Packed public meeting hears arguments for crossings at Thurlby and Northorpe

Lawrance Park Community Hall, Thurlby, is packed to capacity for a public meeting calling for pedestrian crossings to be installed on the A15 at Thurlby and Northorpe.
Lawrance Park Community Hall, Thurlby, is packed to capacity for a public meeting calling for pedestrian crossings to be installed on the A15 at Thurlby and Northorpe.

More than 150 people packed into a public meeting (tonight) to join calls for crossings on the A15 at Thurlby and Northorpe.

The meeting at Lawrance Park Hall in Thurlby was called by Thurlby Parish Council and an action group set up by residents. The aim of the meeting was to garner support for puffin crossings on the A15 at Thurlby and Northorpe. Each puffin crossing would cost £80,000.

The action group was set up in the wake of an accident on January 7 at Northorpe in which two 11-year-old girls were hit by a minibus while trying to cross the A15 shortly after getting off the school bus. Both girls were airlifted to hospital with serious injuries but have since returned home. Collections were carried out at the meeting for the Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance.

One of the girls’ families was present at the meeting, which was chaired by Bourne MP Nick Boles (Con), as well as Thurlby Parish Council chairman Barry Dobson and action group member Clare White.

Lincolnshire county councillor Richard Davies (Con), who is the executive portfolio holder for highways, and the head of the county council’s highways department Brian Thompson attended to answer questions.

As gales whipped around the building, Coun Dobson thanked people for taking the time to attend the meeting particularly on Valentine’s Day and in terrible weather.

He said puffin crossings would help the “safety of pedestrians and cyclists at peak times” and said: “We know from our statistics that every three seconds a car passes the junctions.”

Today new speed limits were imposed on the road, bringing the village of Northorpe down to 40mph from 60mph and the stretch of road between Northorpe and Thurlby down to 50mph from 60mph. The speed limit at Thurlby was already 40mph.

Coun Dobson said this was a “step in the right direction” but said more needed to be done to improve safety for those crossing to reach a footpath and cycleway into Bourne and the bus stop.

Mr Boles said the public meeting was the “right way to say what action is needed not just for children but for anyone who crosses the road”.

He said the county council had an “almost impossible task” in managing Lincolnshire’s vast road network on a limited budget. But he said residents needed to put across their arguments and “I’m certainly here to help back you up”.

John Waldock, a member of the action group, explained that a petition set up by Clare White calling for the two crossings had so far gathered more than 6,200 signatures which prompted an outburst of applause from the crowd, many of whom were standing because the hall was so packed.

Mr Waldock said this was a “remarkable achievement” given that it was only five weeks since it had been set up and that there were only 2,500 people in the parish of Thurlby, including many who are not eligible to sign. He said people in the nearby villages of Langtoft and Baston had signed, as well as people from Bourne.

He said: “We want to make it as safe as possible to cross, not just for schoolchildren, but for every resident of the 900 houses to make sure there are no more accidents like the one just five weeks ago.”

Coun Davies told the meeting the council had 5,500 miles of roads to look after with a county-wide population of 800,000 residents and a highways budget of £40m budget. He said it would cost in excess of £500m to get “our road network up to scratch”.

He said: “Shortly after the accident I met with Thurlby Parish Council and visited the road and there is no doubt in my mind that it is a very busy road and there’s real issues crossing the road.”

Mr Thompson committed to carrying out a 12 hour assessment at both Thurlby and Northorpe, which would be carried out between 7am and 7pm on an average day. He said this wouldn’t be during half-term and would involve counting every pedestrian, with elderly people, children and disabled people being given extra points; counting every vehicle with different types of vehicles carrying extra points, and combining this data with the number of accidents recorded on the road and the speed vehicles are travelling. This would be used to decide the best course of action.

He said “rear-end shunts” had resulted in an interactive sign at Northorpe being installed and the road being resurfaced to make it safer.

Many people in the meeting queried why the survey could not be carried out over more than one day with Vincent Barber, of Bourne, called it “woefully inadequate”. But Mr Thompson said the council had to adopt a county-wide approach.

Sara Waldock said a lot of people had been dissuaded from crossing the road following the accident. Mr Thompson said that was not unusual and said the number of vehicles using the road was one of the most important factors when considering the data.

But there were disappointed shouts from the crowd when Mr Thompson said that although the survey would be carried out within the next few weeks and the results received a few weeks after; that even if the crossings were approved it could be a year before they are in place. One resident shouted: “How many more of our kids are going to get knocked down?”

Both Mr Thomspon and Mr Boles said this was due to the “significant statutory notices” that had to be done first. There was laughter as someone asked Mr Boles what he could do about these Government notices.

The meeting heard that residents of Almond Court, a sheltered housing complex in Northorpe, were routinely travelling to Baston on the bus; crossing to the opposite side of the road using the pedestrian crossing there and then waiting for a bus to take them back to Northorpe so they could get off on the right side of the road rather than having to cross.

One resident queried whether speed cameras could be put up but Coun Davies said there needed to be a proven record of accidents to justify this.

Thurlby parish councillor Barry Sadler asked why there were crossings at Baston and Langtoft and not in Thurlby or Northorpe. Coun Davies explained that villagers there had to go through a similar process before those crossings had been approved.

Edward Lunn said that traffic being forced to stop for the crossings at Baston and Langtoft, combined with those in Bourne on the other side had resulted in a build up of traffic in Thurlby and Northorpe and Robert Rose said that the Elsea Park development in Bourne had resulted in more traffic, making the even more dangerous.

Coun Davies also told the meeting that the county council was in negotiations with bus companies to adjust the school routes so children would not have to cross the road.

Mr Boles ended the meeting by saying: “The point is to get a result that produces the crossings so allow them (the county council) as professionals to work on the survey. If the data that is produced as a result does not justify a crossing, then we can have conversations about whether the data was done correctly.”

Coun Dobson thanked everyone for attending the meeting, which lasted just over an hour.