LYME REGIS: People packed into a high-level public meeting to hear proposals to make the Hunters Lodge ‘death trap’ junction near Lyme Regis safer – and urged the Highways Agency to go back to the drawing board.
More than 100 residents and holidaymakers flocked from the surrounding areas of the junction, including Lyme Regis, Uplyme, Axminster and East Devon, to voice their views.
The notorious A35 junction, at the turning point with Lyme Road near the Hunters Lodge Inn, claimed the lives of two elderly holidaymakers on July 10 last year when their Corsa was involved in a collision with a Renault van.
After the crash, David Parker, the owner of Sea Tree House, described the major road to Lyme Regis as a ‘death trap’.
There was renewed momentum for something to be done after a woman was taken to hospital suffering neck pain following a three-car crash at the junction on July 16 this year.
At the meeting at the Axminster Guildhall people were urged to be vociferous with their views by long-term campaigner Joy Raymond, who also owns guesthouse Hedgehog Corner.
Highways Agency proposals revealed at the meeting included red hatching road markings, an increase of the 40mph speed restriction both west and east of the notorious junction, and vehicle activated signs which would detect turning vehicles, giving ‘advanced notice’ to vehicles travelling on the A35.
But this wasn’t enough for surrounding residents of the junction, who argued the Highways Agency plan was ‘to keep people and traffic moving’, but that the public’s plan was to keep people safe.
Highways Agency asset manager Nigel Dyson said traffic lights, a roundabout and two mini-roundabouts were ruled out of initial consultation plans because they were deemed ‘unsuitable’ by planners Parsons Brinckerhoff.
He added: “We looked at traffic lights but there were problems trying to signal the junction on the basis on unequal traffic flow levels on the A35.
“We considered a speed reduction limit to 30mph and speed indication devices, but believed these to be in fact counter effective because drivers may want to see how fast they can clock up their speed on the devices. Speed cameras are a possibility, but a speed survey undertaken in November 2013 showed drivers to be speed compliant.
“More extreme options included prohibiting the right turn out of Lyme Road, but this was not seen as useful because drivers could then instead do U-turns on the A35.”
Axminster mayor Jeremy Walden told Mr Dyson the proposals were not good enough. He added: “It’s unlikely what’s proposed here could’ve affected the tragic death of two people last year.
“Traffic lights are a necessity and safety is our priority. We need to push as a town and as an area for them now.”
At a meeting last September, more than £50,000 of funding was secured to improve the safety of the junction, with the Highways Agency securing £47,000 for a revised junction scheme with construction starting before April 2015.
A further £10,000 was secured to conduct a road traffic study assessing traffic behaviour and speed.
Speaking after the meeting, Joy Raymond told The News: “After a lot of wrangling from excellent speakers in the audience, I’m pleased we finally we got the message across that we will not settle for anything less than traffic lights.
“Without our vociferous stand we would have been palmed off with more road paint and more signs.
“Thank you to everyone who came. Rest assured I will keep a very close eye on developments.”
The Highways Agency will now go back to the drawing board, returning in the autumn with a design and costs for traffic lights at Hunters Lodge.
'Agency worked hard' says MP
MP for Honiton and Tiverton Neil Parish also attended the meeting, claiming the Highways Agency had worked incredibly hard with their proposals.
However, he added: “I would suggest we take the speed limit alterations and speed cameras now, which will help prevent any fatal accidents, and then push for traffic lights as a community – which will take more time.
“I’m happy to keep pressing until we get a solution to tackle this accident blackspot.”
On July 22 Mr Parish was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to John Hayes MP, Minister of State for Transport, who also acts as a senior advisor to the Prime Minister.