UPDATE: Notorious North Bank to be closed tomorrow for safety tests

Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams. Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

Monday, December 9, 2013
5:35 PM

The North Bank will be closed tomorrow from 9.30am so tests can be carried out on the notorious stretch of road.

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Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Phil Yates. Picture: Steve Williams.Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Phil Yates. Picture: Steve Williams.

The road has claimed two lives in the past five weeks, with numerous other close escapes.

Simon Machen, director of growth and regeneration at Peterborough City Council, said: “We will be closing the North Bank road from 9.30am tomorrow as we continue our on-going investigations into any road safety issues on this stretch of road.

“We anticipate this next stage of investigation to be complete by the early afternoon but we will advise of any further changes to this schedule.

“We are testing to see if we can physically install barriers on the North Bank road and if it is safe to do so we will look to do that as soon as possible.

Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Left: David Rowell and Neil Pridmore who was rescued from the river. Picture: Steve Williams.Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Left: David Rowell and Neil Pridmore who was rescued from the river. Picture: Steve Williams.

“The temporary 40mph speed limit remains in place both before and after this scheduled closure. As with all roads we would urge people to continue to drive carefully and safely.”

Hannah Yates, 18, drowned when her car plunged into the River Nene, which runs alongside it, on November 3.

Last Monday, the body of Keith Pettitt, 50, of Corby, was pulled from the river after his Skoda was spotted partially submerged.

Police believe the car may have entered the water as early as November 26.

Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Graham Chappell, Picture: Steve Williams.Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Graham Chappell, Picture: Steve Williams.

Three other vehicles also went into the River Nene at the same spot two weeks ago in separate incidents although all eight occupants escaped.

Campaigners gathered in Whittlesey market square on Saturday to call for safety barriers to be installed.

They launched a petition which will be presented to Peterborough City Council at a meeting on Thursday.

Present at the protest were Phil Yates, father of the late Hannah, and Neil Pridmore, who was resuscitated after the car he was travelling in with his family crashed into the river on Wednesday November 27.

Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

Mr Yates said: “I will not let this rest. Something has got to be done.

“Had there been a safety barrier, my only child will still be alive. Instead, she had to pay the ultimate price.

“If I had known she used the road I would have stopped her because it is so dangerous, especially at night.

“I’ve had fantastic support from the people of Whittlesey.

Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.Protest over the North Bank river road, Whittlesey. Picture: Steve Williams.

“We are not going to be fobbed off. Now the talking must stop and action must start.”

Neil Pridmore, 56, of Whittlesey, his wife Yvette, son David Rowell and granddaughter Abigail narrowly escaped death when their car entered the North Bank on the evening of Wednesday November 27.

His wife Yvette, who was driving the yellow Kia, managed to escape from the car but Mr Pridmore and his granddaughter where trapped under water.

Both were freed just in the nick of time by Mr Rowell.

Mr Pridmore said: “My wife was driving and we were going at about 45 mph when we went around the corner, at which point the rear of the car slid towards the river.

“We spun 180 degrees then the car rolled over. I must have lost consciousness at this stage.

“We flew towards the river and hit the water. I could not get my door open.

“I could see feet above me but did not want to grab them because I did not want anyone else to drown with me.

“I was resigned to the fact I was about to die. I was sure I took my last breath.

“Luckily, my son forced my door open and pulled me out, before going back to rescue Abigail.

“On the riverbank I was resuscitated and then taken to Peterborough General Hospital, where I was touch and go for two days.”

Mr Pridmore was adamant the spate of incidents on the road should not be put down to speeding.

He said: “My wife was going at 45 mph and the coroner found Hannah Yates was doing about the same.

“In fact, we were going so slowly we did not have seatbelt marks on us.

“Looking back, it could so easily have been four deaths. Had there been a barrier, we would not have gone in the water and would have been able to wait on the riverbank for assistance.

“Instead, once you are in the water, you can hold your breath for 20 to 30 seconds.

“If there is no barrier installed, I can assure you there will be another tragedy.”

A delegation led by Graham Chappell, founder of road safety group Fenland Road Safety Campaign (Charlotte’s Way), and including Mr Yates, Mr Pridmore and Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Martin Curtis, will meet with Simon Machen, Peterborough City Council’s director of regeneration and growth, on Thursday to discuss the North Bank.

A 250 metre stretch of barrier will cost £45,000, which Charlotte’s Way has already raised £8,000 towards.

Mr Chappell said: “We hope the meeting will make further progress towards getting the barriers installed.

“If there are still doubts in the minds of the officials, we will address these doubts until we overcome them.

“What has happened in the past month, the number of accidents, is extraordinary. We need the barriers now.

“If there are no barriers in place, regardless of effective speed regulation, there will be further fatalities.

“You are passing a death sentence on any number of people in the future.

“The argument that barriers can cause incidents through cars bouncing back does not bare comparison to the dangers of river immersion incidents.

“Once you are in the river, you have a better chance of survival playing Russian Roulette.”

Colin Martin, a work colleague of Phil Yates, has set up the Hannah Yates Memorial Fund, which has so far raised more than £1,600.

The steel worker was friends with Lesley George, who was killed on the North Bank in 2008.

He said: “Today we have raised awareness of our campaign and lots of people have signed the petition.

“Until something is done it is only a matter of time before someone else dies.”

Scott Prentice, a friend of Hannah’s from work, held up a placard throughout the protest emblazoned with the words “barriers would help”.

Together with his girlfriend Amy Sprouse, he visited Peterborough MP Stuart Jackson to raise awareness of the North Bank yesterday.

The pair has started fundraising for Charlotte’s Way - Miss Sprouse plans on doing a sponsored skydive in February.

He said: “She was a very close friend of mine. I don’t want what’s happened to Hannah to happen to anyone else.

“I don’t want any other families of victims to have to go through that pain.”

The demonstration attracted a broad range of people who were determined to lend their support to the campaign.

Brian Parker, 61, of Whittlesey, said: “I use the road both on a car and on a motorbike.

“My wife tells me she does not want me travelling down it anymore.

“It’s not rocket science what they need to do to make it safer. What they need is a safety barrier.

“The money needs to be found now. It’s not enough to have a three month feasibility study.”

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