Lib Dem Euro MP Phil Bennion has warned that there is an 'overwhelming sense of disconnect' between public opinion and councils responsible for controversial plans to bulldoze a key roundabout in Leek.

Leek roundabout: ‘an overwhelming sense of disconnect’ says Euro MPPhil Bennion, who recently took over as local Euro MP from Liz Lynne, spoke out after a meeting in Leek with a delegation of protesters against the scheme, which has been given full planning permission.

The plans to replace the smooth-running roundabout with traffic lights and 'shared space' instead of pedestrian crossings were designed by the county council to cope with the predicted extra traffic caused by the opening of a new Sainsbury's.

Phil Bennion MEP said: "It may be the case that the letter of the law has been followed, but it is abundantly clear that this plan is being pushed through against huge opposition.

"It is clear to me from recent events and the people I spoke to that there is an overwhelming sense of disconnect between the councils and the community in Leek. There is very genuine concern at extra congestion and safety risks to pedestrians, especially those with visual or other disabilities.

"As a former member of another Staffordshire council's planning committee for 12 years I certainly would not have been happy with this plan.

"Leek Lib Dem councillor John Fisher voted against it and against the Sainsbury's development - that in my view was the right choice. Sadly though other councillors voted it through.

"Shared space can work very well but only where traffic speeds and loads are low, the Leek scheme appears to be somewhat unorthodox.

"However the EU has no power to intervene directly in local decisions of this kind, though I did suggest the group seek legal advice from a specialist planning lawyer, though this can be expensive.

"I can understand the enormous frustration of residents but unfortunately it appears we are now at the point where the best course of action is to monitor the way the scheme works or does not work when it is complete and campaign very hard for the county council, the highway authority, to change it.

"Predicted traffic flows are one thing but actual facts on the ground are another. There are many examples of council leaders making U-turns if people campaign hard enough, backed up by clear facts and data of day to day problems on the streets.

"I shall certainly add my voice as a local elected representative to pleas for this scheme to be changed to address safety concerns."

Dr Bennion said he would return to Leek to monitor the situation and in particular would liaise with local disability campaigners on ways to improve safety. The scheme about to be installed combines vehicle movement governed by traffic lights with a 'shared space' which disabled pedestrians must negotiate.


Pic caption: Phil Bennion MEP with Sarah Gayton and other leading members of the campaign to save Leek roundabout.