Junction scheme ‘threat to village’

The public meeting underway at St Matthew's Church Hall in Newbottle to discuss proposed changes to the road junction at Stoneygate.
The public meeting underway at St Matthew's Church Hall in Newbottle to discuss proposed changes to the road junction at Stoneygate.
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IT will kill our village – that was the message from a community as it fights for a new solution to a deadly road junction.

An eight-week consultation will begin this month over Sunderland City Council’s proposals to close the right turn in and out of High Lane, from the A690 at Stoneygate, and gaps in the central reservation near the junction, to remove U-turns.

But independent councillors for the area and families want other options to be considered at the accident black-spot, which sees 30,000 cars pass through it each day.

They say traffic lights, like those outside the park and ride on the road at Carrville, at busy times or a roundabout could be the answer.

Residents say a speed camera could also make it safer, with none of the 60-plus people who attended a public meeting in Newbottle on Saturday backing the council’s suggestion.

Businesses and residents fear a closure will cut off passing trade from those who work in Doxford Park and call into shops at lunchtime.

They also say cutting off the route would cause congestion at the slip-roads and roundabouts in Houghton, with fears raised about the increased response times the fire service will face to reach Newbottle.

Copt Hill Councillor Colin Wakefield told the packed meeting: “We hope over that eight-week period you will vent your feelings and your views about whether or not to close the junction, particularly businesses.

“We need to collate suggestions because it’s not just the people of Newbottle who use that junction.”

Among those to attend the gathering, organised by the area’s four independent members, was Muriel Tindale, 78, of Cathedral View, Newbottle.

She said of the junction closure plans: “It’s going to kill this village completely.

“They have no right to close that off, and what gets me is people can’t read the road signs, and it’s absolutely disgusting there in the morning, they won’t let you out from the side road.

“A roundabout would be good, and we visited somewhere in the south where they put speed humps on a main road like that, and it could be easily done.”

It was suggested at the meeting the as-yet undisclosed amount the council will make from the sale of a six-acre plot in Philadelphia to Esh Developments could be spent on improvements, while house builders due to add hundreds more homes in the Houghton area could also be asked to back improvements.

In 2002, the council proposed a roundabout at the spot, but that was abandoned due to “problematic” negotiations with a land owner when it mounted plans to carry out a Compulsory Purchase Order, while a traffic light scheme never went beyond the draft stage, possibly because it would have cost £2million to install and would cause delays.

The authority says to install a roundabout now would cost the economy £700,000 a year in losses, while lights would cost the economy £1.4million.

Between 1997 and last year, the junction has been the site of one fatality, seven accidents which caused serious injuries, and 17 accidents resulting in slight injuries.

Houghton Councillor Sheila Ellis expressed concern the council was looking at the economic impact and cost of an accident, rather than loss of human life.

Labour members of the council’s planning and highways committee criticised councillors who questioned why there was only one option proposed, and those against closure for “playing with people’s lives” as only a consultation exercise is to be carried out, not an agreement on the scheme.

Last week, soil and grass were removed from the verges and central reservation to improve visibility for motorists, with the group hopeful it will reduce accidents and near misses.

A further public meeting led by the independent members, who also include Copt Hill Councillors Tony Allen and Derrick Smith, will be held before the council’s consultation begins.