Council's call for 'Plan B' over traffic lights that are set for Morpeth junction
Morpeth councillors have demanded new traffic lights be replaced with a roundabout if they end up causing lengthy jams.
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, one of the Saint George's housing scheme phases.
As reported in the Herald in June, members of Morpeth 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 plans for a roundabout being drawn up.
Huge tailbacks were caused when traffic lights were installed next to Telford Bridge in 2012 but they were removed 18 months later following a Lights Out! campaign supported by thousands of residents.
Planning and transport committee chairwoman Alison Byard has now written to Rick O'Farrell, interim executive director, regeneration, at the county council.
Her letter includes the following: “If our preferred solution of a full-scale roundabout is no longer possible, due to planning permission having unfortunately been granted, we repeat our request that the signalised junction is closely monitored for the first 12 months and replaced with a full-size roundabout if the same disastrous congestion to Morpeth town centre is the result.”
The loss of planned new allotments has also been raised with the county council.
Installing a new roundabout 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 on 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 at the time a few years ago to get the allotment land released.
Coun Byard’s letter refers to Mr O'Farrell’s statement in earlier correspondence with the town council which said: “The original application was approved on the basis of a signalised junction and while a roundabout was considered at the time, it was never fully designed or the principle established.”
The letter continues: “Our response is as follows. Although the original application may have been approved on the basis of a signalised junction, this was pending approval of the use of land from the allotments by the Secretary of State to permit the preferred solution of a full-scale roundabout
“We believe that the roundabout was designed and the developer paid Northumberland County Council for the work.
“Given all the above, we cannot understand what caused this change in direction to accepting a signalised junction or indeed that Morpeth Town Council were not specifically informed.
“You can surely understand our surprise and dismay at this outcome, given our previous understanding and the work we have done to date.”
A county council spokesman told the Herald in June that “improvements will be made to the junction before the traffic lights are installed and there are conditions attached to the permission that address access and traffic issues”.