March 15 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
A road was closed yesterday and will re-open today with an emergency 40mph speed limit following two deaths and four other incidents in which all the vehicles plunged into the adjacent river.
The decision was taken by Peterborough City Council following the discovery of a body of a motorist in the river at North Bank near Whittlesey on Monday.
Simon Machen, the council’s director for growth and regeneration, said: “The road was closed by the police on Monday after a man’s body was discovered in a car in the River Nene.
“I took the decision to keep it closed so our highways inspectors could carry out a full inspection.”
Whittlesey residents campaigning to build a barrier along the stretch of the road where most incidents have occurred promised to step up their protests and plan a meeting tomorrow (Thur) night to discuss their next move.
Colin Martin, who began the ‘North Bank Road Let’s Make It Safe, Let’s Save Lives’ a month ago following the death of a friend’s daughter in the river, says support has been overwhelming.
Mr Martin said his group – which has already achieved 3,300 ‘likes’ on Facebook and has contributed to a 2,500 signature petition calling for improvements- would be out in force in Whittlesey on Saturday.
He’s hoping for a massive turn out for a four hour rally from 10am at the Buttercross and one key objective will be gather more signatures on the petition.
“We appreciate it takes time for something to be done but surely the authorities must act before another tragedy happens at this spot?” he said.
Cambridgeshire Police confirmed that the body of the motorist pulled from the Nene on Monday could have been there for up to a week.
Police were called to the waterside on Monday afternoon after reports that a vehicle had been spotted partially submerged.
Keith Pettitt, 50, of Deene Thorpe, Corby, was pronounced dead at the scene after the Skoda Octavia he had been in was recovered from the River Nene which runs alongside the road in Whittlesey
PC Tim Kirkby, investigating, said: “I would appeal to anyone who saw the vehicle enter the water or saw it being driven along that stretch of road between Tuesday (November 26) and 2.30pm on Monday.”
Anyone with any information should call the Roads Policing Unit on 101
Mr Martin began his campaign following the death of Hannah Yates, 18, at the North Bank on November 3. Her father Phil has since become active in the campaign to get urgent safety measures along the road.
“I am told there have been 11 deaths along that stretch of road in the past 25 years,” said Mr Martin. “I did not know Hannah but I did know her father so when she died I thought it was time to do something.”
Mr Martin, 42, and a father of five, said the group would also be fund raising and had joined forces with the longer established Fenland Road Safety Campaign that had already secured a barrier at Bedlam Bridge near March.
So far the Whittlesey group has raised nearly £1,400 in a month towards the estimated £15,000 contribution locally to help provide a barrier but Mr Martin is hopeful the city council will fund it all.
“Whilst I welcome the 40mph limit being introduced its still not good enough. I know this is something but much more needs doing,” said Mr Martin.
He confirmed that Mr Yates would be representing the group at a meeting in Peterborough on December 12 at which local councillors and highway officials will discuss safety along the North Bank.
Steve Barclay, the MP for NE Cambs, said that what had happened on the North Bank was “a simply appalling chain of accidents.”
He said he had arranged the Peterborough meeting and shared the desire of Whittlesey people “to get action on this road”.
He has also written to the divisional director of the Highways Agency “calling for an urgent report on what immediate steps need to be taken to protect those using this stretch of road.”
Mr Machen said his officers had inspected the road at the end of last week following three cars entering the river in 36 hours and from which eight people escaped.
“Our initial inspections of the road last week and today have found no defects with the road or its surface,” he said last night.
“However, we are aware of a number of incidents in the past week and have therefore decided as a precautionary measure to introduce a temporary 40mph speed limit until we can fully investigate any road safety issues.
“This will be in place when the road re-opens at some point on Wednesday. We are working closely with Cambridgeshire Police to ensure enforcement measures are put in place. If new measures are required following consideration of the police investigation reports and our ongoing inspection, an appropriate scheme will be designed and implemented.”
Mr Machen said the council had invited the Fenland Road Safety Campaign to next week’s meeting “to discuss this important issue.
“As with all roads we would urge people to drive carefully and safely, especially at this time of the year with dark nights and frost and ice.”
Mr Martin revealed that Mr Yates was finding it particularly hard to cope but had thrown his weight behind the improvement campaign.
“Every time something happens along there he is devastated, and this latest discovery of a body is bringing it all back again to him,” said Mr Martin.
“But I have to warn the council that this campaign is not going away. We gave them the warning, they haven’t acted and they are now paying the price”.