A town’s anger....
As councils try to blame each other, Huntingdon residents unite to support Warren Hay s parents – and demand action. ANGELA SINGER reports IT must have been the biggest, noisiest and most passionate town council meeting ever to take place in Huntingdon.
As councils try to blame each other, Huntingdon residents unite to support Warren Hay's parents - and demand action. ANGELA SINGER reports
IT must have been the biggest, noisiest and most passionate town council meeting ever to take place in Huntingdon.
More than 400 people packed the Commemoration Hall on Thursday night to demand road safety action following the death of 16-year-old Warren Hay.
Warren's mother, Maxine, was surrounded by hundreds of campaigners from the Warren Hay Safety Action Group - they spilled out on to the street - as they looked for answers as to why there is no safe crossing over the A141 leading to Huntingdon's Jubilee Park.
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Old and young, including members of three Huntingdonshire football teams, carried banners to the meeting splashed with the slogan, 'Keep our kids safe'.
Warren died five days after he was hit by a car as he crossed the A141. He had been walking with friends on his way to watch a football match at the park, which is owned by Huntingdon Town Council.
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The application to create the park was submitted in 1992 - after Huntingdon's northern by-pass was built - and teams started using it in 1999.
On Thursday night, the town council and Cambridgeshire County Council were accused of failing to ensure the safety of the children who walk or cycle to the park.
However, each local authority has someone else to blame.
District councillor and former town mayor Jeff Dutton told the meeting that, only last year, the town council had applied to build a footbridge, but the county council had said it would be too expensive.
At a meeting with the county council on Monday, campaigners were told CCC had raised concerns about the location of Jubilee Park with Huntingdonshire District Council, the planning authority.
HDC has yet to respond to the accusation.
Gareth Ridewood, chairman of Huntingdonshire Campaign to Protect Rural England told The Hunts Post: "Had our councils worked together, we believe this tragic accident could have been avoided.
"To prevent further accidents we urgently call on the town, district and county councils to come together and work out a solution to provide a safe crossing of the busy A141. They need to ensure Jubilee Park is linked to a comprehensive joined-up safe pedestrian and cycle network."
On Thursday, Maxine Hay's speech received a standing ovation and thunderous applause. Her words reduced many listeners to tears.
Mrs Hay told the town council: "I'm Warren's mum. You have destroyed my life. You have taken my son from me.
"He was a good boy and a lovely boy, not just in looks but in his character.
"He would have grown up to be a special person and I would have been proud of him - I am proud of him. He never had a bad word to say about anybody and no-one had a bad word to say about him.
"I want you all, if you are parents, to think of it as if you were me, and think what you would want.
"As long as I live, as long as I have breath, as long as my heart is beating, I will not give up.
"I want something done now, not in a year's time - now."
Youth leader Jo Bathurst, who helps to run a Huntingdon majorette troupe, Blue Vision Twirling, told the meeting she believed the county council had been negligent.
"The council has been negligent in its duty of care by allowing no safe means of access to this playing area.
"There is no pathway either side of the road for people to walk to and from the park safely, nor is there any safe crossing island for members of the public to stop midway (on the A141) - not that this is a safe option, as highlighted a month earlier when a teenager from Hinchingbrooke standing on one of those islands was knocked over and injured.
"Only two days after Warren's accident, there was a car on its side in the bushes on that sharp bend.
"How many times has this happened? How many times has the fence had to be replaced on this corner?
"Are you telling me this is a safe place for people to cross?
"The only safe crossing would be a footbridge with access to a pathway leading to Jubilee Park."
However, while the campaigners are looking to the county council to build a footbridge over the A141, it is more likely the council would consider a light-controlled crossing. This would also allow cars to turn right safelyout of Kings Ripton Road.
They are receiving support from both county and town councils.
Cllr Helen Mallett closed the meeting, saying: "We will help you all we can. We need to bend the arm of the county council."
The county council has also pledged to look into safety improvements on the A141.
On Monday, Councillor Mac McGuire, transport and access portfolio holder for CCC, said: "At the time that Jubilee Park was being planned, we raised our concerns with HDC about an isolated playing field."
The action group's petition, which has more than 6,500 signatures, will be presented to the next meeting of the councils' area joint committee in September.