Trees are ‘not to blame’ for Debden Road traffic lights delay

Trees which could block the newly- erected traffic lights.

Trees which could block the newly- erected traffic lights. - Credit: Archant

The new traffic lights on Debden Road, Saffron Walden, are still not working ... but don’t blame the trees, Essex County Council said this week.

The Saffron Walden Reporter had been told the traffic lights saga was being dragged out because of an obstruction caused by protected trees. But ECC denied this was the case, insisting it was instead waiting for a contractor to turn on the lights.

“We are currently waiting for a contractor to install a switching unit at the traffic lights before we can complete the works,” said a spokesman.

Residents and councillors have complained that the reason for the delay was caused by trees obstructing the lights on the corner of Mount Pleasant Road. The trees are protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO).

If the trees needed cutting back, ECC would have to apply to Uttlesford District Council for permission – triggering a consultation period of four to six weeks.

“The Debden Road traffic lights management has been diabolical and unacceptable,” said town and district councillor Doug Perry. “I had a meeting with Essex Highways and told them this. They should have considered the TPO, they should have also considered the damage done by the noise and vibrations of the roadworks.”

Cllr Perry claimed the county council was trying to speed up the TPO process – but didn’t think it would be successful. “The people are suffering, and the whole thing has been very poorly handled,” he added.

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An ECC spokesman added that the authority was “unable to provide an estimate for the main lights to be operational”.

“There are ongoing technical issues which we have made a high priority for the contractor to resolve,” they said, adding the council was confident the current temporary traffic lights were “the most viable interim solution”.

This latest delay comes after widespread opposition to the installation of the traffic lights. When they were finally installed, against the wishes of residents and many councillors in the town, two days of overnight roadworks disrupted families in the area.

Town councillor Mike Hibbs added: “This incident just illustrates the shambolic way the whole thing has been handled.”