CAMPAIGNERS say they are confident that an independent review of traffic management in a congested market town will result in the removal of controversial traffic lights from a key junction.
Leading transport planning consultant Phil Jones is to conduct the wide-ranging review in Morpeth, which is about to finally get under way after being delayed.
It will examine the controversy surrounding the traffic lights at the town centre Telford Bridge junction, but also look at wider transport issues across the town.
Now campaigners are hoping the review’s finding will provide the trigger which Northumberland County Council needs to remove the three-way lights, and restore the previous mini-roundabout at the busy junction.
The lights were installed in April to cope with the predicted extra traffic from the town’s new Morrisons superstore at Low Stanners, but have sparked one of the biggest public protests ever seen in the town.
In September hundreds of people took to the streets on a march in support of the Lights Out campaign, which has organised a protest petition signed by almost 2,500 people.
In addition, hundreds have packed into two public meetings to demand the urgent removal of the lights, which critics claim are causing longer delays for drivers at off-peak times, creating rat runs through residential areas, spoiling the look of a historic gateway to the town and posing a danger to pedestrians.
Yesterday local county councillor David Towns, who chairs the Lights Out campaign, said the independent review should provide the evidence required for the council to act.
“I have every confidence that Phil Jones will conclude that the lights should come out. He will be looking at the evidence of local people and CCTV footage of the queues, and will see the impact of what is really happening.
“I believe he is coming in with a very open mind and will look at the whole of the road network in Morpeth. We accept that removing the lights straight away is unrealistic now, and that we have to go through a proper process. The county council has to be convinced that the expert advice it got about putting the lights in was wrong, and I believe Phil Jones will come out and say the lights were the wrong thing for Morpeth.
“I have every confidence that he will say that the people of Morpeth are correct and the lights should be removed.”
The review, which has been commissioned by the council, will look at how the traffic network serves all users, including pedestrians, motorists, cyclists and delivery drivers. It will agree objectives for the town’s economic and environmental well-being, and assess a range of future traffic options.
Mr Jones, who is responsible for some of the Government’s latest guidance on highways management and has carried out similar traffic reviews elsewhere, will lead a series of discussions with people and groups who want to contribute views and ideas.
Morpeth county councillor, and Liberal Democrat executive member, Andrew Tebbutt said: ”It was agreed that a full, independent review of the Telford Bridge junction was necessary, but that this should also take in the widest traffic management issues across Morpeth, both short-term and medium-term.
“It is expected that the review will take two to three months to complete and it will involve detailed discussions with all interested parties. It’s important that we encompass all views, and establish the facts about traffic congestion issues across Morpeth.”