THE next step has been taken to close off a busy junction in Sunderland – but calls have been made to look at wider plans.
Sunderland City Council’s Planning and Highways Committee has agreed to consult on proposals to remove the right turn in and out of High Lane junction, off the A690 at Stoneygate, and exiting gaps in the central reserve near the junction to prevent U-turns.
However, the move has come under fire for only suggesting one solution at the road black spot, which has been the site of three serious accidents and eight slight-injury collisions, between 2011 and last year.
Between 1997 to 2000, there were 14 smashes, one fatal, four causing serious injuries and the remainder slight, with eight of those accidents involving drivers making a right or U-turn at the junction.
Independent councillors have said previous plans for traffic signals or a roundabout should be reconsidered.
About 30,000 vehicles travel on that section of the A690 a day, with a previous plan in 2002 to put in a roundabout axed due to a “problematic” compulsory purchase order of land, and another between 2008 and 2009 for traffic signals not progressing beyond a draft.
The committee was told by the authority’s highways officers no papers could be found in relation to the lights, but engineers were likely to have been scrapped because they would have cost £2million, and the signals would have caused delays to traffic.
Councillor Colin Wakefield, independent member for Copt Hill, referring to the lights and roundabout plans, said: “The proposal before the committee offers none of the alternatives, just to close the junction or leave a dangerous junction as it is, this is not acceptable.
“The only solution here is a roundabout or traffic lights, leaving Newbottle and Ryhope accessible to residents, business and importantly, fire and ambulance services.
“A roundabout or lights would also help slow down traffic heading down Houghton Cut, closing this junction will likely increase traffic speed.”
Tory member Peter Wood said he believed closing the junction would be a “retrograde step” and suggested a cut in the speed limit from 50mph to 30mph and cameras, and also said its consultation should be “open to all possible options”.
Houghton’s independent Councillor Sheila Ellis queried figures which stated a roundabout would result in the loss of £700,000 a year to the area’s economy and traffic signals a £1.4million loss.
Labour’s Silksworth Councillor Phil Tye accused the independent members of making an issue for political gain, adding: “Stop playing with people’s lives, it’s not acceptable.”
The consultation period will run for an eight-week period, with residents, businesses, emergency services and councillors to be involved in the discussions.