Villagers vow to fight on for A1 speed limit

TRANSPORT chiefs have been slammed as ‘arrogant’ and ‘ignorant’ after failing to move forward with calls to lower the speed limit on a dangerous stretch of road.

Villagers and parish councillors in Newton on the Moor and Swarland and the surrounding areas are fighting to have a 50mph zone, with average speed cameras, installed along the A1 on the stretch between Hampeth and the River Coquet.

The call follows the number of accidents, some of them fatal, along the stretch and villagers’ determination to get something done about it.

Despite calls to meet highways officers at Northumberland County Council to discuss the concerns, no response has been received.

But residents have vowed not to give up.

At last week’s Newton on the Moor and Swarland Parish Council meeting, Ken Walters, who organised and chaired a public meeting in March to table residents’ concerns, said he had written to the Highways Agency asking for a meeting and that county councillor Trevor Thorne had been trying to set up a discussion with the county council to no avail.

Parish council chairman Coun David Rixon said: “Once again we are being ignored. County officials are totally out of control, they are not doing what they are instructed to do by county councillors or the executive committee.

“At a meeting in Morpeth about the new traffic lights, one county officer said I’m not going to say anything, I’m not going to speak. They are just totally arrogant.

“As someone pointed out, they are our servants, we pay their salaries to do our work and if they are not going to do it they should be gone.

“We will keep on fighting until we get the 50mph limit.”

At the March meeting, more than 50 members of the community turned out to voice their concerns at dangers along the four-and-a-half-mile stretch of road, highlighting treacherous central reservations, junctions with no slip roads and speeding motorists.

Some said they have their hearts in their mouths every time they use the road.

The meeting heard that, according to data on the Every Death on Every Road in Great Britain website, the stretch has seen three deaths per mile between 1999 and 2012, the same as the A406 in north London which the site named as Britain’s most dangerous road.

Mr Walters wrote to the Highways Agency with details of the meeting and the resolution to call for the authority to impose a 50mph limit.

It says that the road is ‘not dangerous’ and is ‘much better than most of the trunk roads in Britain’.

Speaking at last week’s parish council meeting, Mr Walters said: “It is extremely disappointing.

“As our county councillor, Trevor Thorne has made a request to meet highways officials and they have totally ignored him.

“It is absolutely disgraceful, I think they should be embarrassed. It is of high importance to this community. People have expressed their views and asked for a meeting and absolutely nothing has happened.”

Mr Walters said the letter from the Highways Agency makes reference to statistics which are different to those heard at the meeting.

He is hoping to meet members of a steering group, which was set up in March, and speak to highways officials about moving forward.

“If they choose to come or not, we will have another public meeting,” he said.

“But they need to explain themselves, they need to explain how in 2004 a report recommended that a slip road should be put on the Guyzance junction but didn’t do it because of money.

“Everything comes down to money. This road needs to have a low speed limit and we are not going to let it go.”

Coun Rixon added: “If they can get a 50mph limit round by the Metrocentre, why can’t we have it here?

“They have one rule for the urban south and another for the rural north.”