, once a certain number of homes are occupied as part of planning permission for 158 properties on land south of Bluebell Court, East Cottingwood, which is one of the Saint George's housing scheme phases.

As reported in the Herald in June, members of the town council’s planning and transport committee said the move was disappointing because talks between it, Northumberland County Council and developer Vistry Partnerships North East had initially led to a roundabout proposal being drawn up.

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Although allotment plots would be lost as a result of a roundabout, it did provide an opportunity for a net increase as new ones would be created nearby.

The town council believes that Vistry should be blamed for the switch to traffic lights along with the county council, but the developer has insisted that the decision was made after “further detailed traffic modelling” and as a result of savings made, it is contributing to various projects.

Huge tailbacks were caused when traffic lights were installed next to Telford Bridge in 2012.

They were removed 18 months later following a Lights Out! campaign that was supported by thousands of residents.

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Coun David Bawn, Mayor of Morpeth, said: “We’d been working with the county council and developer on a design solution for the junction from the Saint George's site onto Dark Lane to include a roundabout.

“This would have meant losing two allotment plots at the Tommy's Field site, but this was to be offset by the developer providing an additional 24 plots across the road at the land south of East Riding Care Home, a net gain of 22 allotments.

"The town council entered into long and complex negotiations with the Secretary of State to release the allotment land so that this scheme could proceed.

"However, the developer has sought to save money by going with a traffic light solution. Therefore, we publicly call on Vistry Partnerships North East to resume talks with the county council on a roundabout at the site so we can get the extra allotments we were promised.”

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Andrew Rennie, development director at Vistry Partnerships North East, said: “From the very beginning of the Saint George project, Vistry Partnerships North East and its house-building division, Linden Homes, have willingly complied with all of the regulations set by the planning authority – Northumberland County Council.

“In addition, senior representatives of Vistry Partnerships asked to attend a Morpeth Town Council meeting to outline our proposals. After that presentation, the town council declined to ask questions or enter into discussion, making it clear that it would voice opinions directly to the planning authority.

“In addition, we tried to further engage with Morpeth Town Council in July 2020 and Coun David Bawn, but we received no response.

“Initially, Northumberland County Council planners requested a roundabout at the development’s access road junction with the A197, Dark Lane – a decision which we accepted, even though it would have meant relocating allotments.

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“However, after further detailed traffic modelling was submitted, the county council agreed that a traffic light solution would be acceptable.

“From the savings this made, we were required to contribute half a million pounds towards educational, health and coastal mitigation projects in Northumberland, something we are happy to do, together with the provision of affordable homes.

“We have tried to liaise with the town council throughout all of our proposals. None of this was taken up.

“We worked in partnership with the county council for 18 months whilst the application was lodged, meeting all of its requirements, and signed a legal agreement accordingly.”