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Ancient custom stops safety work

PUBLISHED: 22:00 19 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:07 03 March 2010

ANCIENT rights of way across the path of a dual carriageway are understood to be the reason for delays in shutting the road's "killer gap".

Highways chiefs say closing the right-turn gap in the A12 at Brightwell - where Edward and Pamela Bishopp died in an horrific crash - is a top priority and they are working frantically on it.

ANCIENT rights of way across the path of a dual carriageway are understood to be the reason for delays in shutting the road's "killer gap".

Highways chiefs say closing the right-turn gap in the A12 at Brightwell – where Edward and Pamela Bishopp died in an horrific crash – is a top priority and they are working frantically on it.

They have been accused by the couple's relatives of "dragging their heels", but officers say they cannot just seal up the gap because there are rights of way issues to be overcome and it is now a delicate legal matter.

It is believed landowners and residents have objected to the move to close the turn because it has been a right of way used for many years.

Before the A12 was built and severed it, there was a road leading from Bucklesham to Brightwell for centuries, which has been used by residents, businesses, and farmers to reach their fields.

If residents can prove they have used a route for more than 20 years – whether it is private or public land – it cannot be closed unless an alternative route can be provided.

Ward councillor Patricia O'Brien, backed the Evening Star's campaign to have the gap closed for safety reasons, but said it did not appear to be as straight forward as had been hoped.

Many people have been asking why the gap cannot just be closed – as the Highways Agency did with similar turns on the A14 on the Felixstowe peninsula – and drivers forced to turn left and go to the nearest roundabout to turn round.

But Mrs O'Brien said: "The reason why it is taking so long is that there are complex legal issues about the rights of way which need to be overcome, and that is taking time even though the officers say it is a high priority.

"Public safety is paramount and I would hope that this matter can be dealt with expeditiously. The officers are working hard on it and trying to get it dealt with as soon as possible.

"Shutting this gap in the central reservation is the best option and would benefit the community at large from a safety view.

"It is dangerous and the traffic is fast-moving there, although the visibility is good in both directions."

Highways officers have also been looking at the possibility of engineering works, and investigations have taken place at the site.

Possibilities could include a flyover or underpass, but no details will be released for public consultation until necessary and at the present ideas are being drawn up and costed.

Mr Bishopp, 74, and his wife, 73, from Melton, died in December 2000 when their car collided with a 40ft artic carrying coal.

Council officials pledged 15 months ago that the gap would be closed.

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