Halse walk-out: 'A man wouldn't have got away with it'

A COUNCILLOR left a meeting last night in protest at plans to implement improvements on the A35 in Honiton.

A COUNCILLOR left a meeting last night in protest at plans to implement improvements on the A35 in Honiton.

Peter Halse walked out of Honiton Town Council's July meeting after a presentation by Alexis Wood, contract manager for the road.

"The whole scheme is a complete botch-up," he said, saying he feared a serious accident could happen at the mini-roundabout at the junction of Kings Road and Monkton Road.

Councillor Halse claimed proposals did not go far enough to address safety concerns.

"I am very unhappy about it," he said.

The mayor, Councillor Vivienne Ash, who was chairing the meeting, warned Councillor Halse not to be "patronising" after he referred to Ms Wood's sex.

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"She may be a pretty face, but a man wouldn't have got away with it," he had told the meeting, after Ms Wood had left.

Councillors appreciated the effort gone into proposals for the road, and the professional presentation given by Ms Wood, but acknowledged more needed to be done - if Honiton is not to get an eastern by-pass in the near future.

Ms Wood revealed work would start this summer on a phased scheme, which will include a reduced speed limit in Kings Road, an uncontrolled crossing in Monkton Road, a refuge crossing at the top of Kings Road, anti-skid surfaces, dropped kerbs, new bus shelters and improved signage.

A lay-by near the mini-roundabout in Kings Road is to be closed.

Ms Wood said she realised Honiton Town Council had preferred a signalised crossing scheme, but said such a move would cause congestion.

"It would not just be bad for the trunk road users but for the people who live there. It would increase noise and air pollution," she told the meeting.

Funding for the improvements has been secured and the speed limit in Kings Road is to be reduced to 30mph from Copper Castle. It is currently 40mph.

Before Ms Wood left the meeting, Councillor Halse said he was "disappointed" with the measures and invited her to eat her lunch outside Marwood House, opposite the roundabout, to "watch vehicles approach".

"It's an absolute hazard," he said. "I know the Highways Agency is short of money. I know you are doing the best you can with inadequate funds from the Government, but you leave us with a very, very dangerous roundabout.

"People will still need to take their lives in their hands, because you have done nothing to control traffic."

Councillor Dianne Morgan said of the scheme: "It is not going to help SeeAbility, nor the residents of Kings Road. "I've got concerns about the corner of Monkton Road and Kings Road."

Councillor Morgan reiterated the council's resolve to encourage Devon County Council to lobby the Government for an eastern by-pass.

Ms Wood said: "We have done what we can there and can't do any more.

"The geometry of the area doesn't allow us to do any more."

Councillor Ash urged councillors to recognise what was being achieved.

"A lot is being offered here. We have to be realistic," she said.

Councillor Michael Teare said: "I appreciate what we've got, but it is not going to be enough.

"We will have to press the police very hard to have somebody out there to ensure this speed limit is enforced."

Drawings of the proposals are to be considered by the council's planning committee next week.