DURHAM’S parish council has criticised ‘totally unacceptable’ traffic arrangements at a city centre development, which it claims forces pedestrians to walk directly into a busy carriageway.
Community leaders have levelled their anger at the developer Tolent Group and Durham County Council over the issue at the Milburngate development. Planning permission included a condition requiring developer to introduce traffic lights to the entrance of the development to ensure highways safety.
In early January, work began on the new A690 junction for the access road into the Millburngate site.
But the parish council and residents were left “flabbergasted” when informed the introduction of the traffic lights would not be taking place and a variation of condition application had been submitted by the developer to remove the requirement for them and seeking an alternative junction design for the development.
At the same time as work starting on the new junction, the pedestrian refuge was completely removed and the crossing point blocked with a notice advising pedestrians to use an alternative route.
The parish council says none has been provided and there are no signs to suggest where an alternative might be safely found. There are no signs North of Diamond Terrace to alert pedestrians to the closure ahead and to indicate an alternative safe route.
Framwellgate Peth travelling northbound has been reduced to one lane immediately from Milburngate roundabout but still allows two lanes of traffic to turn right from Milburngate Bridge. Traffic in the right lane turning right is immediately faced with a closed lane, whilst the left lane traffic turning right has a clear lane.
Durham County Council’s Streetworks Permit Co-ordinator has stated that the first few days of a traffic management set up can cause issues until motorists become familiar with the new arrangement.
City of Durham Parish Council’s planning committee chair, Councillor Roger Cornwell said: “This is absolutely unbelievable. Yet again, pedestrians are treated as second class to vehicles and a dismissal of this as simply teething issues is an insult.
“What we now have is a totally unacceptable situation where the breaching of planning conditions, the removal of a pedestrian refuge and the lack of any useful signage see pedestrians forced to walk into an extremely busy carriageway where vehicles are travelling at 40mph speeds and more in order to cross. Conditions on planning permissions are there for a reason and not there to be fudged by developers.”
Michael Rutherford, project director for Tolent, said: “Working in conjunction with Durham County Council’s highways department, we have designed and implemented a safe and secure temporary traffic management system.
“In order to comply with the council’s requirements and to ensure safe use for members of the public, crossing points are located both to the north and south of the works with signage positioned on both sides of the road to assist pedestrians when crossing.
“The original intent for a fully signalised junction has now been simplified by removing the right turn in and out of the development, reducing the junction to just a left turn in and out. This reduces impact on both existing and future traffic flows on Framwelgate Peth and is in full compliance of highways and planning requirements.
“The safety of our staff, motorists and pedestrians is our primary concern and we would like to thank the local community for their ongoing patience and support.”
Dave Wafer, county council head of transport and contract services, said: “As with any development, we take the safety of both pedestrians and motorists seriously and we ensure they are accommodated while work is ongoing.
“At the Millburngate site, previous planning consent was given to allow vehicles to turn right both into and out of the junction which required traffic lights to ensure the safety and flow of traffic on the busy road.
“However, a revised junction is being proposed which restricts vehicles to only turn left in and out of the junction, meaning traffic signals will no longer be required as vehicles will not pass across the main road. Pedestrians will still be able to cross at Milburngate.
“We are aware of the concerns regarding the ongoing traffic management around the Milburngate roundabout and we are checking this on a regular basis to ensure it is safe. These works are being carried out now at a time when traffic levels are reduced and it is safer to complete the works.”
The parish council’s planning committee is due to meet on Friday to consider its response to the developer’s Variation of Condition application.