TWO councils have been slammed for their part in major road changes which have been described as an “unmitigated disaster for the town of Leek”.
The criticism came at last week’s meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council’s planning applications committee when approval was sought by Sainsbury’s to remove a condition to complete work at the town’s St Edward Street junction.
As part of the supermarket’s planning approval three years ago to redevelop the Churnet Works off Macclesfield Road.
This involved constructing a store, industrial premises and 84 houses, and conditions were made that the roundabout adjacent to the Nicholson War Memorial be removed, and work completed at the Buxton Road and Ball Haye Street junction, and at the St Edward and Church Street junction.
However work has not take place at the St Edward Street junction, which would see vehicles banned from turning right in and out of the street.
Sainsbury’s has stated that a predicted increase in the number of vehicles using the road had not materialised, and that there were now less vehicles on the highway than in 2010.
Speaking to the committee Councillor Brian Johnson, who was representing Leek Town Council, said: “I pointed out originally that altering this junction would push every piece of heavy goods traffic, buses and cars through the town centre past the Nicholson War Memorial, down Haywood Street and Brook Street.
“I also pointed out that if this was approved should an accident happen that closed the road there was no alternative route.
“At that time, you, the planning application committee, many of the same faces I see before me now as there were then, chose to ignore my remarks, despite having lived in Leek for 60 odd years.
“Maybe you just disbelieved me and the people of Leek, who thought the same as I did. You may recall more than 10,000 people signed a petition to that same effect.
“You took at face value what Staffordshire County Council highways engineers told you. You, ladies and gentleman, approved that scheme. That scheme, although only partially completed, has turned out to be a totally and unmitigated disaster to the town of Leek.
“You approved two of the worst junctions I have ever had the misfortune to have to drive through on a daily basis.
“What ever your decision now, I must insist that the promised planning gain attached to this application for a pedestrian crossing in the vicinity of Market Place and St Edward’s Church is not retained, but is constructed as a matter of urgency.”
Councillor Stephen Ellis said he did not take any part in the original decision.
He said: “The district council has come in for a lot of flack for the highway design, but we are not responsible for it. I have a lot of sympathy for what Councillor Johnson has said as it was a contentious application, but we should not be lambasted when we are not responsible.”
Councillor Linda Malyon was also not on the committee when the application was approved.
She said: “Staffordshire County Council has made a disgraceful job in Leek. The conditions have already been relaxed as all the work should have all been finished before the store opened.
“The county council has been bullish and it is sad to think that the roundabout did not have to be removed.
“However the district council’s planning department buckled when the plan came to be heard, despite nearly 11,000 people saying it was wrong. Now they want the plan overturned when the site is only half complete.”
Councillor Mike Worthington said: “We listened to the county council. Leek is now quite dangerous at the Ball Haye Street junction.”
Councillor John Fisher said he voted against the plan.
He said: “We should not accept this. There is a planning gain for a crossing which is needed. If we do not take this opportunity it will never happen.”
The committee deferred the application to allow further talks to be held.