THE future of controversial traffic lights at the heart of South Shields town centre could hinge on how they cope with the busy bank holiday weekend, Town Hall officials have admitted.
The lights, at the junction of Ocean Road and Anderson Street, have attracted fierce criticism from drivers since they were installed last month, saying they are responsible for huge queues of up to 100 cars and longer journey times.
Council chiefs launched a review of the set-up after a petition from more than 500 residents and drivers demanded they were axed, and called for the reinstatement of a roundabout at the junction.
Coun John Wood – who previously called for the lights to be removed after labelling them a “shambles” – said the removal of a criss-cross Pelican crossing, from Morrisons across to Roxanne’s nightspot, has already helped reduced delays at the junction.
Now Town Hall bosses have told the Gazette that they will monitor how the traditionally busy bank holiday weekend goes before deciding on their course of action.
A South Tyneside Council spokesperson, said: “Over the last two weeks we have been reviewing the scheme at the junction of Ocean Road and Anderson Street, so that we can get the best out of this busy junction for motorists and pedestrians.
“This work is ongoing and we will be reporting back to the Riverside Community Area Forum after the bank holiday weekend, so that we can further assess traffic flows when our visitor levels are at some of their highest, and determine our next actions.”
Coun Wood – who is defending his seat in the Beacon and Bents ward in tomorrow’s local elections – said: “There is a lot of work being done on this and I have asked for a review to go to the council’s scrutiny committee.
“The problem appears to have eased since they removed the criss-cross Pelican crossing which delayed the lights from changing. We need to get the elections out the way and then get back urgently to looking at this again.”
The spring bank holiday weekend traditionally brings more visitors into South Shields, and the situation will be made more testing with thousands of visitors expected at the Proper Food Festival, to be staged in Bents Park from Saturday through to Monday, just a few hundred yards away from the lights.
Ali Hayder, an Ocean Road resident who is standing as a Conservative candidate in Beacon and Bents, has called on the council to re-think its original decision.
He said: “Nine out of 10 residents I have spoken to are against the new traffic light system.”
n John Stephen Clarke (UKIP) and Bill Troupe (Lib Dem) are also standing in Beacon and Bents at the local elections tomorrow.